The Winter King

The Winter King

Fifty years we raced around
Each other in this house,
My hands now too clumsy
To make a fire, too bone-cold
To light the lanterns without
Burning my fingers,
My arms log-bound –
No more wood for the fire

Fifty years I have sunk
Into my armchair sipping whisky;
Five hundred times shovelling
Snow from the roof and
Chipping ice from your heart –
Each winter arrived earlier
And far colder than the last;
Each year, wolves howled louder

Stiff-collared as an undertaker
The Winter King
Slinks across splintered floorboards
While you gut fish
Running a fever
The refrigerator growling,
Our ivory-yellow teeth
Rattling in a glass on the sink

Finally you notice the plants are dead
He has filched their sunlight
With flawless dexterity,
His pale arthritic hands
Laying out stiffs in the attic –
Lame as a drunk, he slouches in
With a bottle of embalming fluid
And offers you a drink

Patrik Gryst 2012


Commuting and working in London does have some hidden benefits if your willing to step outside your usual journey. Aside from obvious monetary and career opportunities there is much urban landscape to explore if you are so inclined.

Rather than leaping straight on the tube to catch the same iron horse everyone else is racing for, book a slightly later, less crowded train and utilise your leg power to explore London’s rich landscape.

The demands and complexity of modern life are driven by time pressures and deadlines and my desire to rush home from work, especially on long cold, dark nights, as strong as anyone else’s. Despite this, I look forward to a chance to explore new territory in the spirit of Micro Adventure (see Alastair Humphries’ book and website: Walking back from Stratford to Euston, for example, through the verdant spaces of Victoria Park or the towpath of Regents Canal to Islington offers a different perspective on Victorian industrialisation and some quirky finds – even better if you can cycle and avoid the busy main road arteries.
Don’t be so surprised you’re bored of your commute if you don’t do something different. Try and open your eyes more and look up. Ever wondered where that narrow street or path goes – now’s your time to be spontaneous and find out. You never know where it might take you.

A Song from the North Pole

A Song from the North Pole

Wet fingers of
November trees scratch
Fog and smoke and sky,
Something moving on the Sunday-tide
Slow and soft and silent,
Something catching on
November trees,
Behind the scrap-yard skein
The subtle code of
Turing’s ghost

I can hear it in the hum of pylon lines
Each whip of wind and creak of eaves,
I can smell it in the factory smoke
Each ice-hut stack and truck exhaust

The poorly-attended
White-wood churches empty out,
Refinery sleeping-gas
Rolls down hills of coal-dust
And faded pool-table grass,
Slow and soft and silent
Resting in the hollows of
November trees,
A suitcase memory-bound, I wait
For the airport-bus and rattling
Boneshaker of a Dakota from Svalbard

I can see it in the eyes of hooded strangers,
Each scavenging wreck and gas-plant ganger,
In the eyes of wolves in the tundra,
The whorls of aurora and thunder

I’m flying north,
A rock stuck in my throat
Cold hands that can’t write;
Cold hands I hope to thaw
In the Midnight sun,
My letters calling from the frozen ocean
My broken semaphore sounding
Uncharted depths,
With tokens from our house
And this song of North-pole,
Set free to roam in icebergs
And lay our ghosts to rest

I can smell it in lavender and hollyhocks
In buttercups and saxifrage,
The wireweed and dabberlocks,
And night-scented stock

Patrik Gryst Svalbard November 2011