*A poem from 2001! Not going to ‘edit’ it*
Finland’s pride: a school of fish fighting the wrath
Of a bears claw. It sat strongly above the rapid
Scooping & swallowing. Frustrated, the red bear
Got a small feed, but not enough for the winter.
Dragging herself through the snow, along
Rows & rows of fallen soldiers, she searched
For his hands. Tormenting every torn palm that
Would give him away. My great grandfather was never found.
The note with the photo reads:
Juho Aatami Alanko
Born. 24. 12. 1901. Eskola, Finland
Die. 5. 2. 1940. Russian War.
Left Wife Tyyne Lemip;
Children Pentti Ensio.
With a pocket of copper & a head of dreams
Olavi, 17, headed for the land of heat &
After deserting a mine, headed west to fish.
‘The Flying Fin’, a 25ft cork, bouncing around.
You gave yourself to the sea.
You gave your soul to the ocean &
Knew it better than English. Deep sea
Sunrise, the land calling your return.
Every coral lump for hundreds of miles
Hiding crays. I imagine you out there, closer to
The wind than any other human. Your legs made of salt.
Screaming and laughing at storms as if you’ve hit your funny bone.
You were the ropes
Foot long crays the norm
Without echo sounders
Envy of all the skippers
Well-off and handsome, the call of the land was too strong.
The setting sun; you headed for the pub & drank & drank.
Shouting every man there & a hit with the ladies,
You fell in love like a shot of vodka down your throat.
The sea meets the land. Water closing its eyes on the shore,
Tearing away at the sand, hoping to play.
Buying a bigger boat & naming
‘El-de’ after you daughters, Elvi and Deanne
From your Abrolhos Island humpy, the jetty stretched out
To the edge of the channel, over the sharks
Talk of the war, the old days meeting
The flashest cars, new TV’s; your temper
A drunken storm disgusted with the wardrobes of
Never used make-up, hand-bags & shoes
Engrossed by the smell of sea & bait
You became trapped in a pontoon,
The water closed its eyes on the shore for the last time
Saunas of alcohol, a washed out vagabond, laggard green.
As a child I remember playing snap on your back porch
Spoiling me with ice cream and soft drinks
It was the first time an adult awoke before me
You gave your self to the sea, Oceanman
Underneath the grapevine sitting in dawns golden light
In an air of contemplation and regret
Beside you, we ignored death & you mumbled
Something about the coming day
Finnish hindering your speech, my childish mind cursing our connexion
You wanted to tell me something that I wouldn’t understand
Digging up your vege-patch, you showed me the ways of carrots.
Coughs of blood vomited your sorrow
A heart attack, you’re pulsating flotsam.
Hundreds of people said goodbye
I didn’t know the words to the funeral prayer
& Mistimed the amen. I stood at the foot of your open grave missing something –
I felt that if I jumped in, you’d whisper wisdom to my heart.