Poems from Verkko (‘The net’, WSOY, 1999). Introduction by Peter Mickwitz
Down the stairs, out through the gate into the street
and you wonder
what the cobblestones had in mind
with the waves that beat
and the rock that was humbled
smooth in the course of millennia.
Streetcars would rumble
toward them with ancient god force.
Now the stones lie there quietly like
fish blown ashore
petrified by the sun.
Their memory is short. Steel is mute.
The rails remember Kallio, remember Töölö.
Words are thinner than they used to be;
they’ve been walked over too many times.
The city. more glabrous, no longer stretches
algae-covered tentacles to the gates of Babylon.
Like an animal with a premonition, the city pulls its soft parts
inside a calcareous shell, does its work there in secret.
Much has disappeared: no more twitching tectonic plates
brought on by words, no electric storms in the bowels.
Coffee is the measure of violence: no more tobacco
in whose smoke one could heal loneliness and the world.
As before, you look through glass, just a thin glass,
at the sidewalk and trees facing the restaurant. A man
is pushing a baby carriage. The glass reflects your face very briefly.
Part of you is out there, part stumbles about again in some Yoldia
a mute stone and a worn hope in his pocket. still,
that the world’s mute stones would break down into song, give
voice, crumble a couple of notes here, and a key.
Vermeer: the kitchen maid
A great painting does not require a great subject,
kings in pantyhose, the Peace of Westphalia.
The kitchen maid pours milk in a bowl, and soon
the canvas brims with self-radiant liquid
in which the morning and chunks of bread float.
The trap is primed. No rat to be seen.
Bits of something white roll on the floor. Smelling salts?
Under the milky film of the wall there are things
going on that the maid has no inkling of
a cockroach makes its way through the sawdust,
enzymes dismantle compounds into smaller pieces.
Farther away, a star collapses
and begins to radiate darkness.
Its message – a quantum of black light –
reaches Helsinki only today,
a city surrounded by ramparts of snow.
These, among other things, influence
my being what I am.
I wrap myself in darkness and wait
for the next whim, a tiny,
apartment building drifts.
Between the stuccoed ribs
disease blooms, sprouts tendrils.
punctures pulmonar alveoli. articular capsules.
Every night I could melt into the tub
until the water darkens to a hepatic dream.
One must protect oneself against the outside air.
The light draws boundaries that are too clear.
One must protect oneself against the brightness of skin.
That is why I travel deeper into your chest,
crave the tar from your lungs and the tracheae
into which I blow, a fanfare, when we are
heat and hunger,
grow vertically up from the ground toward
the fainted sun,
pull up rails, roots, traffic signs,
rear up to the height of our withers, slop sweat and oil.
These wondrous mobiles
with which we can conquer distances.
Only the view always is the same heavenly
snow drift, nothing but condensing steam.
Icarus must have cooled his wings here,
the wax whose precise consistency is a mystery to us.
The higher he rose
the worse he froze
until the wax became too cold and melted.
By scientific means machines have been built
in which a human being can rise and fly to another
planetary phenomena in his belly
such as the direction of blood’s circulation. Loneliness
has rarely been a castle in whose cellar
philosophy was tinkered with or music distilled.
The horses were harnessed for death, the rest into museums,
cast in plastic.
The polar sea folds into a pocket
as a map that tells you where you should already
be, and how.
Translated by Anselm Hollo
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