Geneswing

30 June 2001 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Tuulen vilja (‘Windcrop’, WSOY, 2000)

Longbeaked birds
created for the deepfunnelled gloxinia – everything exactly right.
The sport of colours, survival (though I always felt I was
sunset in the morning).
I walk over the living, the playful swing of genes,
uniqueness in splinters: capsules,
family trees, root systems, leafage.
In the geneswing little deviations of dimension,
as if I were perpetually outlining waves with my finger.
The primal miracle of seeds: I press
a mixture of summer flowers in the soil, exploding
a serial miracle.

*

The one empowers the other and they all
sustain the One:
lilacs open as bird cherries shed their petals, and
the pearl-buds of the rowans once gone –
lilies of the valley. And from under the hepaticas violets,
and forget-me-nots from the wood anemones.
Then, on top of marigolds, ferns
hissing as they uncurl their coils.
All ready in a flash from inner wit.

Oh the mind’s muddy slowness.

*

I rescued a lizard from an underground tunnel,
nursed it in my hand to the grass, it didn’t scare,
it crept between my fingers – astonishing encounter in a far-off era.
Unfinished every journey. Traces of teeth
on the footbridge.

*

The jukebox is playing ‘The Wanderer and the Swan’.
Low ceiling. I’m eating a cake made from ready-made dough.
The tits are scuffling,
the crows are scrabbling in piles of leaves.
At the roadside a red flourmill:
grain burnished from husks, light burnished from nights?
Behind the flour mill an open churchyard:
in the churchyard a composer and a lyric poet
on opposite sides.
Ah, the scythes of the hands, the holy
bells and the prayers.
A few aspen leaves against the sun.
The birds have left with their maps.

*

The Farmers’ Society Building, and a field nearby.
I went along a stone path to taste
wood sorrel. Tufted vetch. The sorrel had already blossomed.
The orchestra was playing an inconsolable tango.
You came to meet me on the corner when I came back.
‘I’ve been watching you the whole time, how you looked
when you were walking, why do I know you?’
What about you, I thought, why do you scare me?
A bridegroom asked me to dance once,
tender-handed and new to me.
And you danced with the bride
one waltz, radiant with happiness.
I was looking through the window at the hay’s ripened
blanket, I was warming myself beneath it.

*

1.

You gave me a hug on the edge of a wild field
as if you were someone else.
The meadow shimmered, the road glowed.
‘A heavenly landscape,’ you said
through the hungover gauze in your eyes.
A seed, a dream of a dream, of something greater,
that won’t come, we keep chasing supposals.
And towards us came a wild forsaken graveyard,
thick trees with shadows, looking like the living, and
it was you: the cool made me tremble as if
the dead were walking.
The way, the truth and the swift passage of life –
past them, always – and
you can’t be in any other place
than where you are and you can’t
be happier?

2.

The birds were singing silkily. Not us.
Graves merging together, with the texture of grass –
between us eternal yearning.
We went by a wooden hedgehog carved
on the gate of someone’s garden.
Our fingers entwined, pricking,
withdrew into the cage of bones.
Our journey broke, a straw.

3.

A violet-filled summer night.
July was flowering on church hill – more of the dead blessed there
than bridal couples.
A memorial ground doesn’t ask much –
the thousandth autumn comes round a thousand times: dreams
written on the air
at the origin of the ages.

*

1.

Just by the stable between the mayweed and the clover
girls straddle their horses
and laugh. I ride past on my old bike
to gather some autumn phlox from the deserted garden.
The empty cowshed is on the tilt, with its warm
red tiles and thick moss on the roof.
The harness on the wall has had its day.
I sample some worm-eaten unripe apples, hard, and
when I come back, the girls, transparent and pretty,
are still dreaming dreams that I too had and
woke early from but yearn for.

2.

Many dogs and nocturnal animals have passed this way.
The whistle of the train, a cheerful conductor to dances.
Invisible bells.
Night heals like Grief.

Translated by Herbert Lomas

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