WINTER SOLSTICE IN STOCKHOLM
LAND OF LIGHT
Scarcely can the sun
clear the southern earth-rim
or penetrate the cloud.
The land they call
a land of light
is now a land of dinge.
BIRGER JARLSGATAN I
Day dusks in early afternoon;
and still the workers at their desks
remain head down, intent, as though
daylight still shone and dark had not closed.
Your business in the Royal Library
ended, you say farewells and thanks.
Just take things easy; seven hours
and more you have until your evening
train will glide you south to Hamburg.
Relax, you do not have to rush;
stroll these streets, soak in this city
that you will never see again,
walk south on Birger Jarlsgatan,
mid-afternoon with all the feel
of late night shopping.
BIRGER JARLSGATAN II: GRÖN
‘Do you want some green for Christmas?’,
asks a tired man, set up
beside an alley’s dark, with sawn-off
fir saplings leant against the wall.
He hopes, no doubt to get them sold
by evening’s end. But sorrow rises
within you for those trees — no matter
how rare is green in northern winters,
no matter how deep the human ache —
a sacrifice at custom’s altar.
GAMLA STAN I: STORKYRKAN
Cross the bridge
to Gamla Stan,
the water-ringed old town,
and find your way
through narrow alleys
to the classic tower
that caught your eye
and draws you.
Odd basilica it proves,
the mind retains
not St George
on steed with sword
raised high above
an earth-bound dragon,
but that intrepid
all clustered round
their guide, attentive
GAMLA STAN II: HÖGVAKTEN
Tread those dark
and narrow canyons
between tall houses
emerge to sudden
flanked by austere
grandeur — palace,
Or is it a stage?
prod the air,
stand drawn up
their stately dance,
bayonets fixed to carbines
tucked to shoulders.
A LADY’S SONG
(attributed to Dietmar von Eist † 1171?)
Alone a lady stood
and gazed towards the woods;
she waited her love with longing
and marked a falcon fly strongly.
‘Good for you, falcon. As you list
you fly through heath and forest,
you choose from all those trees
whichever one you please.
‘Just so I too have done:
I chose for me a man.
and drew him with my eye;
those pretty ladies envy me.
Alas, why won’t they leave me to my love?
Yet never for theirs, no never do I crave’.
Es stuont ein vrouwe alleine
und warte über heide
unde warte ir liebes
sô gesách si valken vliegen.
‘sô wol dir, valke, daz du bist!
du vliugest, swar dir liep ist’
du erkíusest dir in dem walde
einen bóum, dre dir gevalle.
‘alsô hân ouch ich getân:
ich erkôs mir selbe einen man,
den erwélten mîniu ougen.
daz nîdent schoene vrouwen,
owê, wan lânt si mir mîn liep?
joch engérte ich ir dekeines trûtes niet!’
Murray Alfredson BA (Melb.) MLib (Wales) has worked as a librarian, a lecturer in librarianship, and in Buddhist chaplaincy. He has published essays, poems, short stories in nine countries; across four continents and two poetry collections: ‘Nectar and light’, in Friendly Street new poets, 12, Friendly Street Poets and Wakefield Press, 2007; and The gleaming clouds, Interactive Press, 2013. He is translated into Arabic, Farsi, German and Spanish.
He has won several poetry prizes and commendations, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2009 and again in 2012.
He is a senior editor for a literary e-journal, Ashvamegh, based in New Delhi, and joint editor of the anthology Many eyes, many voices, Adelaide: Friendly Street Poets, forthcoming, June 2016.