Mänttä /Jyväskylä, Finland, October
in the year, the edge
of winter. Light like stainless steel.
Just out of hearing,
of its thin blades fencing with itself.
Light like glass
that, let fall
on water growing harder at the edge
Its splinters on your retina. And the wind
like a slap to the skin,
stretched low to the lake, to the bare shore
where you wait
for light and for it
bringing tears that may be purer without
tincture of emotion,
tears to clean
the eyes, for no sake but the sake of clarity,
which should sting.
then, cutting through the dry reeds,
on the water, shick-shick like the slap
as if on a stone.
Closer now. At the edge,
at your feet, a small undercut lip
of first ice ripples seem to slow to
then duck under…
The edge going milky, glaucous,
agate-like. In the splash zone, droplets still
to frosting on the first
grass blade they touch. But the ripples
don’t cease. Under the held breath of the ice crust,
something like a pulse…
In melt pools, a shuddering up, each
different inflection of the under-rhythm. Lake-breath.
And quieter now (if you
crouch) hear the creak of the ice-skin. A squeal,
like a wince. A click and shift of pressure like a sigh,
the crackling never
where you look. Here’s how a fish
might know it, rising from the silt. The way ice speaks.
Or say it slow, in small
words. (Friends, this is
for you; at the edge
where the differences
touch, you and me,
state and state,
where Siberian wind
comes down to lap
it’s all a vowel-shift:
the words take shape).
to the lake. Sat
on the stone. Met
wind. And sunlight,
too loud. Finally
it was the least,
the quiet thing, the ice
that spoke to me.
Philip Gross is a poet, and a keen collaborator across artforms. The Water Table won the T.S.Eliot Prize 2009, and Love Songs of Carbon the Roland Mathias Award (Wales Book of The Year) 2016. His latest collaborative publication, with artist Valerie Coffin Price, is A Fold In The River (Seren, 2015). His libretto for The King in the Car Park, a cantata about the discovery of the bones of Richard III, was performed in Leicester Cathedral. A new collection, A Bright Acoustic, is due from Bloodaxe in June 2017. Philip is Professor of Creative Writing at University of South Wales. www.philipgross.co.uk