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By Philip Rösel Baker

Cycling home, the rain came down,

like only summer rain comes down,

impertinent - putting itself about, 

as if it owned the place, shunting me rudely 

off my pace, light wire-brush strokes

side-swiping my face, my front tyre

arcing glistening spray in the ionised stream 

of my headlamp beam. Charged 

– Saint Elmo’s fire.


The eel-black tarmac sliding beneath 

had a whiff of fish-heads boiling for stock

a smirk of a smell, a schlocky reek 

of mackerel unloading, salty-sleek 

and slippery on the quayside.

A dirty bin smell, gruff swear-words muttered,

the swish of ice, of blade-scraped scales

roughly swept into the gutter,

as if men in Bergen’s fish market 

despatched a rusty pail filled with fish heads,

guts and tails, to slyly hitch a lift on rolling 

North Sea clouds, to rain a scaly, smelly film 

on London’s rainswept crowds.


And in a moment I was there again,

stumbling, laughing, lost with you

in an endless misty afternoon

in the back alleys of Bergen,

trying to share our one remaining 

brolly*, after yours collapsed 

in one spectacular moment 

of broken spokes, frayed fabric, 

threads trailing in the wind,

like spars and halyards ripped 

from the mast by an over-extended sail, 

cavorting to the gale’s fractious,

wailing violin.


At Hollendergaten 16,

where umbrellas were seen like patients,

repaired with love like family heirlooms

Paraply Reparatøren were closed, 

unusually, that day. Yours was probably 

beyond even their skills, anyway.


We ate coarse rye bread, gherkins, crayfish,

in a chance bus shelter bivouac

and the taste mingled with the smell of wrack

and diesel from the docks. 

A halo ringed each early streetlamp

with a glow like that which awe-struck sailors 

once called corposant,

elusive, charged with fleet desire. 

And while we ate, the rain came down

like only summer rain comes down,

hissing through St Elmo’s fire.


*Note: Brolly is British slang for umbrella.

Philip Rösel Baker is an Anglo-German poet living under dark night skies in a remote hamlet in East Anglia, UK.  His poetry has been published in various newspapers, magazines and anthologies in the UK and US - most recently in On a Knife Edge, a climate change collection published by Suffolk Poetry Society and the Lettering Arts Trust, and Water (Michigan State University Libraries Short Édition). In 2022 he was long-listed for the International Erbacce Prize and he won the George Crabbe Poetry Prize in the UK. In 2023 he won a finalist award for the US Fischer Prize.

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