Poems

Issue 3/1985 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Introduction by Pertti Lassila

If you come to the land of winds, to the bottom of the sea,
there are few trees, plenty of icy wind
from shore to shore.

You can see far
and see nothing.

Around you screech the newborn plains
still wet from fog
but clear as a dream

at the edge, the sea

beneath, the deep earth
above, the wide expanse
shouts to you and to the plains

about being
it looks at you and asks

When we returned home
and leaned against the long table
we could see the simple grain of the wood
and our weariness turned into knowledge
of why we had had to go away:
to come back to see the uncharted patterns
in the table at home.

From Lakeus (‘The plain’, 1961)

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Breaking

When forms disappear,
people, animals, and plants diverge,
the structure falls apart, it’s low tide
and the parting comes,
all this you, unlike the animals, knew to expect.
Today you’re already lamenting:
it’s hard, it’s tough.
Yet you know neither the place nor the time:
you may linger long, or
break like ajar, a window-pane, or a heart.

From Puhetta (‘Talk’, 1963)

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At night, when we sleep, the wind
goes on working, the branches – of bush
and tree –
tremble
with no one to see them.
A gooseberry bush
stirs branch and mind,
it exists, alive all the time,
whether or not there’s light in the window.

Bothered about something and not knowing what
or knowing many reasons quite well, I wonder whether to call
or just sit here and scratch my itch
or just send a one-line greeting
to everybody.
Just one beautiful sentence. A difficult one, only one.
And listen for a possible answer.
I know it may come in five years,
some remark, perhaps a joke, a friendly nudge.

From Hiljaisuudesta (‘On silence’, 1984)

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Tree roots wedge into a rock to break it.
How does that happen?
Let’s take a birch root – it squeezes and grips the rock
and when the tree sways, the root pulls away from the rock
just a little with each shake of the tree.
If the tree is tall, fifteen meters, let’s say,
the wind strong and the treetop bushy, there’s enough
strength if only the roots can take it.
How patient the birch has to be!
And yet fast!
It cannot crunch the rock to pieces all at once,
for it grows in the rock and would fall.
It works quietly.
All the time, it enters deeply into the situation and comprehends
the rock with its roots.
Now, when the tree sways once
and something in the rock moves a tiny bit,
let’s say, making a hairline crack,
just then some tip of fine roots
falls or sinks into a crevice of the rock and stays there with the sand and earth,
and the rock is finally split
and the crack can never grow together.
The root doesn’t think, of course,
nor does the treetop. They don’t conspire
to conquer the rock
but the stone is rent all the same.

From Säännöstely eutanasia (‘Rationed euthanasia’, 1973)

Translated by Aili and Austin Flint

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