Nordic Quatrains

The rusty pot at rainbow’s end
Plucked of arms and legs
My mother’s secrecy
Tethered round her fingerbone

Her wild raft is set adrift
Forgotten is the hungry road
In decades filled with paper cuts
For throbbing ulcers hidden

For bunk-bed seasickness
She tied her necklaces
Skinny secrets round my waist
From my boyhood to ambiguity

Scribbled dirty signatures
Footsteps in the tired clay
When my father spoke
Of worms and looted hearts.

Finding salt in pepperpods
Escaping from his hungry words
I stayed silent for a month
Searching for an el Dorado

Confusion of the shores
I took my mother’s hand
Still the dirty timber falls
Mica windows in her eyes


Today Grace introduces us to the poetry of Marilyn Chen at toads, I was amazed by her Chinese Quatrains and read them over and over. To do something even close and keep that subtle narrative between the quatrain is truly amazing. I tried a similar.. thinking of my mother’s dementia and how my father used to be when we were young. The picture is one I have taken myself and modified. I will also link to Poets United tomorrow.

June 13, 2015

39 responses to “Nordic Quatrains

  1. I struggle finding words adequate enough to say how this impacted me. Simply stunning ~~~

  2. Beautifully written quatrains Bjorn ~ I specially like:

    My mother’s secrecy
    Tethered round her fingerbone

    and:Still the dirty timber falls
    Mica windows in her eyes

    You have captured the hidden tragedy and sadness of a family ~ Thanks for writing for Real Toads ~ Happy weekend ~

  3. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. This is the best poem I’ve read of yours, thus far. I’m so very moved by your words.

  4. Bjorn, you have captured something about dementia when you say ‘her wild raft is set adrift’ and ‘confusion of the shores.’ This poem is so sad really. I like the way you modified the photo

  5. Dementia, an affliction where both the person and the minders are equally affected. One needs to see to their needs and at the same time wonders whether one is doing right and doing enough. Been through it with late MIL and concurs with your poem. Well penned Bjorn!


  6. So many tender and poignant images in this piece…somehow connecting mind and body…her finger bone..your waist..the progression of life can certainly be trying and yet still in this piece there is beauty

  7. I think you have nailed this challenge, Bjorn. From your fabulous title, you owned the form and delivered a personal account which one can easily relate to. I found Chin’s original to be quite cruel in its imagery, but yours is more poignant in its unflinching description of family.

  8. I was incredibly moved first time through thinking of the choices a child must make despite the imperfections of parents. And then I read your note and went back and read for the dementia. Sure enough, the poem opened in another way entirely, opening into a bleak mysterious world in which a mother no longer mothers. This is a splendid poem both ways and maybe more.

  9. Yes – I agree with Susan – had a similar experience – the spareness of form deepened the surreality of the images – the photograph is simply exquisite and the end-notes had me feeling as though I was with you at a reading – a stunning poem

  10. Your image appeared last. Yet I must first say. Its a really fine work.
    Displacement and pain throbs throughout this poem. Yet its so skillfully wrought I read it more than once

    Thanks for dropping in at my Sunday Lime

    Much love…

  11. Wow, Bjorn your words continue to astound and inspire me to keep creating. I could actually feel the pain and confusion emanating from your words and images.

  12. It’s a powerful form and inspiration you got, and I see here the beginning of prose really….Sad, raw life….creative work with image and weaving it within the words….pro level

  13. Great! and yes it is so strange when I read others that seem to be on the same page at the same time and in similar mood.

  14. Wow, Bjorn, both picture and poem are spectacular. One can read so much between the lines. I especially love “her wild raft is set adrift”, and “when my father spoke of worms and looted hearts.” A wonderful write! It goes deep.

  15. A beautifully rendered poem. This is the kind of piece that one can read, again and again – the images cascading like notes from an ancient woodwind instrument where the subtly of sound and the feelings conjured forth vary, ever so slightly, each time.

  16. I found this to be so touching, Bjorn. Each line is brilliantly written. I love the image of the ‘Rusty pot at rainbow’s end’ and ‘Forgotten is the hungry road’. Oh man, the whole thing is just so well done!!

  17. Now I’m intrigued about how you feel after writing this rather more personal stories of yours, Bjorn. Last time, I’ve shared to you how I almost died at 11. I’ve never written about it in a poem, though I would always write about death in a rather general view &/or impressionistic style if not abstract. I admire you for writing often in traditional forms, I used to before but quite no longer today but I’m not closing doors should the interest for strict forms come back to me.

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