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Outside the Bergen Art Museum
by Ronnie Hess

Is it a book? an old woman asks me
as we both watch a duck sitting on something
in the middle of the Town Park's pond.
And, Is the duck healthy?
I reply it is simply resting
on a plastic container, bobbing up and down,
resting, as is the woman on her park bench,
holding a cane and a large plastic bag.
What book? she wants to know.
Is it Kon-Tiki? by Thor Heyerdal.

She speaks an accented English,
difficult for me to place, somewhere in Scandinavia
but not necessarily Norway, suggesting
a formal education, an English teacher, too,
from another country. Her voice rises
like the jet d'eau, like mountains, high pitched.

Isn't this the real reason we travel,
not for the Munch paintings behind us
in the galleries, their cool, dim rooms,
perhaps not even the fjords,
magnificent as they are?
Instead, this chance connection
on a cloudless day with the water
arcing from the fountain,
elsewhere in the park the children gamboling,
lovers kissing, and beyond the park
Bergen's red houses pitched on the city's hillsides,
the windows open to the midnight sun.


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