Weird calm

Issue 1/1998 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

A selection of poems, translated by Herbert Lomas and Anselm Hollo. Interview by Tarja Roinila

Agnosis IV

Set your altar up in the evening,
 in the morning clear it away:
 the wandering goes on. Don't persuade yourself
             of anything, or anyone else:
 fearful forces are epidemic,
 no place is sacred
 for long.
                                 Again and again
                                 the sacred
                                                If you happen to be
 there don't refuse to see.

a light wind
            stirring a treetop:
 a shoal of fish
            in blue abyss

From Hiidentyven (‘Weird calm’, Otava, 1984)

Against a pale glow

Against a pale glow
engraved in steely frost
an unwavering grey figuration
of black boughs.
I know nothing of a pine tree’s pinings.
My own are close enough,
but this morning no complaints.
Before my eyes a world. Bitter, beautiful.

From Hiidentyven



A vertical motion
evenly from the earth
up, upwards
              against the sky
an explosion, a bursting counterthrust
across the skyline
              a crossbough
spreading out
like wings
of wounding, a flight
into freedom
hands, arms:
the breast receives
a sword
a ray
a grain
          from the crossbough,
from its centre
the movement spreads everywhere:
the cotyledon,
the leafage and the ramage, the tip of the tree
the roots:
there's an image in the air.
             The current of time
is running across the crossbough,
flowing through the foliage.

From Hiidentyven



– on spikelets of hay
near the forest edge
dragonfly wings were trembling
Back through the forest I make my way.
Depth again – the forest, everything
yesterday, today
synchronic: each trunk

From Karu laidunrinne (‘Barren pasturage’, 1989)

Through the night

For Benjamin Britten

Through the midsummer night
quills of angel wings
are piercing wounds, hard

through the winkling of an eye passes
and endless

From Karu laidunrinne



My dream, a brown beast, slipped away into the foliage,
and now, long moments later,
the day’s escaping, at a fast canter –

two lassoes I let fly, at a throw,
one at the disappearing horn of the dream,
one at the day on the run.
A chance in a hundred thousand
but think of the possible prize:
one loops a dream unicorn,
one loops a golden-homed elk of a day!

From Kaksoiskuva (‘Dual image’. 1982)

With unblinking eyes

          been in this house
                              before, yes,
                                           but the birds
                                                            weren't able
                                                                      to prevent
my entry!
          In the doors
                    there were
                              grey mists,
                                         the inner rooms
                                                  disappearing into the distance.
A bird, a large one, about
          the size of a man
              came to meet me
                    in the corridor,
                              pushed its head
                                        into a stone slab
in the floor:
          it wanted
                    to avoid seeing
                              the infinity of the particles.
It twitched its head out
          when it saw
                    a shadow nearing
                              across the slabs, fluttered
                                        in front of me,
                                                            spreading its downy wings:
blood was pouring from its eyes.
          It stopped before me,
                    and looked,
                              running with blood, eyes
                                        bleeding, stood
                                                  and spread its bloodstained downy wings.
I raised my hand, yelled:
                    'Bird! You won't stop me!
                              The passage through these rooms
                                            has to go on
                                                  into the distance.
Go and crucify yourself!
          The burden I'm carrying is different.
                In these empty rooms
                    I'm carrying
                              the weight
                                        of these empty rooms
                                                  into the distance, to eternity.
The pillars are burdening my shoulders,
          the dance is burdening my feet.
                 The earth's opening, the mist's
                            coming down. Stand aside!' A shrieking
                                   engulfed the room:
the bird flew at me. I walked
          through it, the pillar
                 crumbled, pain burst out and
                              with unblinking eyes
                                        I stared
                                                            into the abyss:
in the stairwell, where
                    a dark emptiness was yawning and
                              stony, greedy
                                        spirits of judgement
                                                  were blowing a stone horn,
spreading my bleeding wings
          among a forest of pillars
                    under a stony sky
                                        I was flying.

From Portaikko pilvissä (‘Staircase in the clouds’, 1992)

Translated by Herbert Lomas

On the way home

On the way home
the scent of a limetree,
Warm July night,
darkening toward August.
I can’t help
the moth entranced by light,
the person entranced by darkness.
Yearning for light you turn into a cinder.
On the way home
each one of us flies in her orbit
on a warm July night
calm, the stars not yet out
as the limetree spreads
its scent, the honeyed limetree.

From Hengitys yössä (Breathing in the night’, 1995)

Above and through everything

Above and through everything
the thin web of life. On an evening like this,
its strands
are stretched to breaking
under the moments’ significance, the light’s
weight. So much empty space,
so much lovely desolation
freed from significance
in us, in the world,
it makes you grow faint.
And here, all dreams have to be dreamed by oneself!
When I am dead, a stone
will dream my dreams.

From Hengitys yössä

Translated by Anselm Hollo


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