Three prose poems

Issue 3/1986 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry, Prose

Prose poems from Runot ja proosarunot (‘Poems and prose poems’,1966) and Maan ja veden välillä (‘Between land and water’, 1955 ). Introduction by Pirkko Alhoniemi

Underground

I went underground, I was looking for my brother’s grave, and I saw him lying under a transparent slab of marble. His face was like gold, death had passed from it, and I knew I no longer mourned him. I came above ground. At the edge of the graveyard there was a round tower made of stone and I was high up in the top of the tower. There stood my brother in dark trousers, white shirt, looking exactly the same, in the same position as in the dim photograph someone, I don’t remember who, took of him when he was about to go fishing, hands in his pockets, head held high, he was looking up at something, not at me. And I asked him: ‘Did it hurt when the bullet went through your head, when the exploding bullet went through your head in the battle of Karhumäki, and you were still alive at the first aid station and you said something they told us about in a letter.’ He answered, ‘Yes, it did hurt.’ ‘What’s your life like now, tell me.’ I said. He raised a hand and pointed to the sky. The sky was blue, and white clouds were scudding across it.

(from Runot ja proosarunot, 1966)

In the Tower

I was in the tower, and inside the tower I could see it was a well made from slabs of rock, round and deep, big fish in the water, bright red, bright blue, large, plump, round-shaped fish, and the fish liked me. I kept going around in the water of the well and the fish lifted their heads out of the water, looked me straight in the eye, rose up, looked right at me and sang to me. And it made me happy to hear that song.

(from Runot ja proosarunot, 1966)

The Rose

The room was like an object floating in space, like a piece cut out of space and set inside the walls. The ceiling and floor were slanted in the same direction, as if the room were tilting, and all that was in it seemed to be floating or touching the surface underneath it very lightly.

Three women were in the room. Two were sitting, the third standing. If you had drawn lines from the feet of the others, the standing one would have been at the apex of an equilateral triangle and the two sitting ones at the points of its base corners.

The standing woman wore a white coat like a doctor’s. Behind her was a blackboard. She looked searchingly at the ones sitting in front of her, turned, took a piece of chalk into her hand and began to draw. She drew a rose so big that its edges scraped the edges of the blackboard. She was drawing carefully, each petal separately, and it began to look like a living rose. The women at the corners of the triangle sat silent and still. One of them was blind, but the other was watching the drawing attentively. And the one with the white coat threw the chalk out of her hand, turned to the one who could see, and said:

‘Tell your friend that the message is ready. It is here. A man she met in the mountains is sending it to her.’

‘I can see that it is a rose, and a beautiful one. But why did you leave the center empty? Why have you drawn only its petals?’

‘I have been asked to tell your friend that she will understand, when she takes the time to think about it, why the rose only has petals, why the rose has been made crumbling and hollow.’

(from Maan ja veden väliltä, 1955)

Translated by Aili and Austin Flint

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