The prisoner and the prophet

Issue 2/1997 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Timmermannen (‘The carpenter’, Söderströms, 1996). Introduction by Jyrki Kiiskinen

The greatest message

Reader, love is
a secret, waiting
for wind, not a choice
between loving or not.
As commandment, degraded
to demand, it will soon be
fanatic like a wound,
a form of hate. How
could a secret
become reality
without dying? Every
decree destroys its region. Made a law
goodness turns
into the protecting
skin, with which the good
touches everything. A demand
for understanding, that,
which we call wisdom,
makes of wisdom
an armour, a cold
father around us.
The real communication is
his life. Against evil stands
the tale of a face.
How could such a secret
become real
or die?

The judgement prophecy

The great temple is only
a body: it will be
destroyed. When
the stream of events ends
and so protects no longer
and all step forth
from their strength, weak
and naked as clothes,
then will the sentence
of guilty liberate

and the empty,
devastated egos build
a new temple, with no
decoration other than
existence, in this

prophecy hides a poem
without words, which therefore
can’t be written down, only
read. It deals with
the holy shyness
of the newborn baby’s
pulse; with the large
meeting-place called
loneliness; with all
that, which in the end
shall overcome

The centurion

He stood in the restless
torchlight, calm like a face without
man, and accepted the money
from the member of the council.
He had defeated
many words, and never
spoken them, and he had
been partaking in many
deeds, and never
had to regret them, as
the uniform was
a being, in which
he himself only

Waiting in Gethsemane

Three is the fairy-tale number,
as magical as a circle. All,
that the story-teller touches
three times, turns into
meaning. Three times
the disciples fall asleep,
for the carpenter’s anguish is not
chaos, but a talk

with God, and the sleep
shields them, as earth
shields the dead. Three times
Peter will deny him,
for that, which is not said
three times, is ineffaceable.

The capture

The weak surrounded him
like a fence. With
a prophecy he ordered them all
to fly. Strength
can’t be shielded.
Then he was brought away
in the noisy crowd,
alone at last.

The trial

Neither the accused
nor his judges knew
that the biological wilderness
had moulded them with its gloomy
laws. The judges were
the tribe, but its wildness
had already aged into power
and glory. They carried their high
mantles like continuous
rostrums. The informers
having lost their way
in the perjury’s waste,
he had to be released.

But then he said, remote
as quiet marble,
that he was


The Arimathean member
of the council doesn’t try
to hide anything with his face
when asking for the crucified body,
and the centurion confirms
the death as carelessly as if
it were no lie, for life
to him is only a desert
without landscape over death’s
darkness without roots.

During the descent from the cross
high wings of flowering foam
are shining over the western shore,
but in the eastern twilight
huddles as before
the mountain Masada, a foetus
without female.

Through the dusk
he is carried away, heavy
with will, and slowly
the story becomes quiet,
silent nightfall.


Early in the morning
the women approached, three
black teeth in the grey
yawn. By cleaning
and adorning the body
they wanted to transform its death
into a part of its beauty.

In the grave the young man
was waiting, shining
with clothes, as visible
as if his self hadn’t
been covered by a body.
His task was to say that
Jesus of Nazareth had left
death, not naked as a soul
but as a ruler, wrapped
in his dawn.

But power has
no size. It can’t be reduced to
an instrument.
The message is so
clear that the words
are unable to hide
its wildness,
and the women
fly: A god
has come out
of his self!

With these words the story
ends, and I look
up. Night is over.
In the morning sunshine
flaming swords of
car lines are pointing
at the city. It is
as before. A butterfly’s
wing flutters
on the stone. There is
no other defence
than suffering. Yearning
for a message is the only
message to arrive,

but incessantly
it arrives, an immense
whisper, a lion
of clouds, saying
that man’s sighted
forehead shall voyage

Translations by Gösta Ågren


No comments for this entry yet

Leave a comment