One more time

Issue 4/1999 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Kun elän (‘As I live’, Tammi, 1999). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

XI

Here is a treetop
with three
thousand branches,

three thousand
names, whose
syllables no one

knows, three
thousand minds,
one murmur

traversed by a
breath, a sentence,
I’m afraid to say

anything,
a million leaves
sough, speechless,

a thousand dark
branching roots,
names in the soil,

a million words
in humus heaven
a thousand sprouts

bloom yet are lifeless,
dead heroes,
pointless tales,

three million
wrinkles. faces
obscured

by branches,
in the brain’s roots
a new person’s thought

is born and
hums through branches,
roots,

the smoke disappears
through the branches,
the smoke disappears.

XVIII

He saw faces behind the glass,
heard himself breathe.

With his fingertips, he brushed the glass surface
but it was not the same as skin.

Slowly, he arranged what he saw,
that blurry motion, but it did not work

as an architecture, the kind
a living city is perennially building.

He opened up to a gaze, froze,
lost the game altogether.

Then the scythe disappeared. He opened
a window onto the street, heard

leaves rustle as if waking up
to life, one more time.

Intermission

But I did not sing,
I chased her away,

flushed the toilet, paced
circles in the living room

like a moth that looks for
a place to land

or a solution that does not exist
to a problem that probably

does not exist either,
just a wall full of

leather-backed books
and seats among which

the moth chooses one, a
commodified insomnia

a landscape someone
invented once: palaces,

persons, tensions,
systems and maps

constructed by language insects
on top oft he void,

in the air, an imago mundi
never seen before

never before heard-of
utopias, illnesses

people prefer to endure
rather than

giving up, once they have
forgotten the war’s causes

or the cornerstone of their learning
ground up to gravel

long ago, they still love
the country they have

destroyed, for love
is stronger than

its object, and who
needs it, the group

eats reason and everything learned,
it turns us into beasts,

the congregation executes
its christ, the state

its sages, but the sleepless
animal keeps wrestling

in the mud with its inner
hero, the beast; yearns, spits,

rages and grieves, looks for
reconciliation, tries

to mediate and interpret
between invisible enemies

to whom only sleep and murmur
can lend a shape, until the image

finally shatters
into sentences, steps

into line between covers,
on the shelf: in the closed pages

simmers yet another delirium
no one has ever seen before.

Four o’clock

Don’t know why I burst out laughing
in bed, but someone instantly answered
as if by rote, as if
comprehending eternity,

laughing without malice, life
and soul of the party, cruel
as a certain hero
who was asked to hold up

the roof while they were still making
speeches in the hall, while the fool
scratched his belly, raised his cup
to the host. while a woman

raised her skirt, the whole forest laughed
and every demon claw
inscribed history. from which
the laughter freed him.

All of a sudden the clock struck four,
but I heard only my heartbeat,
the rush of systole and diastole,
tides of a muddy delta,

the sleepless whimper
of birth and death, the streams of cellular fluids,
the pulsing of stars, the animal’s paws
as it padded along the runner,

all in step; not long now until the wolfs hour,
nothing stirred on the plains, I felt
a thundercloud push down on my forehead,
and the wind died, the grass

stopped rustling, sugar coagulated, and then
lightning stopped my heart with one blow,
in one rapid motion my hand
tore off the pillow case, my body

sat up in bed, my mouth shouted,
the primal animal, evolution howled.
Upright. he stood in front of me,
in the rearview mirror the car came closer

struck me again and again from behind
with a huge iron fist, made words burst
from my mouth, the car rose into the air: a plane,

a pegasus galloping straight at the pillar,
now muteness, the windshield
cracked, flew out in one piece
to rest on the hood

in the rearview mirror the car
came closer again, I saw how I flew
into the foliage, in my mind
two separate memories:

thus memory shatters time, and so
one can look at the past as true,
barely, barely endure it: she
bent over me, said something.

At the wake, lips moved. behind
the glass stood a fair boy
whom I knew, even though
he had already grown up to be a man.

Translated by Anselm Hollo

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