Issue 2/1979 | Archives online, Children's books, Fiction, poetry

Kirsi Kunnas

Kirsi Kunnas. Photo: Jyrki Luukkonen

Poems from Tiitiäisen satupuu (‘The Tittytumpkin’s fairy tree’, 1956)

The old water rat

There’s a shiver of a reed,
a rustle in the grass,
a slop-slopping through the mud:
Who’s that puffing past?

Who’s that peeping there?

A whiskery head
and a muddy tread.
It’s Old Mattie
Water Rattie.

Squeezing water from his eyes,
trickling from his sneezing nose,
freezing and sneezing.
Then: Oh dear Misery!
A-snee, a-snee, a-snizzery!

(Snizzery – it’s what always displeases.
Snizzery – it’s trouble with sneezes.
It’s the water rat word
for that stupid absurd
thing that’s occurred:
the need for a hanky.
Then: Oh dear Misery!
a-snee, a-snee, a-snizzery!)

Old Mattie Water Rattie
does it all because of duty.
He’s not batty: duty’s beauty
for a sensitive serving water rattie.
It’s how he’s made:
he suffers for his trade.
And that means colds and coughs and wheezes
and snuffling noses and nasty sneezes.

And now, look, Mattie’s going to·rest
lying in bed with his feet north-west.
His snout is pointing due south-east
because it seems to upset him least.

It helps poor Mattie Water Rattie.

Willy and Wally

Willy and Wally had a home
and the two of them lived together alone.
The door was locked
the window was blocked.
and the chimney had a hat on.

Willy was Willy and Wally was Wally:
it was easy to see the difference, by golly!
Willy loved money
and Wally his tummy,
especially when it was full.


A snake met another
almost twin brother
snake, and shuddered
as kicking and licking
it kindly swallowed that other
almost twin brother
snake, which without bursting
pulping and gulping
also kindly gobbled the first one.
And each in the other’s
almost twin brother’s
tummy turns
gobbling the other
and its tail going shudder.
Rosebud mouth and silky fur,
Pussikins, just look at her,
Sitting as tiny pussies ought
far away in thought.
Thinks Pussikins: wouldn’t it be
oh so nice if there’d be
a mouse tree like an apple tree
with dangling baby mice for tea?
All you’d do is give a push
and down plop hundreds of mice in a rush.
Then she’d munch each little mouse
underneath her mushroom house,
Pussikins, she would,
Rosy little bud.

The elephant without a name

Once there was an elephant
and with his elephant's nose
though he'd got no name he wanted to
suck nectar from a rose.
He wished to ease his appetite
although he could clearly see
that a rose is a rose, and a rose's honey
is intended for a bee.
The rose's blossoms mocked at him:
Just look at Pumpkintrunk!
Well, what I am I am, he said,
and, trunk in blossom sunk,
he sucked till he was drunk.
The rose she started crying;
soon the elephant was crying too,
picking prickles from his kazoo.
           So he went
                and went
                     a long way
                             a long way
                                    a long way away
                                              a long
and he'll never never return.
But often he dreams of roses
and secretly sniffs them and yearns,

and whispers: I am Pumpkintrunk.
How bitter these tears are to me!
For a rose is a rose, and a rose’s honey
is intended for a bee.

Woodpecker song

A woodpecker's hacking hacking and picking
looking looking for a woodpecker chicken
peck peck
               beaking and nicking
knocking and cracking
pecking and pricking every nick,
ticking away like a lunatic:
               Chick chick woodpecker chick
skedaddle home and double quick!


There once was a crane
              whose life was led
              as a uniped.
              It dangled its head
              and from time to time said:
                          It would be a pain
                          if I looked like a crane.

Translated by Herbert Lomas

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