Nordic Exposure (Extracts)
Spark-space, Heng Siok Tian
The Circle Line, Yong Shu Hoong
Scandinavian Epic Part One, Toh Hsien Min
Red and Blue from Christiana to Christiansburg, Yeow
Free Fall, Yong Shu Hoong
Scandinavian Epic Part Seven, Toh Hsien Min
Sign-scanning, Heng Siok Tian
Red and Blue in Copenhagen with the Mallards, Yeow
So that they may not find their spark again,
so that they may sign their bruises on air,
so that fairylights at the base of a city
seen from high high up on a plane
is a morse code;
city and cares,
sins and prayers
are breath and rhythm,
landing onto a certain Copenhagen,
so that i may
(my spiral space).
THE CIRCLE LINE
The Rundetaarn is our spiral space, where thought
pursues thought and dream inhales dream
within the seemingly endless passageway that winds
seven and a half turns towards the pinnacle.
But it’s too easy to relegate the purpose of life
to that light at the end of the tunnel. It is, after all,
a day of abortive pursuits and opportunities lost.
Witness how the incessant rain once again
forces us back the same way we came
and out of the tower into the shifting crowd.
Or how we are unable to locate a single
poetry book, deceived by an erroneous arrow
indicating exactly what we’re scouring for –
Just as how we are turned away by restaurant
after restaurant, while the rain continues to fall
lighter and harder and lighter (not quite ceasing).
Then hiding from the rain, we walk circles
in Illums Bolighus, browsing designer furniture
we can ill-afford, wondering what will stop us
in our tracks. Do we recognise the saints
or inner goblins, when confronted by our own
likeness in concert posters lining public walls?
As despondent church bells toll, we forget the cold
upon cobblestones awash with rain, and scramble
because it’s time for our next undertaking.
SCANDINAVIAN EPIC PART ONE
Scrambling at the time for undertaking
the next version of a new demesne,
she had to say: I want the word to be.
And she was right: the word was in the making
of the word, except she could not see
she would come back and learn to cry again.
Her salt is added to the endless salt.
For seven hundred years she’s fought the waves,
she’s swum among the whales: Ilmatar, daughter
of the ether. She’s braved the wind’s assault
and won, but cannot rise above the water.
The crests encircle her like numberless graves.
Numberless graves arise beyond my tent.
I will not see them, for they will not plead.
I do acknowledge all this land was hers,
but hers to lose, and hers she lost indeed.
We’re bound tight by the circle of our intent.
I feel the slow blood of a breaking curse.
RED AND BLUE FROM CHRISTIANA
I feel the slow
blood of a breaking curse
Trickle onto digital. Time regained each time the beeps.
The beeps constantly even in sleep. Articles,
Indiscriminate neurons, strewn in chamber now cored
Like an apple. Unfilmmable, you say? Freaking creep!
Armed with pen, paper and camera, the quartet
Cross the depth of field through the arteries of Christiana
To cop that one perfect shot lest we forget…
What remains in lobes? “Now she began to speak…”
Snap! Red I in a click of your faithful voyeur.
Then breaks off. One, two, three, four then re-
Attaches itself to the rest of you. It’s water under
The bridge. White swans, ubiquitous mallards…
And then a certain smell smelts when to pellets,
Then flows… Now doesn’t know where or how to begin,
Like a whole new clepsydra. Here, a water thief
Propped against graffiti wall and bike cast aside,
A wasted spell. There, a wooden boat, sides curved
As hippocampus, filled to the brim with soil, green
And grey matter few could tell apart or want to recall.
Smile, Sweetie. Outside the porous box,
A note, hungry, sniffs the hash-perfumed pollen
While tilted disc jabs into sky riven by rain
And creeping emotion. Then pours. And pours…
The mandrel swirls in motion blur, into bacchanalia.
Four serpents at Borsen cauterise into copper blue.
Hiss! Vamoose! Fins snap while Janus leads three
Members onstage into a new song, past and future,
A means to an end. Words, alien, suggest
Every waking second, the blues stirring ruins across
Christiansburg. Queens, kings and princely consorts
Chatter beyond scrim into zoom burst, and then
There it is: Monopod at Tivoli opens up and spins 12.
Pierced by Pumpkinhead that grins and says
Nothing. Bruised into baby, slips into midnight.
Another silent sky. Ventricles gape through brain to us
Into us? The four move in, lines drawn and bridges crossed
A naked mannequin stabbed with nails (at an exhibition of Thomas Hirschhorn’s
Concretion Re put up for Gothenburg’s International Biennial for
Contemporary Art) incites thoughts involving:
a) The wind-chill factor
b) The suffering Christ, and
c) How we’d stood like mannequins as we read our poems in the Men’s
Section of Stockholm’s Varuhuset PUB.
This is my body broken for you…
Again at Nordiska Museet, and again at Berns Salonger, a pleasure factory
where after the reading we had a selection of sashimi laid out before us,
each leaf of salmon basking on an ingot of rice commemorating an amputated
tongue of a poet silenced in his own country by frostbite or an iron fist.
We’re rethinking dissent. But, of course, we can think of other divergences:
• Dwell upon the musky ambience of a museum, remembering a particular
room that we’d stumbled into and how we’d surveyed regal patterns upon
old burgundy wallpaper with its underside possibly laced with poison, and
• Associate “fish” with fishing or anchoring or shipbuilding, or the
sagas of Vikings.
Interestingly, the name of the people came from the word “vika” which
means to diverge or travel. Did you know that the Viking ship is built
by first laying the keel, then raising the stem and stern, before planking
begins? The layers of wood wrapping around to form the hull of the vessel
can be equated with lines contorted into stanzas, the larger good.
We do not know of any rune or Eddic poem, but have enough keywords for
inspiration, jotted into our notepads after our visit to Gothenburg’s Stadsmuseet:
a) Stala hoe
b) Flint arrowheads
c) Sacrificial hollows (also known as elf-stones).
You never know what gems you can excavate from the exhibits’ curatorial
notes. Just as dreaded diseases supposedly collect in corners, do poems
germinate in quiet zones?
And after traipsing through this part of Scandinavia, what traces do
we leave behind, what souvenirs do we abscond with?
To conclude, I close my eyes, breathe in, and think of a colour furthest
Red is the shade of:
a) Wild strawberries
b) A fragment of stained glass, or
c) An inkblot on my face towel.
A sniffle, and there’s no mistaking the taste of blood running down
SCANDINAVIAN EPIC PART SEVEN
It was obviously not the end of time,
except for him, neither an enemy’s lunch.
The arrowhead we found inside his shoulder
was witness to a prehistoric crime.
He had been sheltering behind the boulder
when someone, perhaps on a hunch,
had ambushed him. He had climbed higher where
the pine trees grew, then down to hornbeam woods.
He’d scampered almost seven thousand feet
up to the glacier. None would find him there,
he thought. The arrow’s flight was sure and sweet.
Even at a lower altitude
the arrow going through the shoulder blade
and severing the artery would have
been fatal; here his haemorrhagic shock
was quick: his heart began to race, sweat made
him damp and even colder, and the rock
could barely hold him up; his laboured breath
could not supply his brain with oxygen.
This much we know by perfecting our science,
but what we do not know is in his soul.
Why did he turn his back? Did he know then
his time was up, that ice would keep him whole,
that we would speak his murder from these signs?
That we would speak his murder from these signs,
so we’d like to think we know about
preserved bones lying in the lime of oyster beds,
so we’d like to believe
osteology and carbon 14 analyses
reveal drowned bodies.
(What or who could have killed him or them?)
That i would speak of murder from these signs:
splinters sliced deep deep into my red red room,
the sky is safe,
my mind a mobius strip of imagination, of past and present.
i want my body to be the hollow of a birch tree,
let the winds hug me
and when they crash into me, i wear a red autumn leaf on my ear.
(How do we die?)
That we would speak of murders from signs,
memory is a museum with opening hours,
memory is a forest with decay,
i am a tree in blue forest
i am a bone in sunken ship,
oh god, how do i catch windmill wisdom
sailing through sky sea
RED AND BLUE IN COPENHAGEN
WITH THE MALLARDS
Scanning sky and sea for any sign of premonition, is the mallard’s business.
Menaced by predators above, many flap in a lift-off frenzy. Other times,
they’ll just waddle. Quack. Waddle in claptrap. Splash. Living in suspense,
between knowing and gnawing, wolf whistle and pennywhistle – time hinges
on the rangefinder. They are out there. That’s a reasonable assumption.
Finessed through Handycam, boys and girls, it’s open season again. Which
is where the Devil comes in. Ever since the Big Explosion, the manhunt
for the elusive subject (or his likenesses) has gone on unabated. Who or
what are we looking for? Little black boxes that cast no doubt upon our
historical suspicions? Perhaps a bite of a petite madeleine that sends
a shudder across the universe, soaked in a cuppa just like this. The morning
after the crackdown in Yangon, saffron robes are nowhere to be seen around
the Shwedagon Pagoda and somewhere deep in the Pacific, the fuselage remains.
Right here, right now, the gang of four, saddled with their own baggage,
move through the square before convening at the H.C. Andersen statue so
we can agree on where to eat. Trick or treat? Point and shoot. Switch to
analogue and the sun zooms in on the tower and all one could think of is
the nightshift watchman slinking back from my grasp into soft focus… Right
beneath our bills, the days are draked dutifully for meaning and fuzzy
feeling. Half a pica space away on the right, the trickster, smooth lines
and aquiline nose, clucks like a happy duck, that sneaky fella. Put our
capes and forks aside, shall we? The hallows have come together and boys
and girls are game for the joyride of their life. The fowl have flown away
into another lake, another page. Across the road in Tivoli, seated on the
Star Flyer ride topped with a jumbo jack-o’-lantern, 12 witnesses are spun
faster and faster than the hands of Jens Olsen’s World Clock as our final
recorder keeps tab on rhyme and crime. Today, the watchman, I imagine,
has lustrous locks and opens his steely blue speculum wings to draw my
frail father to his bosom as he rises a few feet above the graveyard
sky predates the cries of men and mallards
absolute joy, absolute terror and every canard in between