Where we are now

30 December 2004 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Taivaan mittakaava (‘The scale of the sky’, Otava, 2004)


Behind your back the city’s changing,

across the sky a crane’s swinging
ready-made components.

A tie splits the architect’s white shirt,
his paired limbs and individual organs,
two lanes, left and right.

You and I are precisely planned.
Even now we’re on a ruler’s edge.

The city’s closing in, a fence
rises round an empty space,
with children behind, sitting with
fear of being found out in their limbs.


A thought flounders round the room,
on the point of remembering your name
I crick my neck peeking from the window:
people down there, the streets
the architect’s rectilinear yearning.


All night long the paper rasps
like a cough meant to call for attention.
The architect’s design overruns the edges,
the room darkens like a forest.

Feels as if there were some sort of order,
he says, and sleeps like a highway.


He’s seated amidst potatoes and onions
in a damp underground cellar,
he’s imagining, circled by stone,
what it’s like to be made of soil.
He’s designed the window to touch the ceiling.

Glass like lightless moon – not possible.
Just sitting curled up, knees under chin,
not noticing how nicely his trousers fold under the knee,
just thinking about the carefully ironed shirts
with their collars in the darkness of the cupboard.


At the edge of the forest,
how can such a thing suddenly start and end,
beautiful where branches are and are not,
and I could almost have heard the architect breathing,
but he’d turned to look at the motorway
that rose above the trees like a rainbow.


We sleep facing each other, I and Mr A.
He never blinks, never sleeps,
cities have to be built,
grass moved from place to place,
he doesn’t know how to choose between sun and moon,
doesn’t know how to choose, on paper
he seamlessly unites night and day.
A hundred men’ll be needed at least, the same number
of blue overalls against the blue sky.
We sleep among the curses of workmen.

When he rests, objects are white and lifeless,
he sips a cup of coffee, and colour gradually starts circulating.


He speaks a word at a time and
a block of flats goes up
from the shadowed lawn,
buzz of insect wings
and the room settles into its walls.

I open and close the window,
he speaks through the glass without success,
the drawing motion of his hand halted
at the cardinal point of the dark in the dark.

I hug him, he’s faceless and void, he leaves
a trace in on me much smaller than himself.


With his hands on the edges of the paper he asks
me to draw him with a single stroke
and have no fear.
Saying it, he assumes another posture
I don’t recognise

I’m thinking about water that suddenly floods one’s lungs,
water you breathe in unaware

how many boundaries has he, I’ve observed him
closely as he moves round the room –
without moving myself I can’t say

he’s stationed himself against the sky to annoy me
the crane’s moving at the level of his shoulders,
he reads aloud the manual for shining escalators

today he’s been holding fields
between his thumb and forefinger

says they’re windy and misty places


Everything’s ready and your plans aren’t needed
the tap’s dripping in the empty room
we live at treetop-level
feel bad
as if waiting for rain

Look what you’ve done
you’ve drawn, precisely as a pathologist
a path on my breast with your fingernail
and I laughed until everywhere was rustling
now the city’s been accurately archived
and fits between your arms

Out in the moonlight everything’s ready
the vacant park, the statue’s mouth
is black and dry

the sheet-metal roof reflects the sky to itself


You spread out the map, where we are now. The environs
of cathedrals are seldom windless, you
have to hold on with both hands. The wind doesn’t drop, and
a city hovers over the city, a miniature
we wandered in, how small we are here, where we are


Postcard pictures of the greater masterworks of architecture
leave out the people, their
transience, a scarf fluttering in the wind.
Turned over the card says: Greetings.
We’ve been here too. Give Fido a stroke from us.


Translated by Herbert Lomas


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