Tramlines

Oliver Reynolds: from the Norwegian of Jan Erik Vold

The thought of writing a poem
about tramlines
beginning: The city lies bound
in its net of tramlines ...
got no further.
Go out and look at the tramlines, they don’t bind
the city at all, they lie in the street
between comradely ranks of cobblestones, go out
and look at the city, it’s not bound, cities
can’t be bound. No, tramlines
are for putting small change on,
the tram paraded uphill
over the brown coins, with us in the gateway
ready to scatter if the tram
stopped, the conductor got out! Coins squashed
flat and now bigger than English pennies, often
flattened and twisted, no elk
on them then but the good old king. Tramlines
and cycling! I once went flying
in front of the teacher, it was on the bend
by the perfume-shop and toy-shop, only balloon tyres
kept you out of trouble (I had
half-balloons). In spring
final snow floats and clots
into the tramlines, brown water ripples
along the grooves. Men in blue
scrape the lines clean and the sun
climbs hills unclogged with sand,
there’s wet mud between the lines
and soon there’ll be grass.