I’m sitting in a cafe-slash-brewery-slash-eatery on the corner of Frederikinkatu and another long-named street. It’s just about 6pm, and the sun is beaming on a diverse, alive, beautiful city I’m visiting for the first time. Helsinki is breathtaking and relatable. It is ancient and new. Also, it has pulled moose sandwiches, which…like…I mean, moose. To eat.
They’ve also got some fantastic vegan options, but that’s neither here nor there.
The Writing Excuses Retreat ended on…was that Saturday? It’s hard to say, because time has blurred on this trip, but I’ve been in Helsinki a couple days now, and though I’m not even halfway through processing the wonder that was the writing retreat, I do have something I thought would be fun to share with you. As we were preparing to disembark from our ship—and summarily delayed in that, of course—I began writing a poem, inspired by Dr. Seuss, about my experience. While it might be a “you had to be there” situation, it might still make you smile.
“I do not like this boat,” I said.
“I do not like this boat,” I said,
“This shaking goes straight to my head.”
The golden-vested staffer nodded,
Then carried on, ‘till poked and prodded,
I gave to him my cruise ship card
And purchased water, how bizarre!
Photographers go to and fro,
Refusing every plea to “go!”
See, they insist on shutter-bugging
Despite our efforts at mean-mugging,
Making dinner time a chore,
But with our company, not a bore.
For Writers, we, have a strange power,
To take all moments, sweet and sour,
Transform them into story fodder,
All our darlings, which we slaughter.
Which we learned to do, with glee,
From Cleaver’s sociopathy.
The elevators, quelle horreur!
No semblance of any ordeur,
Though push the button, you did try,
The elevators pass you by.
And when they did decide to stay,
Inaccessible were they.
See, other patrons were quite different,
From the world over, wide and distant.
With several customs, strange and new:
An inability to queue,
And smoke in every nook and cranny,
Be they near a child or granny.
Excursions to fantastic cities,
Copenhagen’s castle, pretty!
Stockholm’s old town, with it’s bookstore,
Tallin’s KGB enclosure,
St. Petersburg was not so droll,
Because of the passport control.
Within the ship, we writers learned,
New concepts in our minds were burned,
And challenges came on the daily,
To write—or not, so cockamamie!
Some writers’ fingers were too restive
Those final word-counts were impressive!
But let’s go back, friends, to the shaking,
That oh-so-ever-present quaking!
Fantasia bucked and leaned and wobbled,
My brains inside my skull were boggled,
So if I left an odd impression,
Please forgive me. Did I mention?
This was my first, my only cruise,
And while the ship, that cursed un-muse,
Did its best to turn me dour,
I was impervious, ripe with power!
Because of you, my tribe, my crew,
My stable point in world askew.
You welcomed me, and took me in,
A stranger, one not free from sin,
Unkempt a tad, unbathéd, too,
You forged me into something new!
For I, like you, do not “aspire,”
I’m proud to call myself a “Writer.”
What a magnificent experience. I still can’t believe some of it actually happened.
Also published on Medium.