Being Twenty-One in Copenhagen
I walked up the building's inside stairs to find a
wood-frame window propped against my front door
with a short note from the city police that
the window had fallen out into the street.
Inside: my flat full of snow.
That was the year I nearly blew my face off,
kerosene stoves being new to my experience,
leaning in to wipe the spill with newsprint,
taking my head out, as the stove went fwoomp! and
burnt the chest out of my sweater.
That was the year the newspapers were full of
problems of teenage runaways from Europe
coming to Copenhagen, Christiania,
taken advantage of by pimps for prostitution,
living a life on the streets.
That was the year that 14-year-old Reidun,
running from pimps, was telling her girlfriend
she’d nowhere to go, so ended up in my flat,
so cold she couldn’t find veins to shoot up, and
no, we didn’t have sex.
But god she was gorgeous in her wasted manner,
high Incan cheekbones and her white gold ring.
Next day to the police to get deported back to Norway.
Later, a thank-you note: working in a clothes store,
but no name or address, just Reidun.
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Robin Helweg-Larsen
would be pleased to hear them.