Nancy Mattson

Like an old Finnish woman with
branches on her head

I’m lying on my back in the middle of a pandemic
in the shade of seven trees, the ground massaging
aches I never had as a child – onnenlapsi,
lucky child – with no sense of future pain.

As I dare to ease out of London lockdown
I feel my spine soften, muscles lengthen,
let my eyes float through patterns of leaves
to the sky over Walthamstow Marshes.

I open my ears, let go of minor tinnitus
and the trees say my name, let me lapse
into lucky times when leaf seasons gave me
dabs of infant greens, reds of adolescence,

yellows of eloquence, peaceful ochres.
In winter, shades of brown fall in wrinkles,
stripping the branches bare. Oh for the days
of sapling spines, fingertip flutes,

when my mother sang to me in Finnish.
But today the wind sings of other skies.

In sleepy Hämeenlinna,
where Sibelius heard his first birds,
I learned the tune and words
of Taivas on sininen ja valkoinen:

‘Sky is blue and white.’ That’s all I need
today. But do I hear a sedge warbler?

Nancy Mattson is a Finnish-Canadian writer who moved to London in 1990. Her fourth poetry collection is Vision on Platform 2 (Shoestring 2018). Her previous collections are Finns and Amazons (Arrowhead 2012), which begins with poems about early 20th century Russian women artists but moves to a search for her Finnish
great-aunt who disappeared in Stalinist Russia; Writing with Mercury (Flambard 2006); and Maria Breaks Her Silence (Coteau 1989), which was shortlisted for Canada’s Gerald Lampert Award.