No longer I:

30 September 2001 | Fiction, poetry

From Voittokulku (‘Triumphal march’, Tammi, 2001). Illustrations by Jukka Korkeila

Tiamat [Bloody moon]

The goat’s cheese that I have just succeeded in swallowing is now grazing in my gullet before its last metamorphosis. Soon it will be washed away into the endless system of tubing, the network of veins that proliferates beneath the paving stones. The body expels the waste and another receives it. Some people believe they are different bodies, but on thorough examination it is clear that they are both part of one and the same liquid-channeling system. I speak of a body which is a city, of liquids which surge beneath the streets, of subterranean waters. I lift a manhole cover and behold a sea which you could never dream of. The sea is a living creature and knows me better than I do myself. When I close my eyes, I see a crayfish that climbs out of the water and stretches out its pincers toward a bloody moon. What does it mean? Of that I do not wish to speak a single word.

The meeting

The back wall of the room is covered by a cabinet, gleaming like steel, containing not photographs of the dead but their cell tissue, frozen in a state of incipient putrefaction. The pathologist pulls out a box that slides easily on rails, and you see: lying there is the man you spoke to in a hotel room a couple of days ago; he sat on a checked coverlet and you talked about gardening, almost black roses whose leaves crumble in your hands if you touch them. The smell of death attacks your eyes. You wipe the froth from the corners of your mouth, set yourself down to lie beside him, and ask the pathologist to lock you into the cabinet. Under the crackling fluorescent tube you remember that you once knew a song. He is singing it, quiet, so you can hear.

Film noir

In the sessions, I talked about my mother to the point of exhaustion, but the therapist still asked me to return again and again to certain unnecessary details. Luckily it occurred to me to talk about a dream I had; I remembered a dream that someone else had, or then the role of the dream was was played by a film I saw who knows how long ago. In my hand was a revolver. I walked down a rectangular staircase toward a cellar which I never reached because it was always a floor or two lower. I was in pursuit of someone – on the wall I could see his shadow, which stretched bigger the lower he went – until the stairs ended in water in which there floated, face down, a corpse. Now I am certain that what I called a dream was a scene from a film. But I do not see myself as a swindler: what I remember of the film also concerned a man I had shot.


You must find a crack in which you can rest your heart as in a hollow in a tree. That is what I said to my patient. When you look carefully, a void appears in the market between the orange awnings of the stalls. Where, yesterday, you saw herrings and credit-card reading devices you see a great slash. The landscape is rent in two, I said and heard later that that sentence induced my patient to consider me incompetent. The landscape is rent into two furrowed tongues of flesh. If, at that moment, you use your hands to grasp both strips of the fabric of the world and open up the void with all your strength, you may be able to slip inside. Days later I disappeared into the void. My dog, my wife and my daughter tore at the rent cloth with tooth and nail and called after me. We are real, they cried; your life is here with us. Now I hear their voices only weakly. Here it is white, unbelievably white. As if writing were to end and what continued travelling was no longer I:

The gift

The sun has left its sequins on the windowsill and is addressing the plant by names my ears have not heard: Lake-swallowing velvet eel, Glans, Joy-secreting bladder. The flat-leafed fern is flattered, but you can see from its eyes that it does not trust the sun, which caresses all the plants from here to the Pacific. You do not need the sun, I tell the plant; our relationship is so good that you do not even need water. I mix vodka with tomato juice and grasp one of the oval glands that my plant keeps beneath its tongue. I only need to stroke the gland with the tip of my little finger and it gives me a drop, a tear of joy. I mix the drip with my drink and soon seamen are sailing their yawls, sailor boys in their blue and white caps, with cherries stitched to them. They worship the sun on the deck of their sand-yawl and let me lick the cherry. They are still young; they have scales on their fish-eyes. With algae I bind their salty curls, where the sea and the land embrace one another. I scatter flowers around them and oil their periscopes. I do whatever they want. It is a gift that my plant gives me under the sun.

Translated by Hildi Hawkins


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