while I edit a Google document; consider vowels
in ‘Amen’. The half rhyme with hymn. How long
would it take to replace the words we have learnt?
Those we have mumbled. Or else, redaction,
how easy or hard would it be to rewrite time?
The sine curve of our last year: like a squirrel
that scurries across the wall. The flock of pigeons
shooed. A basket of laundry chucked from a window, see
how boxers twirl, how socks tell a story that isn’t mine?
from Jack Frost and the Swans
The mist comes in
like a stranger’s hands
and the trees are letters
and the sky their paper
and the roads are rivers
and the cars their boulders
and the houses are glass
and the people their statues
and the lakes are iced lochs
and the fish their explorers
and the fields are glaciers
and the walls their ridges
and the alleys are veins
and the cobbles their scales
and the colours all white
like a stranger’s hands
the mist comes in.
Max Wallis‘s first pamphlet, Modern Love, has been longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. He is currently tweaking the final edits to his book of children’s book of poetry, supported by the Arts Council called Jack Frost & the Swans, from which this poem is taken.
Last week Max (Models 1) shared his story with us about his experience in Norway where he travelled to research a book he’s writing. Beautiful and brainy. Next week we have an exciting editorial to show you that Max shot with Cecilie for Beige Magazine, so look out for that!
Photography CECILIE HARRISStyling JAMILAH ESTRIANNAH-TONIGrooming JAY ZHANG using Bumble and BumbleModel MAX WALLIS (Models 1)
after Roo Borson
To board the train for London without any sleep. Just one suitcase
limited by space: some skinny jeans, a vest, two pairs of pants
clothes that later littered bins outside a Shoreditch flat.
To do all this with busied eyes and a quiet smile.
To do all this with no swag
but a wad of cash in the wallet, a thrum in the chest,
the tinny beat of a three-year-old playlist on a sketchy iPod
to keep the mind going. To open The Poetry of Birds
edited by Simon Armitage, and to not read it.
To move an entire life south, past various borders
imagined over the years. Past the Mormon Temple, past Manchester,
past Birmingham and Oxford. To leave but always feel
that bite of northern teeth on the neck:
of Bolton, Chorley, physical-memories that do not budge
but rub against each other, like sticks towards sparks.
A shape of a place that fills the mouth. To see it all in the absence
it leaves. In the faces of friends bunched up in a bed, aged fourteen.
To wave goodbye via text messages, emails, status updates on Facebook,
and this poem. To grow into an adult on a diet
of Oyster cards and tube-lines. To attempt to decipher the future
in the brown haze of smog that lights the sky at night, these neon
kaleidoscope moments that short-circuit the brain, overheat all connections
until there’s no serotonin left: just us, bare, raw.
To know that everyone wishes for something they cannot yet grasp.
For the arrival of new buildings in old neighbourhoods. For the clatter
of slender cutlery over a boozy lunch. For the reek of sexy bodies
at five-am. For becoming – for just one night – someone else.
For concrete, bustling commuters, and that moment
when a seven-foot tranny asks you your favourite X-Factor contender.
To live a life that none have lived before. To not swim with the tide.
For wanting the palm without the dust. For knowing
that good things take practice and hard work.
To grow and grow older but not old.
To see the wishbone in every opportunity
the brackets in every discussion,
the full stops behind every sigh.
Wake before bells fall
when rain chatters at blinds
and the haze of dawn is so thin
you could slip through the light
and press yourself against another world.
Lie there and listen to the brook
that gutters across the stones.
Outside you know foxes gnaw
at takeaways in bins. A cub perches
on top of an Audi, blithely confused
at an alarm wailing down the road.
Hear drunken teenagers amble home. Sit still.
Try not to snap the calm
as the world turns around you.
The reflections off buildings spear the mist
as London wakes. Wet squirrels shake off their dew.
Your lover, asleep, foetal and twitching,
wondering where the weight of you has gone
as he brushes his hand over an empty pillow.
Published today on And Other Poems
Max Wallis (Models 1/Boss), model and poet and now explorer of the North, writes about his experience in Norway where he travelled to research polar darkness for a book he’s writing. Read on for Max’s account of his trip and some poems inspired by the journey.
After India Hobson photographed him last year, we were excited to work with Max again. Look out for our new editorial with him next week!
To read more of Max’s work, you can purchase his debut poetry publication, ‘Modern Love’, here.
It’s not often poets get money. And well, it’s not often that a poet gets the chance to do exactly what they want to do. Most of the time there’s a certain amount of flexibility you have to have. Some poets will teach kids. Some will work an office job or in a call-centre. Larkin worked as a librarian. There are certain financial institutions in place to help people out in that respect. A lot of the time poets have to turn to the Arts Council to find the money they require for research trips to fund their work. Last year I turned to them and asked them for money to write a book based around polar darkness. They gave me a chance, said okay, and with that I went off to Norway in January 2012 to Tromsø, where I was plunged into complete darkness.
I lie, a little. From 10 am to 1pm there was a blue haze to the world. Liv Lundberg of the Creative Writing Department of Tromsø University said in a meeting with me that she called it the “blue hours”. There’s a definite truth to that suggestion and it stuck with me during my time in the far north, this idea that for months and months of the year all you really see is blue light. Of course it also resonates with the idea of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder and so on. But Liv seemed to really be talking about the quality of light. It prompted the poem below:
I could press through the screen, zoom in,
step through pixels to be close to snow again.
Back awhile with nothing but the open mouth
of silence, snapping with the humming wind.
Look up, see the dark light of sky,
the cloudless yawn of the world.
These blue hours where everything turns,
dyed by light, by dark, by the moon.
It was in Tromsø that I managed to fulfill a life-long aim to see the Northern Lights. I look ridiculous in this photo (below), I’m doubled by so many clothes I really don’t look like I do in real life or in photographs. The experience was amazing. As I’m writing this it’s the morning after I’ve come back from a trip to Sweden and it was there in a taxi back to Malmo from this wonderful restaurant that the taxi man described to us how the northern lights ‘sounded’ like burning fire. Honestly, I can’t quite remember if that’s true. If it isn’t true, perhaps there’s some sort of synaesthesia going on because if I think really hard my brain does seem to include a crackling sound. I saw rings of white and green lights above the mountains on an abandoned roadside looking out over a partially frozen sea. To me, that’s enough.
Numerals in snow or are these people?
Rubbed out pencil lines, a sketched city.
Tromsø’s Arctic breath.
Through a spattered window
the foghorn throat-sings.
Seal ships come in clean.
In the ice yard
breakers bob between cut-out ships.
I place origami swans among them.
Happiness at -10oC
Rioja delivered 3,000 miles
and forgotten by the back door, found casketed
by snow, cork raised on a neck of ice.
I’m doubled by cloth, by Gore-Tex,
by the air between fibres,
the space of the world.
Stopped in my tracks by that boulder
in a cloak of rain turned to ice. The flash
of the lighthouse off the surface, again, again.
Five houses and the shape of them
through leafless trees, this community
in miniature by a plane of solid sand.
Silicate, SiO3; sodium-chloride,
NaCl. The collapsing wave;
two moons: the sea, the sky.
Smudged white above the fjord
might be a cloud. People grapple
with shutter speeds, f-stops,
try and dim away the light
of refracting ice: rainbows
in the day, I’m told.
I turn a stone in my glove,
with one arm hooked chuck it out
to sea; hear the cut as it cracks glass.
I wonder how anything lives below
Or you and me,
by four-thousand miles
that heavy knock of pain.
No camera but my eyes.
Smoke drifts in waterfalls
shift rings around a basin roof
propped up by mountains, by the floe
of icebergs that climb the earth.
The amazing Grace Lowe and I are working on a children’s book of poetry.
I have left the blue land and its night-filled days.
Don’t look back to the mountain spine
that hemmed me close. All of it is in the brain
mental snapshots for my hippocampus.
If I think hard enough, they will change
the structure of my neurons, stimulated
simultaneously they will be burned
into my skull.
For now, I leave the land.
Retreat to a grey place cloaked
in brown noise, light, of concrete
and a glazing rain.
Follow me: @maxrobertwallis
Buy my book @Amazon.