Another morning, another day

28 May 2014 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Unen kaivo (‘The well of dreams’, WSOY, 1936). Introduction by Satu Grünthal

IN THE MIRROR

Strange and truly wondrous
in the mirror you look at me.
All I really know is
that you I cannot be.

With my eyes you survey me,
with my lips you smile, too,
what I see in the mirror
is not me, but you, just you.

Whoever you are – astral morning,
eternal night – in the frame
like a wraith, a ghostly phantom,
invisible I remain.

CHIAROSCURO

I heard the words my dreams spoke with their soul:
Who views his life with hatred, mad is he,
like one who whips and tears at his own flesh.
Life is a soil, from it your dreams break free,
and beauty grows from under weights of pain,
and when you rise to throw off matter’s reign
your dreams, too, meet their end within that mesh,
and darkness floods in all, devours it whole.

You must, must love your life,
for that is why your father fathered you,
and that is why, through all the shame and strife,
your mother carried you and brought you through,
was grateful to her life because of yours
which she could place outside the open doors.

My life, I want to praise and thank you now:
Thank you for bearing me from emptiness,
a member of the beauteous human race,
for giving them to me, these human eyes
that many generations made
for seeing beauty under vaulted skies,
thank you for filling them with dreams that flow
until the number of my days shall end you, life,
and I am harvest for the reaper’s scythe.

Power of life, I want to love you still,
because I wandered long in mazes, made
to feel despair and fear without a will,
because you early took and caused to fade
what was for me the finest of your gifts,
love you because you took my strength to kill
and let it lie in chains that weakness laid,
because your wine could also change and be
the vinegar of pain and death for me,
because when I will long for shadows tall
and give you back your gifts, and dying fall,
then it will turn, my soul, and take from you
another day, another morning, new.

THE ONE WHO FLED

Did I love you?
That I do not know.
In my soul I trembled
when you turned to go.

I know that you left it
with reason to flee.
No way to deny it,
necessity.

From my soul was lifted
the innermost veil.
You could not bear it,
butterfly, you set sail,

fled from the gloomy
enigma in fright:
in front of you opened
a pitch-black night,

deeper than leagues, you saw the dark pit,
– and then you fled
the cruel sight of it.

Did I love you?
That I do not know –
in my soul I trembled
when you turned to go.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF LIFE

Don’t be afraid of life,
don’t shut out its beauty.
Invite it to sit by your fire,
or should your hearth expire,
to meet it outside is your duty.
Don’t turn your back on its strife.
Don’t go away to the graveyard to hide
for death’s door will stay opened wide.

Like a bird you should fly,
not dwelling on past life’s ruins.
Turn your attention to now,
let what has been take a bow.
Let them lie in the grave, your doings,
then face the future, and try.
Be free as the wind, unfettered, unbroken,
the gate of death is always open.

Do not ever say:
this is mine alone.
Drink from life’s cup
and once again give its pain up.
If you never beg to own,
the world’s riches are yours today.
Be bold, stake all on one card:
ahead you will always see death’s gate unbarred.

Translated by David McDuff

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