Nothing but air

Issue 4/1994 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Ankkuripaikka (‘Anchorage’; WSOY, 1994) and Sormenjälkiä tyhjässä (‘Fingerprints in the void’, WSOY, 1992)

Images from nature

A sick fox recoils to the deepest corner of his hideout.
His coat’s moulting in tufts, rain’s drenching him, death’s on the way.
A pine stands sentry on the pile of stones, its bright green needles
adorned with dew for this last day. Somehow it’s a celebration.
A crow drops in, and sings a note. ‘Goodbye,’ the forest sighs, and
so does the whole world. A soul’s ecloding from its cellular pupa.
It yelps as it exits: ‘Why? Why are there still stars? Why must I fall so deep?’


A man opens his rectum’s steaming fissure
to a stiff penis. It hurts. He’s
about to burst, and he moans:
‘Deeper, come deeper, death.’

Perhaps he’s taking a contagion.
Even now perhaps viruses are seeping into his vascular system.
He senses the cold douche of seminal fluid
on his prostate: someone is calming down in him.

His limbs are going cold. The window reveals a star
that signals emptiness. He and the other
are marked for the same fate.
They spurt towards it, each far from the other.

September’s beginning

September’s beginning. I’ve a new address.
I see the maple leaves reddening.
Again, no telephone call in the night. No
waking to a pebble’s chink on the window.
I’m longing so.

Truly, the automobile hullabaloo is quieter here,
the lawns are barbered with nail scissors.
I could forget my dying, my ageing,
were this never-ending pain no reminder
of your absence.

Time left is restricted. Wrong.
There’s so much it doesn’t even exist.
The maple’s swaying, the leaves are hurtling,
they say there’s a wind. The invisible’s
moving, it’s air.

We call it air. It flies a loosened
maple leaf onto the asphalt
to await the street cleaner’s hearse.
The air abandons its light burden, and it’s not air,
there’s nothing but air.

You’re in everything I’m doing and thinking.
You can’t be absent. Last night too I travelled
inside you, but sadly it galed, galed
from the north. The stars were obscured. There’s no you,
everything’s you.

White lie

On the second day of January, at Chartres,
the cardinal shakes incense to the faithful. Two
thousand years since Jesus was killed! The cardinal’s
hat and the stained glass are dyed the blood of sacrifice.
Barbaric legends are blushed through with sunlight.

Entropy offers no hope, even if our universe
did finally collapse in a heap, for our sins
have stained matter with havoc. Where
to cast an eye? With friends, no doubt, we’d all like
a quiet evening by the fire with not a care.

I look inside me. From the folly I call
the past, I pan the gold from the mud.
A breeze wafts a rose-scent from somewhere. From a midden.
The papers say the yellow metal isn’t quoted
on the bourses. I cling to my white lie: I wait.

Beam of light

Thought seeks a refuge from beyond matter.
A man in shackles supposes he’s flying. His burden’s
light – soil, stone and high seas – but
it’s a burden to know he doesn’t know who he is.

It’s not his wrists but his fitful mind
the inexorable irons are welded for. The prison’s
no tangible world. The man’s striving
to bolt from a house whose walls evade a mere look.

Only pain – rarely love – is his bridge
to voices, scents, caresses. That’s
real, he knows that’s talked about. To himself
he testifies he’s a light-beam. It’s night.

He’s mistaken. He’s darkness, but he’s ringing.

Translated by Herbert Lomas


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