From many places, speaking truth
and making magic happen. Celebrating language.
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JAN OSKAR HANSEN - Page 7
|From India With Love||Algarvian Autumn||In the News||The Dreamer|
|Reality||Third Age||The City||Haiku|
||Night Sailing||Winter Washing||Looking Back|
|The Great Gatsby||Tomorrow||The Picture
||The Crooner||Paris, Mon Amour||Mother and I
|The Suicide||The Wall||As the Summer Ends||Epigrams|
|Feral Cats||Yes, I Was There||Yemen||The Aliens|
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The landscape is cooling now, no cries of
afternoon agony arise from exhausted soil
and heat shimmering boulders;
telephone poles transmit hope, undisturbed
by static, lovers can coo and adore each
others voices till the day when
her shrill voice and his brusque silence create
a misery of abhorrence;
modestly, trees of abundance rest,
sun battered; pale leaves open slowly wishing
the fall welcome, the sepia landscape will soon
be a bride dressed in jade, enjoying a short spring
before hostile winter arrives.
In the News
Does a lion tamer love big cats? Or a social
worker poor families? A heroic naturalist,
a man who took great pleasure in worrying
and intruding upon animals for amusement,
was stung by a stingray and died in a dingy
with a peaceful smile upon his blue lips.
"Going on holiday, leaving your child with
a neighbour, irresponsible!" But only if you
are poor, something deeply immoral about
the needy going on vacation, a break from
what? They haven't even got a job. "We are
sending your child to a foster home."
If the Gaza strip is a lions cage and Israel
is the cruel tamer who believes in the whip
is it safe to assume that she will not be
killed by a mad lion but rather get a nasty
surprise when cavorting on a Mediterranean
beach or doing a bit of scuba diving?
The schooner is dreaming of an Indian moon
in the bay of Bengal, marooned now, they have
taken down her masts and cut them neatly into
winter wood, her deck-planks have been made
into the dance floor in a fake maritime restaurant,
starboard and portside, waiters, who have never
sailed the sea, have not the rolling seafaring gait.
Her deck, rinsed by the salt of oceans, danced on
by stiletto heels. Aye, the old girl remembers well
warm Calcutta nights, when stars applauded and
she was the mistress of twenty-five lusty sailors.
The mad lives
in his own dream,
when cured he joins
a reality that's
nothing more than a pooled fantasy
on how life ought to
Going home from the cinema I saw my
near future as a sea mist, unavoidable;
the approaching age of abandonment.
Face lift? Seventy going on fifty, the inner
clock ticks regardless, there is no escape
in the mist, no one hears you anymore.
Quiet voices, you see them, only if you
care to look, on park benches, in cafés
and at bus stops, looking into their past.
The city of Kinshasa
has a thousand red-painted wheel barrows
but no one to push them around, fill them with
the debris of twenty years of neglect
Broken fridges expose themselves to
passers-by, black & white TVs show how life
used to be before the invention of colour,
long avenues and splendid uniforms.
A thousand red-painted wheel barrows,
a gift from the Belgian king, but
independence came as an act of war,
spoils had to be divided, no time to sweep avenues.
We are yellow straws
sigh in an Indian summer
wait for cooling fall.
The electric fan
scornfully circulate warm air
throws it in my face.
Today's oppressive heat
will be a winter day's dream
of a summer past.
has thin layers of coldness
in unseen vapour.
Grumpy old river
the mountain cools the lake
sending a chilly note.
writing down a dream,
like catching mist.
Try catching a moon ray
when it carves a name on bark,
it might be yours.
In the queue buying lottery tickets, last day, last chance
to win a fortune, I turned and behind me was the Chinese
lady; our eyes met, I have known her all my life. Instantly
every detail of her face was engraved in my mind; if I met
her dressed as a peasant woman in Shanghai, I would still
have recognized her.
At the local café I ate fresh Danish pastry, was drinking
newly brewed coffee when she came in and sat behind me;
tremors in hands, couldn't read, was acutely aware of her
presence, too self-conscious to get up without breaking a
cup or turn to speak. But we're meant for each other;
something has to give.
Pondering my feelings, I got a little distracted so when
I finally turned to look behind me, she was gone; had
another pastry, remembered she was the Mandarin lady who
decorated every mess hall on every ship I have sailed on;
at meal time she looked straight at me and no one else was
in the room.
It's hot, all doors open, I can hear her sleep;
books on shelves sleep too as do unpaid bills
on my desk. A big insect lumbers across the
floor, unseen by the bird in the bedroom.
Prehistoric it looks, covered by a hard shiny
shell and there is an unfinished poem in
the word processor. All poems are; perfection
stinks. I press the stomach of my toy elephant,
its sad trumpeting has a distance as in hearing
it all the way from Africa. Gleaming of dawn,
a breeze, bills fall on the floor; last chance,
we will come and disconnect you from the world.
Must try to find that insect before she awakes
and dominates the morning.
Frozen washing on the line in
a grotesque silent dance,
empty crotches, sexually inadequate;
by noon they hang there limp,
like unemployed people at a corner
idling time away, no booze.
In the afternoon they are taken in,
dried by the fire, long johns, slips,
knickers, denim, skirts, and nylon socks,
just everyday ordinary things.
The past is a cold kitchen,
a dead stove, white fields,
no mittens and blue frozen fingers;
angry shouts, drunken screams,
leering perverts, humiliation and
poverty, sardines and cod-liver oil.
Nothing to dwell on except for
a rare smile and a soothing voice
singing a lullaby.
The Great Gatsby
Stood by the bar dressed in white; tennis anyone?
when the famous film director came in, asked if
I needed a job, curled my lips into a snarl, looked
down (he was a small man), said I was looking for
meatier work, the fare he served up didn't stretch
my talent. He shrugged and went to sit at a table in
the corner of the bar with a couple of friends, all
the while they kept looking over, grinning. Noticed
I had my apron on and a carving knife in my left
hand, gave it to the barman and told him to send
over a bottle of wine to the famous director and his
friends: "You mean the little man with the glasses?"
"Yes." "He aint a director hes a short order cook
at the hamburger joint next door." Damn, if I'll give
a cook good red wine, Ill drink it myself.
A rumour rippled through the forest,
autumn auburn crowns swayed in
dismay; soon most of them would be
nicely stacked winter wood. They are
going to build a housing estate here,
permission granted by city planners,
contracts written and signed; money
changed hands through cleanly nailed
hands. Good news is, a few of them
will be spared as decorative trees
in a close called The Elm Trees.
Three children in the picture that has
a black frame; the youngest one sits in
a chair, looks sullen, holds onto a silvery
ball and is not about to smile on command.
The older ones stand on each side of him,
warm smiles, they look remarkably alike.
The picture comes into focus then fades
away, won't come back to centre again
no matter how hard I concentrate; mist of
time, I'm the oldest now. Distant voices,
distress, the picture is burning...smoke.
There is something missing. I struggle to
remember, blank window; but I do sense
movements in the shadows of the forgotten.
The ferry from Newcastle docked at dawn, but
Stavanger was still night-dark and would stay so
till lunchtime when a hazy day would hang surly
till around early afternoon. Icy roads, individual
frost clouds with sentences rose in murky air;
she was dying and so was the light. I was alone
in a world filled with the memory of dead people.
Frozen north-cold cemeteries and empty churches,
must run, drive south till I find morning light; if
not, succumb, be swallowed by the starless night.
Abject dust blows across the dry lake, wan
straws undulate, there is pretence in the air;
a sun baked, cracked rowing boat on its side.
I swam here, summers ago, worried about
crocodiles and sharks. On moon-full nights
trolls came out of the mountain and bathed
here. Daylight doesn't become a troll, there
were rumours, people came to watch and
laugh at the hairy one-eyed beings; the lake
only mirrored the moon until it mysteriously
disappeared. The trolls drained the lake, it's
now in a cave, deep inside the mountain, lit
up by fireflies; trolls swim in turquoise
water, liberated from human turpitude.
Cliff came to the news agent to buy a paper,
eleven o'clock and he was smelling of wine.
He had the queen mother's eyes, imponderable,
what some people take for virtuousness; for
a moment thought it was her, his white teeth
glinted as he sent smiles all around the room.
Later that day I met him again when I entered
the big house that had been empty for so long;
he sat on the floor reading his paper, an elfin
being that struggled to look young and human.
Opened a window's shutters and the sun, which
had been denied access for so long, became
a flash flood that drowned Cliff. Particles of
dust danced, confined inside a shaft of untainted
light and I remembered a summer holiday.
Paris, Mon Amour
My partner's gone up to Lisbon to see
her daughter and visit relatives;
I know this isn't true, she is going
to a wedding in Paris, I wasn't invited
and she didn't like to tell me that.
I've painted the hall and living room,
tomorrow I'll paint the kitchen, then
the wall around the house, the yard and
finally the wooden shutters. When she
comes home I'll sit and read the paper,
no big deal doing a bit of painting. If she
tells me where she has been I'll look
surprised. Still, I would have liked to see
Paris, they say she's beautiful in May.
Mother and I
Mother's ashes all gone, used a spoonful
on my corn flakes every morning; it took
two years. Mother was a perfect speller,
I'm a lousy one, she was also strong and
thought by eating her I would get some of
these qualities. Alas, it hasn't worked out
well; I've got a dowager's hump, read
romances about dentists, and get all misty
eyed when it ends with wedding bells.
When I wake up in the morning I have to
concentrate hard to remember who I am,
the mirror isn't helpful, she grins back at
me; when an elderly gentleman helped me
across the street her laughter was audible.
He rose early, put his charcoal suit on, dark tie
and white shirt; a bland neat man. Ate breakfast
at Daisys café, pancakes with strawberry jam
served by a busy, wordless waiter. He walked to
the town's square, it was full of farmers selling
their products and gypsies selling red plastic
buckets, toys and balloons. A mutiny of voices,
peoples' commerce at its best. In the middle of
this throng he took up his 22 caliber pistol and
blew his brains out. Only a few people noticed
and those who did weren't quite sure what they
had seen, as the paramedics quickly came and
took the body away. The others at the market
that day only read about his suicide next morning.
I was involved in a fatal car crash but my soul took refuge
in a nearby stone wall, not any old wall but one built
when Jesus was a toddler and Roman soldiers walked around
in leather skirts. I'm now a wall and have absorbed every
stone's memory; we are as one. It's ok to be a wall. In
the tourist season, people come from afar to take pictures
of me, the Chinese Charge d'Affairs was here, said our
wall building style is the same as in his great country; we
smiled, he's a bit of a flatterer and is looking for trade.
My days of guarding settlements and Roman forts are long
since over. There is a disused field behind me, it hasn't been
ploughed for years; they are going to turn it into a housing
estate, it's said; can't say I like it - children with spray cans
painting me into a kaleidoscope of garish colours; there is
talk of putting me indoors, that't ok when it rains, but it
will be a bit lonely. I'm, after all, part of nature. Guess I
will have to take my chances with the kids, see them grow up,
fall in love, kiss and cuddle on the lee of my solid flank.
As the Summer Ends
We sat by the communal outdoor swimming pool,
thin legs splashing in its dull, safe water, cooler
now than last week; a summer was ending and
pensiveness hung like gossamer on evergreen bushes.
A hawk flew overhead and accidentally dropped its
prey, a sparrow, that had spiraled on broken wings
into the pool; the bird bleeding, we had to move our
legs out of the pool as it quickly turned burgundy.
A young couple who had frolicked in the water got
out and liquid rubies dripped off their sleek bodies.
In the changing room we avoided looking at each
other to see what time had done to us.
When God decided to show us his face
he did so through the defiant Jew, Jesus.
Two thousand years later, and it appears
that God is a practical joker.
A Spanish toreador slaughters the bull
in public; a Portuguese toreador kills
the beast out of sight, not wishing to
hurt your tender feelings.
In Afghanistan we defend warlords'
right to grow as many poppies as
they like, addicting millions,
just to keep sober Taliban at bay.
The safe place, in wars, is the Armed
Forces; in cities car bomb blasts, kill
Your aunt; from the air, rockets turn
Your house to dust and broken bricks.
If we had a true, informative democracy and
Yet only the pretty faced and incompetent
Were elected, wouldn't we think twice about
The soundness of plebian voters' capability?
New York, a place
Where pyramid sellers
Wear silk suits
And steal your soul
Tirana, a city
Where pyramid sellers
And steal your wristwatch
How has it come to pass
The USA is a servant of Israel,
Which is in what is Palestine.
Settlers have taken all your land --
Convert to Judaism?
The wandering Jew
Planning in Vienna
How to retake your land
Hope, they say, is eternal.
Viewed with skepticism
But politically useful?
A black feather on the terrace, a raven must have killed a dove
and left a wing feather just to mock me. I dipped the tip of
the feather in ink and tried to write, but drops of blood obscured
my words. Raven, raven, where are you now? I sense you are
watching me with eyes that know no mercy. Seven floors above
ground, something pulls me towards the railing, wants me
to look down. I drop the feather; see it fall softly to earth.
"Lean over a bit more," the raven whispers, "if you stumble
and fall you will do so gently, just like my feather.” A spell of
dizziness - I take two steps back, the raven isn’t going to get
After a month of rain there is sunshine and clear skies.
I have removed the plastic sheets covering the fire wood
so it can dry. A cat sits on top of the wood and hisses
if dogs come near; it’s a smart cat, it has noticed that
the village dogs are cowards when met with resistance.
The felines around here feed themselves, catching rats and mice;
mind, they eat the food you put out, but they will not sit
on your lap and purr. I have just been feeding an elderly dog
left behind by hunters; I shouldn’t really do this for I know
when I leave for Cascais it will most likely starve to death.
It is a tough life being a dog without an owner.
I have lit the fire. The wood emits an intense aroma and I think
of the curtailing of freedom in Europe; the press has been tamed,
they can print whatever they like as long as it is not the truth
about how we are ruled; then it is called treason.
What’s left is soft porn and TV quizes.
Yes, I Was There
On a flat rock resembling a upended headstone, under
a layer of green moss was scratched, “We’re here-1947".
No names. Were they a couple on a Sunday trip wanting
to mark their presence in a world so immense, a modest
attempt to capture time and let it pause for a fraction of
a second? “We’re here...” It can’t be denied even when
everything else is forgotten and tracks are overgrown.
I thought of my years as a seafarer, I could not scratch
my name on the surface of the ocean. When a seaman
leaves his ship it sails on to other ports with a new crew,
and no one remembers his name. But I was there and
know the enchanting aroma of the seas, also the lonely
nights, books read a hundred times. The grey moss of
old age can’t hide what I knew and saw.... “I was there.”
It is an awfully poor country, with little to offer but carrots and sand.
Come to think about it, very few carrots and only brushland and dust.
People cry freedom but no one listens. A tiny place in the corner
of nowhere, mud huts and stones...no oil to lift a jaded spirit.
Chew a sort of weed that lulls souls into stupor and brings
temporary peace. Yet they go on fighting tyranny despite being
ignored by us, we who must be selective in whom to defend.
They want to be free in a land where no roses bloom, knowing
they have little to offer others; sand and stones and a longing
to be rid of tyranny. Help us, they cry to the sky, but the world
is full of carrots, dry sticks. Love of one's country is an odd thing;
it can be full of scorpions and deadly snakes but it is the land of
their fathers and they have seen it bathed in a golden hue at sunset
and they remember its hidden beauty.
By the sandy shores of Ghazzat, a young boy stood.
The sea was calm and turquoise and he dreamed of
sailing away one day. He was awoken by the noise
of artillery, tanks and fighter jets; the aliens were on
a collective punishment mode, to teach his people
a lesson, having had the cheek to hold a democratic
election and voted the wrong party into power.
On a hill, on the other side of the border, youngsters
were applauding the carnage. Billows of smoke and
flashing fires, like watching fireworks in the middle
of the day. What a great day! Coffee and strudel was
served to the hungry crowd.
The boy, by the shore, was hit by a stray bullet, mind
he had no business being there, and as his blood
oozed into the peaceful sea and sailed away, he looked
up and saw the grinning face of a fighter pilot, not
much older than himself who, after his mission, had
a story to tell his mates.