Tears of Clarity
Jan Oskar Hansen
Biking along a country lane I saw, at distance, a sartorial elegant man, a real gent, grey suit,
white face standing in the shade of a big tree,
clearly not a man hanging about in the sun.
Stopped took off my sunglasses, the man was
an amputated tree, his face a brutal chainsaw
slash, petrified tears made of sap glinted.
I should have said something I should have
spoken; what do you say to a tree that has just
been maimed and is bleeding white blood?
An ice-cream van came; I bought a strawberry
sundae, as I was eating the sweet stuff a hearse
comes gliding by, and behind the subbing of
feet; the lid of the coffin opened, my friend,
Finn, who I hadn’t seen since he fell off a cliff
fifty years, sat up looked around smiled and
“If your chewing gum losses its flavour
on the bed post over night” then slunk back in
his coffin. How much we used to laugh about
that song, how much I loved him then.
The subbing feet belonged to old school friend,
Only I didn’t know they were, till one held up
a placard: “We are your school friends, don’t
you remember us?”
No, why should remember
old men looking like headmasters with faces
made stern by the north/westerly wind and small
Finn was the only young one,
he would never grow old like us. On the face of
the sartorial tree, more sap came from the chain
saw slashed face, it tasted of sweet melancholy
I know of a town in Peru where everyone worked
in the only factory in town, it processed fish into
meal that were transported to another country and
used as fertilizers; inland there was starvation. In
the neon lit street where beer and physical joys
were sold, pulsing Latin American music blared.
Sensual at first, for an untrained ear, but it has
an inhuman echo; dance, never mind skeletons,
dance, if you do you’ll be struck dumb by greed,
poverty and need. The coast of Peru doesn’t teem
with fish anymore, the factory has closed, there is
hunger in the town.
They travelled long, to the Far East from
the cold north, to meet the perfect wave,
and have their pale skin tanned by a hot
sun, and to sample foreign food.
The sea was oddly calm, tiny ripples, too
small for surfing, they waited, but when
a big breaker came, it was a gigantic wall
of sea, buried bathers in a watery grave.
The dazed silence didn’t last, cleaning up
quick, more bathers came, spotless sand,
the sea politely sends cute waves to shore;
cold beer, and prostitutes in every bar.
I can hear sirens blare,
terror stricken faces look up
where bombers are blackening the sky,
dropping deadly cargo,
The survivors of Europe’s holocaust,
are reeking their vengeance on
And cowed into silence
by the mighty axis, Israel and USA
we are silent
Saw them in the summer bay, ten nuns in
a rowing boat, then they disappeared into
a bottomless shaft of light; as clouds eased
glow, contours came into focus again, they
were no longer there; but keel, and ten oars
dripped tears of clarity, shattering the sea’s
In this flat and reticent landscape, populated by sturdy
people who only laughed when they drank, out teacher,
a small, pixy like man was a total misfit. Mixed classes
smaller than his pupils, easy to provoke to rage or tears,
yet we liked him, we sensed his struggle in an unjust life.
At a history lesson about kings and other royals, he broke
off told us how he had woken one morning and his wife
was dead beside him, the fire in wood burner in the living
room had died too but he couldn’t bring himself to relit it,
so very cold, he ate porridge that froze in his mouth.
No phone, had to walk to school house to call the doctor,
we children were uneasy till he began talking about, kings
like Magnus, Olav and Harold. That’s more like it, how
were we to know he was but a leaf, blowing helplessly in
a cold land of unyielding Christianity.
He didn’t show up one morning and we got the day off,
next day a lady teacher told us that he had gone home to
Jesus, by then we children knew he had hung himself and
Since he had no family we got another day off to attend his
I was surprised to learn that he was only thirty.
My ankles hurts but I can’t sit down too long,
remember mother she sat and sat on her sofa
so long that people thought she was a big
pillow in need of a dry cleaner; till she shrunk
and became so invisible that people accidentally
sat on her.
I’m approaching the age when she began sitting
down, coffee stain and cigarette burns on
the table, in front of the sofa, is like an epitaph,
strong eyed and steadfastly she watched TV, to
the bitter end.
Last time I saw mother she was a sparrow’s
head on an institutional, pillow, fed by a tube;
a double take, my face? I looked another way
but had seen the future, fled south to a valley
of equal days.
There is a bit of a roman road in my vale, something
for tourists to look at, smooth stones for sandaled
soldiers (they didn’t invent the boots) horses, mules,
their women and other hangers on, an imperial army
on the way to keep order somewhere, but to no avail.
Hubris, they come and go…empires, now we have
one claiming to be democratic, two hundred years of
consensus has brought us a barefoot grin, its cowboy
boots were stolen by a province, a cheeky cuckoo, in
the middle of wasteland called Palestine.
Popes come and go too, quoting obsolete text and
Muslims reinforce our prejudice by angrily marching
burning down churches. When the Romans had past
and clamour gone, peasants came with buckets and
spades, armies leave so much manure behind.
She was so beautiful, I couldn’t recall her face
because it often blended with the shimmering sky;
a delicate butterfly, she belonged to early summer.
My ship was waiting, but I couldn’t leave just yet,
and that was fatal, in August she metamorphosed
to a bumble bee eating vast quantities of ice cream.
The ship siren sounded its last call, pilot onboard
but where is the darn cook? Those long days across
the pacific ocean and I couldn’t remember her face
Yes, it was an ocular moment, how was
I to know? An eye straight at me, hypnotic
and green as the North Atlantic after storm;
more than that I detected an inner, sexy glow
and I blossomed in the eye’s attention, taller,
slimmer, broad shouldered; I, a sex symbol.
Hitherto ( I’m a lawyer) my claim to fame
was living in my older brother’s shadow,
now it was my time to shine; She looked
away, I paled as she gazed at my brother’s
face; he observed her coolly, and said:” put
you specks back on she’s got a glass eye.”
The blue mountain, so far away it can only be seen
in dawn shimmering when dream and reality try to
merge, or if you are a Portuguese fisherman stuck in
the blue hour at Gar De Lyon, waiting for a train to
take him home where light is so clear he can see his
own death first thing in the morning.
So irretrievable lost is my home that I’ve painted
it in a pastel hue and since old age is not a future,
I have to look back to a mythical past, or do as my
Portuguese fisherman friend did he went into a bar,
drank Pernod, lost his train and is now a porter
lugging luggage for centimes.
Love Me Tender
I had seen her at the supermarket buying
foodstuff and taken her time about it,
she has long black hair in her eyes the bright
sunlight of the savannah;
often her sensuous lips, mirth dance,
I wondered why.
At a discreet distance I followed her home,
she lives in a sweet little house in road
off the main street,
her front lawn was overgrown and
flowers needed weeding.
Rang the doorbell, asked if I could please
tend her garden.
“No, she said, “I have a man seeing
"Next year? “Perhaps.” she said, smiled and
gently closed the door
Last evening, big news filling the screen,
a plane crashed into a building in New York,
The great country cowed and trembled in
self inflicted fear, haven’t they seen a plane
crashing into a building before?
Doctors and athletes, supreme confidence,
tend to fall down from the sky, in their little
aeroplanes; a dead a pilot strapped to his seat;
Icarus has landed, he was a Yankees pitcher.
and not son of a god.
Fireman walking purposefully towards
the flames, aware of their status as the top
of the working class heap, act as in a movie
wonder if they have brought their own film
crew, great entertainment, though.
Houses, and whole towns on fire in Palestine
and Lebanon, cluster bombs galore, children
in ruins, dust in open eyes; all this killing,
gets to be tedious, as an overlong, apocalyptic
movie, directed by a leviathan.
The Famous City
Inside a plastic-cast, a great
statesman on a plinth, flowers lain
by its foot every year…
and military parade;
till someone dropped
a bomb to eradicate terror
once and for all;
ten million eggs hardboiled
in a flash, toasted soldiers
a Chianti bottle with melted
candle wax down its side, on
the table of an Italian café, in
Modena, looks romantic;
as lovers narcissistic gaze
into each others eyes and see
©Jan Oscar Hansen