DANIEL GUSTAFSSON has published volumes of poetry in both English and Swedish, most recently Fordings (Marble Poetry, 2020). New poems appear in Temenos Academy Review, Pennine Platform, in several anthologies by Black Bough Poetry, and in Sunken Island: An Anthology of British Poetry (Bournbrook Press, 2022). As an occasional scholar, with a PhD in Philosophy, Daniel has a special interest in William Blake and currently draws much inspiration from A. N. Whitehead. Daniel lives in York. Twitter: @PoetGustafsson   

The Lure: A Prelude

Waking as one, my world and I,
roused from slumber, the reeds shiver
in lapping light. The lake’s astir,
tongue teasingly tugging the shore
to coax me out: calling always,
lure and likeness of life within.
I’m soon vested: sandwiches made,
the rods arranged ready to go.
Eager angler, I’m out the door.
Grass glistening, globules threaded
on limber straws: lines and sinkers.
A spider-spun, spangled network,
its catch of dew caught in the light.
The boat lies wedged, banked and heavy
with last week’s rain. Leaves infuse it,
and dead insects dapple the brew.
Bent to my task, I bail it out,
labour gladly, lungs relishing
the tinctured air: tang of iron
and scent of birch, sweet yet bracing.
Lightened at last, I launch myself,
push the boat out through parting reeds
to wide-open weltering surf.
The lake expands, its long body
roiling in light, rippling silver:
a shade-shifting, shimmering form,
its dragon-scales drawing me out.
An ageing craft’s creaking oarlocks;
the wood weathered, worn to a sheen
where other hands have held their own;
planks though peeling plunging anew.
Facing backwards, I’m born forward
beyond myself: surface yielding
new perspectives, a narrow hull’s
widening wake. World-conjuring,
the more meeting the making eye
builds under me, bowls me over,
and wraps me round. I row gently,
my line trailing, trawling the light
for pike and perch, peace and wonder.
It hooked me once, heart in my mouth,
breath of my breath, this bright expanse.
Those far-reaching, first adventures
out on my own, the elements
drew me closer: the driving wind’s
grandfatherly grasp on my waist
keeping me true through coarse furrows;
wood and water weighing me up.
A featherweight, fledgling pilot
growing my wings, the grebe taught me.
That sleek diver slipped dauntlessly
into darkness, under currents,
to soar again: a sun-crested
anointed one, needling the deep’s
thick hinterlands, threading skylines:
a journeyman joiner of worlds.
The summer-long susurrations
din distantly, disembodied:
screeching bathers, screens chattering,
growl of tyres on gravel roads.
Always turning, tacking eastwards
now westering, the water’s course
flows where it feels. Far from certain,
familiar shores, I moved with it:
nearer something, nameless as yet.
Wheels within wheels, the whirling stuff
spins spiralling, spooling outwards.
Rowing the boat or being rowed,
I’m intimate with ultimates:
pulse and pattern, the pull onwards
out of mundane into mystic
entanglements. Taking it slow,
a two-handed hold on the twin
strands of the world, my strokes braiding
NOW and EVER, I know my way.
Birch on the shore, all bent with years
yet leaf-laden, leaning over
the glimmer-glass. Gliding along,
inching forward with oars lifted,
a fleeting span flexing its wings
holds a moment the heron’s gaze:
protean calm, a present tense
then loosening, launching futures.
A boy again, bending open
my can of worms: cold to the touch,
fingers fumble to fix metal
in squirming flesh; skin finally
barbed and bursting, bodies lowered
to sightlessness, I sit and wait –
my hope ebbing then high again
reading the signs, ripples nibbling –
with bated breath. The bobber goes
and I with it, out of my seat,
a young victim in yearning’s jaws,
wriggling rapture reeling me in.
Hours of this, hours of that,
basking simply in being here.
The lithe lilies, lotus-kindred,
climb from cloudy to clearer skies:
floating candles flame waterborne,
constellations of calyxes.
Remaining yet what youth made me,
loyal to worlds of leaping streams,
of tarns brooding bright and tarblack
on depths above, I dub myself
lover of lakes: these language-games
surfaces play, sounding heaven.
Where mouthing waves weave their music,
overlapping in interlace,
the weft calling, warp answering,
it’s antiphons all the way down.
I cast around, catching a few
damned slippery dazzling moments.
Galled by others that get away,
learn to take what time lends me.
As gusts gather, the golden plane
creased then cresting, I cross for home.
Swill at my feet, swirling remnants
of guts and blood, the gill-filtered
lees of the lake. Late suddenly,
this halcyon, heart-opening
day of dawnings dims to a close.
The un-ageing, ever-flowing
re-arranger revels in change:
a mottled sky’s moving image
shoulders blessings to shrug them off;
a hoard of hoards harbours the lost,
bears our bruises for beauty’s sake.
Altering still, it’s always there:
first of figures, fathering more,
mother of all our metaphors.
A leaden sun sinks in the lake.
Past perishing, I pull with me
the reef-ravaged wrecks of myself.
Now earth looms up, aspens lining
the darkened shore: deep presences
robed in silver, in rapt repose
watching the sky that watches them.
The moon making its milky way
from shore to shore, shedding comforts,
the blue hours blacken at last.
Jetty glimmers at journey’s end.
I moor the boat, making it fast
loosely enough to let it drift.
Close to home now, I climb the slope
heaving my bags, hung with buckets,
gear and tackle; my gifts, my take:
lucky burden, lifting my own
weight in wonder, wanting nothing.
Now scattered lights school overhead;
swooning treetops swim among them.
Flaton the sheets, I’m floating too.
Spent bodily, buoyed in spirit,
my restless dream rocks me to sleep.
This boundless night: a net bursting
with precious catch, a pregnant void
heavy with stars. I’m still hauling,
drawing droplets from dry valleys
and failing ponds, fishing for pearls.
I know it’s here, nursed in the deep,
that grit-cum-grace growing brighter
with hidden strength. The heart’s wellspring,
joy’s genesis, rejuvenates,
daring me now decades later
to re-affirm – rich in salvage,
lapped by other living waters –
the first poem’s first utterance:
this yearning world’s YES to its call.

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