On his eightieth birthday, up at the lake
first snow, ‘ensilumi’,
fell in spirals of white garlands through
the dark branches of spruce and alder.

The old gang of party-makers
climbed out of their station wagons
and picked their way across the ice
towards the old smoke sauna.

Inside, the enormous mound of rocks
spat and hissed, voices swelled
with heat and memories, vowels expanding
to a drone like a tape running down.

He sat among them like a shadow, the thought
haunting his body until it punctured
through the steam and the years: how
she had got herself up there that night,

pain tearing at her young womb,
how she might have welcomed the pall
of smoke, her scream bouncing out
across the unflinching lake.

4 thoughts on “Birthplace

  1. Jonathan Mayman

    Strong and claustrophobic – you can smell the wood smoke, feel the heat inside and the frozen
    (Finnish?) lake and forest outside – topped by the trauma from the past. Perhaps “white garlands” is over-egging it somewhat.

  2. Gill McEvoy

    Really beautiful poem, Fiona – wonder about the ‘enormous mound of rocks’ in the sauna – was this an exceptionally large sauna? Most are quite modest with their rocks! we are In Feb, the month of the pearl as the Finns say; your poem is most certainly a pearl.

  3. Robbie Burton

    Lovely poem, the final two stanzas being especially strong. Which makes me wonder if there might be an argument for this being the heart of the poem which the first three stanzas are leading up to… and whether those three therefore could be trimmed a little? Having said this, I really like ‘the old gang of party-makers’ so wouldn’t want them to disappear!

  4. Diana Sanders

    What a powerful and atmospheric poem. I felt the wounding. I love ‘the unflinching lake’. With regard to loosing the first two stanzas personally I think you might loose the thread of the story if you cut those out.

Leave a Reply