Goodbye darling

30 March 2005 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Niin kovaa se tuuli löi (‘So bitterly the wind struck’, Tammi, 2004)

Lord, you've promised to come, don't hang back.
     Here we are already, sitting, me and the dogs,
   and the others that have to go.

Jesus, poor thing, didn't know whom to bloom for,
  just kept on lugging his cross, pretty as a pony.
    He came and shot us down,
   bullets flying without his even noticing.
      The night was gifted with roses
        full of love.
 Through a woman we came here, through a man
    we leave.


Rover's lying under the burnet rose.
   And good-natured Nosy, and Gunilla Rosa's cancer
 exploded the bones of her big soft paw,
    her shinbone shattered into a sky of stars,
 you knew it at once from her face and the X-ray.
  I lay over her body and howled.
    I placed a hyacinth by her cheek,
  a white hyacinth by her black cheek
    for the journey.
When something good goes out of the world,
    all you can do is howl.


The dust gleams in the setting sun.
     Is there hope any more, none if
        you don't hope.
After me nothing will be as it was,
  for I always give my heart, only the heart.
The dog, a real riot police character, and I
   both share this Prussian charisma.
    Or else we just go along like shadows,
   dust on the roads of shadows.


The sow looked down her snout, under terminal care
     in the saddle room, sick, she looked out
  from a darkly louring cloud, a hat of pain.
     Poor ice maiden, her little blue eyes
          full of agony.
     I gave her a swig of vodka, took a drop myself,
        the bottle went back and forth between us, poor little thing.

Finally the medicos jumped up on down on her
    neck when the jabs didn't kill her.
      I took the horses out into the paddock, told
            the chaps to shoot mother pig, my
      boozing companion,
    my own Amiga, para siempre.


Eyes close to the bridge of the nose, a staring look.
    It's the mark of the beast, it's in me,
        I'll never get free of it now.

    Just look at the dogs, crouching in their corners,
           and the horses, staring off elsewhere,
     they shift a leg, damned drag that they are,
       inside the forest the hares shriek.

         And the black lamb, rejected by her dam,
     almost foetal, sheer astrakhan,
        whimpers quietly, knows she's dying.
            She dies in my hands.


I stand on two legs, she on four,
     up to the armpits, both of us, in mud.
Little angel, how can such large eyes be
     in such a narrow face, not even room for
  a stripe, dark eyes full of suffering.
Goodnight, she said, don't say another word.
     I've run my journey to the end, I want to die,
   I'll die so I can go to my Christ.
       Finish this life, have mercy on me.
I don't see a single pasture, not a grazing companion,
          can't see a thing.

  Dearest friend: an open option, the agreement
      with life, with death, but
    who can abide the day of his coming.
Little Bomby, I remember you, I'll take care of you.
      Of all those who've lost hope.


March, my shaggy lamb, march.
    Nothing but sky and blood-red earth,
with just a tiny point between, big enough
      for cigarette smoke.
The horse is standing with his head outstretched, and the lamb
        with silence oozing from its wool.
     And the rain's making the silence audible,
      and Shostakovich's fourth, a stone's
        sweat is making pain audible.
     Stella by Starlight softly pushes
        her muzzle first into my palm, then
     into my armpit, c minor, grace


Everyone's always in a hurry. In the grave it stops.
    When sorrow came and furrowed your face,
 Jesus came to the door, oh those eyes, that
    strange man transported to bliss, oh that gruelling sympathy.
You could see at once he saw straight
    into the heart, which was tear-shaped,
      which had tried to love
        even with a knife in its fist.
He stood there like a curate, with his boot
     in the door, expressing his condolences, saying
     welcome to the congregation.
   Well, why not, so off we went,
         and as we signed the parish register the dog
   pranced and danced about, begging
      the parson for the dogs' own funeral meats.


In the park a sparrow struts about, bickers,
       a prince of darkness, monomaniac,
      Luxembourg's Pierrot Lunaire.
    But, superior to all this, King Jackdaw hobnobs
  solely with Baudelaire's stone head.
      In the glow of the flaming katies and late asters
            they stare persistently at each other,
              two swarthies.

And like a clot of settled mist little ponies
    doze under a chestnut tree
        with worn saddles on their backs
   and coach horses with green carriages lean on slumber.
  A scent of coffee seeps through the rain from a kiosk
          and through the floating leaves.
   One falls on my wet table, heart-shaped:
     I'm with you, and I'm here,
        I say to it, quietly.


And as for me, I compose exactly how it suits me.
   So my music will roll around
     your mount's legs like a goose egg, you Beautiful Spirit.
   After that relations between Cherubini and Napoleon
       were never restored.
It's raining along the Seine, the river of death, the ferryman,
      perforated with bullets, it's raining
     down my eyes, the trees and along the park pathways.
    Your eyes are open and they rain, until
       the lids are shut to.
  They say something unsayable, something
     I can't say: goodbye, remember the little
        ponies in their parks, how you cried.


You always smiled my friend: no use grieving.
   When death comes, it comes through the kitchen door,
        always as a surprise,
     a cold breath, a killing blast.
When illness truly manifests itself, not to
       negotiate, or make some agreement,
     except that the agreement must be sustained,
    the measures will terminate in no result,
       the machine will roll along but not manage to take off.

   Dearest friend, a more loyal heart
       you'll never find, no, not even if you dug with an entrenching tool.
    And yet I had to leave you
         in the grave's cold embrace, oh misery,
            but an embrace nevertheless.


Goodbye darling, a grave covers you.
      Fear not, I'm here,
         no one else, not ever.
   The snow covers the ground, the sky, the dark euphoria,
      and the war's ended, the guns are silent.

You're just dust in a small cemetery
among muddy fields.
I blessed you when
it was most difficult, and,
never-ending sorrow that you are,
I bless you still.

Translated by Herbert Lomas


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