Love is the only song

7 August 2014 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Helise, taivas! Valitut runot (‘Ring out, sky! Selected poems’, Siltala, 2014). Introduction by Marja-Leena Mikkola

Who will tell me?

Who will tell me why white butterflies
strew the velvet skin of the night?
Who will tell me?
While people walk, mute and strange
and they have snowy, armoured faces,
such snowy faces!
and the eyes of a stuffed bird.

Who will tell me why in the morning, on the grass,
the thrushes begin their secret game?
Who will tell me?
While black soldiers stand at the gate
in their hands withered roses
such withered roses!
and broken tiger lilies.

Who will tell me, quietly in the sun’s shadow
how to bare my heart?
Who will tell me?
Come to me over the fields
Come close and softly
so softly!
Open the clothes of my heart.

Speak to me of love

Speak to me of love
but not until tomorrow
for if you speak today, you will be speaking to a dark river.
Its water does not stop
no merry lantern in the boat
no weird, happy choir of the fish.

Look at me tenderly
but not until tomorrow
for if you look at me today, you will be looking at a pale moon.
Its light does not warm
no swallow’s feather circulates in its blood
never does it taste of May lilies.

Come closer to me
this very day
for if you leave today, you will leave me forever.
And I will not find you
I will never learn to know you
never listen to the voice of your heart.

Come closer to me
this very day
come and talk to me, touch me, look inside me.
My sorrow will not go out
if you leave without touching my hand
my sorrow will not go out, if you turn away from me.

You, you do I love

You, you do I love.
The night presses a dark garland to my brow
so I may not see you.
How do the birds fold their wings!
How do the waters rush beneath the rocks!
How do the forests rise with the winds!
And the clouds’ rains turn to stone.

You, you do I love.
The night presses a dark garland to my brow
so I may not see you.
How the universe calls to me!
How the stars scream through my temples!
How the children weep on the world’s shores!
And above the sea rises the smoke of hearts!

You, you do I love.
Like a boat on an early morning river
moves your soft hand.

Whose side are you on?

No my friend, love is not born into the world
as you wait for mercy from heaven, the pity of the powerful.
No my friend, as long
as all that is left of bread are crumbs in the baker’s palm
let speaking of love remain the ravings of priests.

Let the Lions keep their sweet-baskets!
The non-aligned humanists their fine phrases!
This wrong cannot be fought with flowers.
This blood cannot be staunched with soft sympathy.
The bellies of the hungry cannot be filled with kisses.

Whose side are you on?
Whose flag do you carry?
Love cannot be born without justice,
justice cannot be born without struggle,
struggle without a united front.

From Maallisia lauluja (‘Earthly songs’, 1974)

The children run away

The children run away.
But the mothers
walk silently in their back gardens.
My mother, too, eternally carries
an ash-bucket to the roots of the berry bush.

The children run, they run away.
But the mothers
still sit somewhere on a porch.
My mother, too, eternally peels
earthy potatoes in a corner of the porch.

The earth cracks, the sky freezes.
I cannot find the way to the end of the universe.
But mother, she is in the garden,
she walks across the August evening
to cover my pumpkin-head with a tea-towel.

From Seitsemän rapua, seitsemän skorpionia (‘Seven crabs, seven scorpions’, 1979)

Peloponnese

From the hustle of Patras
I came to old Corinth.
On a horse’s torso I rode
in to the ruins
to listen to the space of time.

I did not seek the footsteps of the apostles,
not Paul’s reproaches,
but words of love,

that which is never lost.

And so shadows ran
on the ancient steps,
and so feet hurried on the marble,
and arms, like ivy,
embraced the existent without which
life cannot be lived,

and in the museum case the doll quivered,
the translucent statue staggered
and hailed its companion,

for the gods’ flights
left us this giddiness
which is called love,

and in its glowing sun
the whole of the Peloponnese glowed.

From Kolmas sisar (‘The third sister’, 2011)

Lake Päijänne

In November Päijänne blackens.
But under the water gleams
the starry sky of vendace galaxies.

The reindeer moss sleeps. The porch grows cold.
The twinflower’s path becomes invisible.
By the sauna a timid gnome
sniffs the dry trace of smoke.

Gloomy, bleak snaps Päijänne.
The darkness fluffs the island’s mane.
And the wind rises, the silver birch’s
hem unravels.
In the morning dusk the first frost of winter
sticks to the fox’s paws. 

In November Päijänne blackens.
But under the water waits
the blind, unborn summer night.
Free, massive splashes Päijänne.

(2012–2014)

Enchantment

Enchantment,
you who fly and lift,
splash the soul like water,
do not ever disappear.

Take me with you, detach me from the earth
as a mist lifts,
as steam rises from horses on a frosty morning
and a folk song runs towards me
in a red-hued dress,
take me with you, dazzle me and throw me
over the edge,

over everything pallid and anaemic,
over the murky and the mean,
over the narrow and the haughty,
to where the night sun
rises onto the roof and pisses gold.

Enchantment,
you elf’s cap,
you lily of the valley’s doorbell,
you swallow’s sledge, you holy giddiness,
you blessed leap into the lilac’s fire.

(2012–2014)

Translated by Hildi Hawkins

Illustration by Aulikki Oksanen

Illustration by Aulikki Oksanen

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