Today's poetry for today's world

Lars Nordström 


Lars Nordström was born in Stockholm, Sweden, where he lived until 1974.  He was educated at the University of Stockholm and Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.  At Uppsala University, Sweden, he received his Ph.D. in American literature.  He is the recipient of several Fulbright grants, a Scandinavian Foundation grant for academic research in the USA, several Swedish Institute grants and awards, three Baltic Center residences as well as a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center fellowship.  In 1988 he settled with his wife and two sons on a small vineyard in Beavercreek, Oregon.  Ten years later Nordström won the Oregon Book Award for Nonfiction with his account of living in Beavercreek with Making it Home. He divides his time between growing wine grapes and writing and translating, as well as giving talks on various Swedish-American subjects.


Nordström has published prose, poetry, translations, interviews, oral histories, articles, and scholarly materials in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Canada, Japan and the United States in magazines such as The Great River Review, The Greenfield Review, Hubbub, Northwest Review, Oregon Literary Review, PRISM International, International Poetry Review, The Chariton Review, and WRITHis most recent publication is Doing Life on Planet Earth, Poems and Translations, Vintner's Press, 2014.  For an up-to-date list of Lars Nordström’s writings, please visit www.larsnordstrom.com.






Photo by Cynthia Nordstrom
Click on book cover to buy Doing Life on Planet Earth.







They are like the wind.
After years of silence they suddenly show up.
They sing for you when you need it the most.
They travel far to see you.
Without you noticing, they scatter small,
small flower seeds all around you. They continue
to write letters to you even when you don’t answer.
They have written the books in your library.
Their words carry you through dark nights.
They make sure you don’t forget your debt to tomorrow
and the day after that. Next to the spring in
the forest they have left you a cup.
You can follow them when you have gotten lost.
In the used bookstores,
in books you have written,
you sometimes find your dedications to them.




Doing Life on Planet Earth, Vintner's Press, 2014


I see you sitting there, leaning over the text.
You move your head slightly
while the light from your eyes
pours over the words.
Seconds tick,
time stretches and stretches.
I hear you breathing, hesitating.
You hear my voice but
you can't see me, I am just a wind
passing through the letters.
Strange, isn't it,
this small timeless room
where we can still meet
after the dust of all these years.

Doing Life on Planet Earth, Vintner's Press, 2014








I park and walk down to the beach to inspect
how ocean currents and shifting sands
are reconstructing the spit—
a job site without beginning or end.


Returning I notice a memorial plaque
across the road, a relocated cemetery
“because erosion threatened the original gravesite.”
Some twenty names, a few Finns, a Swede,
an unknown “Man found on beach”
a winter’s day in 1898.


            A hidden trapdoor suddenly opens onto
            grandmother’s kitchen floor where I sit
            counting  a treasure of old copper coins
            during a conversation about
            grandfather’s brother, the sailor who
            was not in any of the family photographs,
            who had disappeared in a storm or war.


The Pacific roars, sand drifts across the asphalt,
I barely remember grandfather, his house torn down,
the coins no longer in circulation, mother and father erased,
I myself a stranger who gets into his car
and drives off in an alien country leaving no tracks.




First published in ICE-FLOE: International Poetry of the Far North,

Vol.5, Winter Solstice 2004.

Doing Life on Planet Earth, Vintner's Press, 2014









72 days without rain.

Surrounded by the warm darkness
we lie naked on a blanket and
listen to the untiring stridulation of the crickets
while the evening breeze brings the smell of burning
from the forest fires by the river.

Your body is pale as smoke.

Sirius is gone but Mars shimmers over
the mountains like a dying, light-emitting diode,
the brass moon is waning.
The unstoppable time
lifts yet another day from our
sunburned hands and eases

—if ever so slightly—
our burden.




First published in ICE-FLOE: International Poetry of the Far North,

Vol.5, Summer  Solstice 2004.

Doing Life on Planet Earth, Vintner's Press, 2014




Gold Teeth




Going through father’s linen closet
after his death my sister and I

found a small velvet bag

tucked among sheets

untouched for so long

the white fabric had begun to turn golden.


Next to the bag of teeth my father

had stashed the ammunition to his Luger,

enough bullets to start some real trouble.

I lug them down to the police station for disposal,

but we keep the gold teeth.


Heavy in my cupped hand,

gold-capped just like the bullets,

some have roots like dandelions—

surely memorable visits to the dentist.

Remnants of old teeth still cling to the gold,

reminding me of relics in Greek monasteries,

macabre pieces of anatomy

encased in precious metals

for the believers of the true faith to kiss.


We wonder whose deconstructed smile this is:

mother’s,  grandmother’s, or grandfather’s?

How did he get them?

Visit the mortuary with a pair of concealed pliers

asking for a moment of privacy with the deceased?

Or is there a person whose job it is

to extract the teeth of the dead?

When dad died, no one

ever said a word to us about his teeth,

and I know you can’t cremate gold.


The man in charge of buying dental gold

at the jewelry store smiles

without answering when I ask him this,

first I think because of decorum,

then I notice his glittering gold teeth.




First published in Hubbub, Vol. 21, 2005.



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