Issue 4/1977 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Tanssilattia vuorella (’The dancing-floor on the mountain’). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka


Having studied
the flower of Philippos’ wreath
under the vaults in a cool library far away in silence

I have gone to see the boat how it is coming on
whether it will be in working order next summer
we have no strong men
have sat on the beach-hut steps thinking of him
the politician the negotiator:

poetry is a holding of council, an art of negotiation

Concealed behind bushes I found
a trap, five crows in a cage
Compare different ways of reading! look for interpolations!
in a good poem, which is never
finished, they are easily found

but he lived almost 90 years
and in that time any state’s
tongue begins to wear thin
The crows in the cage, then the yellow apples
on the leafless tree
and when the boughs’ wet black
blends with the black of the mountain wall
the apples remain to shine in the air still

Krinagoras boasts of a toothpick whittled
from an eagle’s quill which he sends
to Leukios with thanks for dinner
of this Leukios we know nothing else
he is one of those thousands upon thousands
of whom we know nothing else

as I would have said already
Yes to anything!

Crows must not be set free
they are private property already
and by this much of our compromise
the world is again closer to ruin
He cuts up the apples and asks,
when shall we remove the boughs
the stars are caught in?

Though the ocean should raise up all its waves
though the Saxons should drink the Rhine
dry nothing shall overthrow the imperium
as long as the birds in the forests of Germania
sing Ave Caesar


On two tables I spread the old legends
the shields and the javelins and the fire­
spurting shoulders
man at war with man
the clank of armour
tumbling into the dust of the earth
and shrouded in the night of death
In the morning there was talk of war of this one going on now
whose nature is bit by bit being revealed to us
this is not why men fall
or there is a shortage of soap
When we see what is happening to us
we know what they want of us
but we don’t know who they are

When I walk to the seashore
the birds quit the tree
suddenly as if it were shedding its leaves and I feel cold
I simplify the world into
a labyrinth

at whose heart the minotaur is panting
born of illicit love
an engine
whose motive power is living cells
whose job it is
to keep developing the labyrinth for its better protection

Only when the minotaur has been destroyed
and the labyrinth changed into a dance
is polity and politics possible again
This is the nature of the war going on now

It is not hard to find the minotaur
it is harder to destroy it
hardest of all to find the way out of the labyrinth

When I walk to the seashore, I intone
very clear, very clean
Aridela! Arihagne!
Underground cleanliness! Heavenly clarity!
So much faith is needed
that no one can
carry it alone
the old legends
on two tables,
I walk
to the seashore
each morning
to wait
so many years now that every sail
would look black in my eyes


I sat on the boasting-bench
the cow’s rut smelt of pine
today the sheep came on the meadow
to eat the grass
for it is their work and what they have to do
Now there are so many flowers, now it is summer

the apple-trees are flowering, and the cherry-tree
and the sloe is flowering
Power over fellow-men
has a price
history is not true
only propaganda is I repeat
this, I praise

him whose face is already stone

he looks at you in such a way
that you do not listen to him
The price is loneliness
and payable in cash
Drag your boat on to a rock, turn it over
sit out the afternoon
on the boathouse step, how the islands
move, straight up, how
I praise him

who has had himself lashed to the mast and
plugged the ears of his oarsmen with wax
the versatile man
who came home, killed the suitors
buried buried
His face is already stone
the sheep are leaping
on the first day
He has saved his country
but from what
and for what
Do the means justify the end?
I go to meet him, I ask him

he has killed the suitors so he is lonely
I repeat and praise
his face is already stone
Birds fly up into the air
into the lovely evening

Translated by Keith Bosley


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