The best thing

30 September 2004 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Valekuun reitti (‘The path of the false moon’, WSOY, 2004). Introduction by Herbert Lomas

At first light I put my hand
     in the hollow of a white willow –
once someone's cigarette box
had been left there –
     now a bird flew out
going seaward.
Touch of a wingquill on the back of my hand.
     It flew higher.
          In the evening
I felt its touch on my shoulder blade.

*

     A pillar of white mist on the jetty.
A moment ago we were standing there
          so close to each other.

*

Early morning
          and your skin's glowing
with far-off days,
          lands on the otherside of dream,
from your face a springtime haze
rises to my eyes
          to my lips rise
'it's not spring, not autumn'.

*

A splash
     on the lake
near the boat
from a solitary grebe,
     somewhere far off from here
it saw a self
like itself

*

The best thing I remember
was going to buy
          notebooks,
hard and soft backed,
pocketsized
               to write down
the best thing I remember.

*

How many times I went by!
A year isn't a place without you.
I came out of the gate, came back,
     someone had tossed
a bicycle over the wall into the yard.
Not two wheels, one wheel.
Scent of honeysuckle flowering in the shade
          by my entranceway.
All those gates that I wrote about.
But the moon's always the same
               except that
it's place it's time.

*

Beyond this boundary even a bird can't fly:
you found that out all right
     when you lived by boundlessness –
boundlessness lives, the bird falls.

*

I’ve stayed here; haven’t bothered to go
or come either. Sometimes I’ve wished
going and coming would end.
But ending is like beginning –
a going and a coming. On his deathbed
Meister Eckhart was asked by his acolyte:
‘Master, I have to know, where are you going?’
‘No need to go anywhere,’ Eckhart said.

*

After death there’s just nothing,
he wanted to prove -‘ I was put to sleep and operated on
and I don’t remember a thing, not even a dream’.
That’s how it is, said the other,
you don’t remember, not even
that you woke.

*

The sky’s listening. Half moon. You can speak to it.
You had to live as if you were here. Just as
anyone has to score a goal through empty goalposts.
Nothing is so important. As that you live.
The whole of your death. Nothing so important. Because
time is death. And we die for death.
Right now. Nothing is as dazzling as the joy
of disappearing.

*

When they spoke about Man
as a city with nine gates,
I thought of the wait for the ninth moon.
The moon passed on and opened gates.
They meant
          openings in the body
and hadn't accounted for the gate
we all come through.
     They and their city,
they hadn't forgotten that fact,
they just didn't want us to be Man.

*

When the year is a place
          it's a city
in the cycle of the years
     twelve gates
          in man
  cause and effect
    change places
 subvert each other
all times all at once
          all around
a year you can dwell there
             not two
        Jerusalem
  a sand mandala
   is wiped away
 built up every year.

*

One gate
opened above yourself
          when you were born.
When only one gate
          is not passed through
who can say you're not passing through it
while you're still alive.

*

The world's radiant now
     and unfolds.
as I said, didn't I –
     the sky does extend
          between
the fingers and the toes
down to the ground,
the grass rises up to heaven,
let's walk up there, my friend,
let's walk this last day.

Translated by Herbert Lomas

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