Helsinki (with recording)



An editor said never start a poem at a window,
so instead I’m looking at the door,

which is made of glass. We are to avoid rain,
too, but it streaks the pane in such delicious

patterns that I can’t help but pretend to be someone else
in a foreign city, perhaps Helsinki, sipping black coffee

with a mysterious woman younger than my daughter
(who also does not exist), whose interests

in me are purely literary, although she straightens
my collar with lingering, scented fingers. Garden

memories and birds must never populate our lines,
but corpses are fine, as are tube tops and bananas

and any combination thereof. I finish my coffee
and wander alone through cobblestone streets,

stepping over clichés when possible, kicking them
aside when my hip joint argues, or simply accepting

their useful limitations when nothing else works.
Unknown and lacking credentials, I shrug, go on

past the closed doors behind which unseen bodies
perform the most bizarre and sensual solo dances,

or not, and shadows cook sausages over fire
and the grease spattering onto the tiled counters

issues a fragrance that awakens neighborhood dogs
and maybe a dozing stall-keeper at the market

where cloudberries are sometimes found.
I know little of Finland, and less of myself,

and then there’s poetry, which remains a blank
frame, a frosted pane I’ll never truly unlatch.

* * *

My poem “Helsinki” was first published at Panoply. It was inspired in part by a Facebook thread on which editors commented on what caused them to instantly reject poems. One said beginning a poem at a window was cause for rejection. Hence the first line.

14 thoughts on “Helsinki (with recording)

  1. Oh, wow. My first day after a long dry spell to be reading posts and here is a poem I instantly remember as special … this time with your voice added! … delightful all over again. Given where I am, your closing “I know little of Finland, and less of myself, and then there’s poetry … a frosted pane I’ll never truly unlatch” feels like a reflection … reminder I’m not the only one unable to truly see through my own frosted panes (I’m finding layers of them!). Thank you for choosing this poem for this day’s post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This poem resonated with me in so many ways. I love the inquiry around what makes a poem good and who decides, how are we to shape our words for ourselves, and does it matter how many others understand what we have written. I love that poetry can create a feeling that I don’t have words to explain. Thank you for this addition to my day. It was a delight.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Helsinki (with recording) — O at the Edges – mythoughts

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