Dread and happiness

Issue 1/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

A selection of poems. Introduction by Herbert Lomas


He stands at the edge of the market,
not much to look at himself,
with a stare:
across the black dome a shooting star
draws its portrait – and is not there.

His bag weighs on him heavy –
a hard day's 
skychart inside.
He fumbles for... a formula –
some old saw, or a soaring phrase –
     to lay the moment wide.

He’s nailed fast to the world,
but before he goes away –
what did he come here to say?

	where dreams clone,
	       dynamos spawn,
the moon's manned,
	the heavens spanned
		and in the market, supply!
while in our infant memory's 
	slot machine
		trees' images
			crash down and die

he stands at the edge of the market,
not longing to be off,
with a stare:
across the black dome a shooting star
draws its portrait – and is not there.

He's nailed fast to the world, 
and he wonders, does he hate –
	and if hate, what –
and what does he advocate?

from Hyvät, pahat ja rumat (‘The good, the bad and the ugly’, WSOY, I984)

Dread and happiness

In the evening,
when five hundred thousand Finnish teddy bears
have been tucked in,
and half a million Little Red Riding Hoods
have been stowed
in the
of wolfs

the red tongues settle
between four million white
baby teeth

and the late rites of the meteorites,
 the whizzings between cot rails,
and the zizz of the last circular saw 
the bed's veneered head

and the frosty winter night
rests unstirred,
velvet, chitin,
a darkbacked milliardspotted ladybird

and behind those tiny closed eyes
the bogeyman’s already off to byebyes.


I'll make a long sentence, springy and spacious, 
and wrap everything in, everything I meet – 
that morning mood of yours, the bread, the children's trumpetings,
and the lead bullet that melts in a word or two, after all.
I'll make a long sentence, long, and let it carry its body, 
so even if I don't know its meaning, not a word –
I'll know your ringless ear, the silver of your breath,
and beyond the horizon I'll discern the lines on your palm.
That sentence's shine, scents, weights. And the shock
when some friend wanders off into the silence. 
The sentence's trails and peaks, the love of looking
when our great task fits into one look.
And I'll go through you, the words will fill and light with spread
as today too our thousand-year-old seconds explode –
I'll gather the fragments of you from earth to heaven.
I'll suck your blood from my fingers when I wrote.


Young horse

Down at the stable a horse
stares at the starry sky:
how far could I take my course
if I could fly?

The golden scales of the frost
weigh the near and the far:
Where is my bonehead tossed –
the sod or high with a star?

The sky has a lid with a shine,
and youth is a thing that stings:
a shiver goes down my spine,
sprouting its stumpy wings.

And soon there’s a billow of snow,
coming from who knows where.
What if it’s all a dream,
a dream in harness of air?

Under Arcturus

Even in autumn, at the very beginning,
the omens were all bad:
‘Oh who can make a start with death,
after the ice we’ve had?’

But though the witches warned and spat,
they tackled their first snow-weather,
and hand in hand and side by side,
huddled close together.

Leaves had wafted, light and yellow,
in the damned dirt to lure us,
but spruce trees stood, with spruce you see
the height of the night, the way to Arcturus.

They felt the point of the diamond mirage
that blinds the eyes with its glow,
but even so, in this frosty garden,
in their fevers, they stared at the snow.

As if they were toasting November, and their lips
scorned death, in revolt,
they pressed their kiss on the mouth of dawn 
and time was given a jolt

Ode to the mouth

We dash about mouth first
down here
groping to slake our thirst,
and sometimes, suddenly caught
with a kiss or talk,
we’re stuck to frozen iron

or to what we’ve got our claw on
or to some stupid madman
or to some bottle
we rely on
beneath a tree

and the lips, the bitten and kissed
the licked and laughed and biffed,
those lips, gone pale,
and perhaps, for a moment, for sale,
have still endured their thirst,
and even, yes, what they drank,
endured the thirst they drank,
and after all, been satiated
by oneself, whom God created.

We dash about mouth first
down here,
and even fall on our face,
but odd moments in space,
mere moments in earthly space,
make us brush the dusk with our lips
and sip the dew from the dark, and wash
the coldness of faces from our face

and then we share our dreams
and the mouths
share the dreams we achieve.

from Tähtipumppu (‘Starcombo’, WSOY, 1992)

Translated by Herbert Lomas


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