On Winter Days in Northern Norway
I trekked in the morning dark up the hill to the art school.
Wore reflectors on my coat. Took coffee breaks in the cafena near the fireplace at tables strewn with ashtrays and saucers. Ate flatbread sandwiches with egg and dill and caviar. Knitting needles clicked beneath raucous laughter and the smoke from hand-rolled cigarettes.
I never saw a polar bear.
I did eat reindeer steaks served with boiled new potatoes.
Wore sealskin slippers across heated bathroom floors. Set the clock each night hoping batteries wouldn’t die and leave me unalarmed in dark confusion of night or day, prompt or tardy. Faith in Duracell replaced the absent sun.
I never saw a troll.
I did ice skate on a flooded frozen pitch under an arctic moon.
Certain stillness and specific cold unfurled ribbons of fuchsia and emerald, swirling and snapping across the sky in rhythmic gymnastics of jewel-toned light. I gawked at the animation of color and cold, a dynamism still photographs couldn’t capture.
I never saw a Viking.
I did nap naked on the sunbed each week.
Dreamed of sunbathing on a California beach. Woke in the dark afternoon to redress in parka and scarves. Trekked home through the narrow tunnel under the railroad yard. The artificial artery spilled artificial light from either end onto the ore-dusted snowdrifts and delivered me into the frozen street near the darkened church.
I tucked into bed each night with the fickle promise that again
the sun would still not rise tomorrow.
copyright Megan E. Freeman
originally published in Shortest Day, Longest Night