In this room, or elsewhere

Issue 1/1994 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

‘Some people play bridge; some people shoot pool; we read and write poems’, says Jouni Inkala (born 1966) of his generation of poets. These poems from his prize-winning first collection of poems, Tässä sen reuna (‘Here is its edge’, WSOY, 1992)

Behind the window, wet snowflakes rise and descend,
cold white insects.

In the summer, their brothers swirled in the sun’s low,
silent volleys,

as I sped on my bicycle through the dark gullet of spruce-rows some always filtered into my eyes, my mouth.

They were cool, even then.
Now I sacrifice toenails, relinquish some of my own warmth to the back of an armchair.

As a dark, painful spot in God’s brain,
which is unknown

as long as it isn’t troubled into truth,
pain made visible, known.

As if starting with me.
Easily, evolution leaves my toes. Hard, curved wings
clicking down to the floor,
hurtle through room space until I gather
squeeze painful solid time tighter in my fist.
They tell me that I exist, that I am about to become,
ever-repeating symbols,
where I’m going now.

I open the window, a cold wedge falls into the room,
slants into my lap, casts its sign of the cross on my forehead, my belly, my right and left shoulder.

I am being cared for, terribly.
I open the easy prayer of my fist and throw.

The toenails fly out among the flakes, perhaps
soon to notice how puny the freedom they’re leaving.


Bright water beads glint in the spiderweb
on the clothesline, this calm morning after a storm.
It is quiet.

Sun spider leaps to the languid center,
devours its night-moist catch.

Until it is noon and nothing else happens.

The blackcurrant bushes had raged in the dark wind
like tents
obscenely undulant with too many sleepers.
In memory, they still beget descendants,

born years ago when the ground was cold
and the breakfast meatballs at camp

resembled hairballs puked up by an owl.

Bird hysterics demanding a new
then time, as a squirrel, burst across the lawn –

these prove that something definitely exists

and has a voice that smells of me,
and looks exposed, and the same color as I.


Sleep won’t come, despite all my talk about the nocturnal.

The memory of astronaut urine and excrement bags
burns my eyes
as the moon splashes its borrowed light on the bedsheet,

reaches around the edge of the curtain
and wraps white steel around my thigh, the fool.

As if I were ready for winding-sheets sent by (a) god.

Another has moved in these rooms before me, risen at night
without observing his dreams like an unconscious spermatozoon
pursued by its own grace in the womb’s corridor.


Deep gouges in the middle of the floor
I only noticed
when I mopped it for the first time. As if someone
had bought a cabinet on whim, then moved it around
for a week or two, not finding the right place for it

finally taking it up to the attic to join the hundreds of other

It doesn’t really matter whether this information
takes place right here, in this room, or elsewhere.
It is so clear, so active.


The watery weights of November fog turns the streetlights
and the windows across the street into distant galaxies,

There is more, a myriad of syllables,
unborn litters of those possible worlds.

I stand in the mist like the first
creature to crawl out of mud onto land

on a rock on the shore of the occult primal ocean, slowly
turning my tail to point at the first letter.

But that beginning must have been even less audible.


Then you started explaining again. Curled up on the couch
in the position in which you first started all leaving.
On your side, head between knees, hair tangled in armpits,
a telling position.

As if you still needed to demonstrate
that all happiness is divisible.


In tattered October wind, in the time of cloud-hidden
stars. When I had talked about a miracle, and you had smiled.
How could it have been selfishness that drove
a new time between us toward its roar of birth?
We, decided upon before our own beginning.
While generations turn and tremble
in every muscle, at night.
Such hermeticism, such selfishness in us.
In that frosty January night
as the black lane of spruce-trees walked and stopped beside us,
its shadow
on the hazy blue snow.
In the eyes of Tengman's pearl-gray owl, among dead trees.
That breath. The cosmic loneliness of constellations
that doomed us to divisibility.
                                             That laugh of yours.

Translated by Anselm Hollo


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