This journey

Issue 3/1995 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Tämä matka (‘This journey’, 1956). Introduction by Jukka Petäjä

You took a planet

For Erik Lindegren

The stars arranged themselves
round a red magnet
by request,
and shaped fugitive systems and mirror reflections,
space’s sonorous grammar.

Oh, those hatched-out faces of the apathetic! –
and the grudge of those who can no longer read
(apart from cruel bibles, containing pressed roses and corpses).

Oh, ourselves! – here in the lonely sublunar place, 
hair and eyes in the wind, in our hands
	                                                ignorance and boomerang-echoes.

Oh, these vaultings of the word! – changing skies
where the glyphs rise like distress flags.

I looked for a question
	                    whose answer is this mutabor.

I kneel
	   to gather up the shattered fragments of a glyph
scored with the brilliant wounded secret 
where I lost my wings
	               before my choosing fingers were formed.


I thought, but I wasn't.
I said animals were machines.
I'd lost everything but my reason.

Give my best to all those
	    whose knowledge is secret –
Paracelsus, Swedenborg, and Elberfeld's numerate horses,
who extract a root and raise it to a higher power, 
calculate with their clever hooves, not their heads –

for the body knows everything,
	               but a learned head has a nail in it.

Say philosophy's loneliness and a dead body
 copulating with reason and the baby's
a discourse on method and imagined extension.

fast horses race over a dying France
and their hooves drum a hidden knowledge 
	              on the Cartesian temple-bone.
Today I'm one with them.


I ground lenses, so they could see.
All night I polished the glass camber, 
	offering to God
		   grindings of the mind.

Silence. And I saw:
	they all refracted wrong.

So am I sufficient now? –
	a bringer of pain, loneliness
		and no	
		            written ignorance?


They all fell from my lap:
the garden, the yard, the house, the voices, the rooms,
the child – holding a swallow and a fish –
they fell to the ground
	    which was pushing up its stones.

I’m an empty room
encircled by cardinal points
and trees wrapped in snow,
cold, cold, empty.
But on my hand
everything I loved rises –
the yard, the roses, the flowerpot house,
a house like a pod, quiet seeds
with death and motion in their tissues,

the little well, the little dog, the invisible collar.
Little room, little windows, little, sprightly lace-up shoes
for the heart and running.
The shoes run from chamber to atrium,
and over the blood childish fingers build
a stone jetty for the stone rowers.

Dreams like stones 
in the deeps,
read and dedicated to death.
And tuned birds
waft in from their windows – 
with a chuckle in their beak: 
	     drops of Mozart
	                zart zart

Translated by Herbert Lomas


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