Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Guns of Soumenlinna

Take the ferry to Sveaborg,

which is what the Swedes called

what the Finns would call Soumenlinna,

by which they meant the Castle of Finnland


a UNESCO World Heritage Site,

as a very much admired example of a fortress


Which, like all admirable defenses,

turns out to be inadequate:

The Great Wall

The Maginot Line

Sveaborg / Soumenlinna . . . .


The Russians simply bypassed it in 1808,

and took Helsinki,

THEN laid siege from the Mainland . . .


Now it is a picnic park,

and a place for weddings or wedding pictures


land from the ferry,

buy bottles of water

and walk the gravel path

to the other end of the island(s).



stand face-in-the-wind

on the sandy dunes

bulwarked with stone and granite

and imagine the star-shaped battlements

bristling with cannon

commanding the harbour


It seems plausible . . .


It seems formidable  . . .


But it wasn’t.



the cannons are plugged or spiked

tho’ you can still run your hands inside

to feel the rifling


they lie idle, undone

oxidizing. . .


I think it would be good sport,

once a year, in a ceremony,

to fire one of the guns

like a drill for the admiralty

to demonstrate lethality


all-the-while reflecting

that while it is all so obsolete

in the face of modern war,

that it was so ineffective

in its own time



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