from THE SILENCE
Sibelius lived in Järvenpää, Finland until he was over
ninety, But he released virtually no music from
his forest home for the last thirty years of his life and
‘the Silence from Järvenpää’ became as much of a
talking point as the music. Continually pestered about
an eighth symphony, the composer battled alcohol
addiction, depression and above all self-criticism.
Red on White in the squares of the capital. Here, terrified
The young ones get on his nerves. But how can he send
into this red blizzard to play red snowballs? He hears a
and writes a tranquil phrase, goes about whispering in
There have been death-threats. Within the circle of their
sun they’re free
and warm, however: three degrees and nature weirdly
The wooden sledge he bought for the children is useless
outside the house, beside those bloody spots from their
Now here come the snow men, marching in, demanding
raiding their store-room for carrots and coal, searching the
place for weapons.
But they never ask the crucial question. Or touch, as it
those final revisions on his desk, their hidden
As if any of this matters. Appease the gods with fine cigars.
Gaze at the night and its absent moon. While, for art, forget
and wonder instead about his hair. Perhaps he should
simply cut it
off to a parody of Nero or one of Hollywood’s fading stars.
Press on to the lake and the mute swans gathered at the
out of reach, but ready to fly, given the word ‒if only
he knew the word. He feels he is being watched: the
attentive eye of something hidden that has colonised his
Swedenborg claimed that angels begin to interpret human
whenever we free our thoughts from material things, their
incompatible with sounds, he said, although the universe
on an ‘established harmony’. The walk, this light, that
stirs movement between him and the unmoving swans,
so easy to believe in. Take those distant creatures,
then, as guardian,
keep them nigh as sudden murderous clouds roll in, a
knot of gloom that’s out to unswaddle his innocence.
Let them do their silent dance on the pin in his head where
music like a mighty glacier, high and ready to move, mould
everything ready for survival. He feels himself grow old
with every scratch he makes. He sees himself take the
path, prints cross and overlap, go back where they began.
The angel-swans float on as ever inaccessible
to him or hunters, poachers, soldiers; unless the
flypast happens, the vision; the completion of the
He trembles. It will not stop, yet three great works remain
standing while half the world is rubble. Their all-clear
above the concentration camps. He trembles. It never
the climb to the cone. Lava, ash, fire in the very rain.
Will he pass the third gate? Another kingdom, migration
of refugees, of cranes, their oboe cries. Something special
for his finale, adagio? After all, adversity is a measure
of strength. He goes on. He will survive, as will his nation.