What the snail thought

30 September 2005 | Fiction, Prose

Poems from Tapahtui Tiitiäisen maassa
(‘It happened in Tumpkin land’, WSOY, 2004)
Illustrations by Christel Rönns


Eli merenpohjassa Meritähti
tuhat tonnia vettä yllä.
      - Minä jaksan kyllä,
      sanoi Meritähti.
      - On terävät sakarat,
      ja litteät pakarat
ja paineenkestävät kakarat!


Starfish, living on the ocean bed
with tons of water
on her head,
     'I don't dread
     any load.
        I've pointy thumbs
        a plumb flat bum
and lots of pressure-proof brats!'


Striped vest.
Tight waist.
Chubby tummy.
Alone’s not chummy:
all buzzing fussing sussing cussing together –

that’s the best!


No tail, no nose,
six legs, no toes,
no hair, no hose,
buttonless clothes,
spotty and pocketless.
What’s that? Who knows?

Look at the title:
That’s the word!
Ladybird! Ladybird!

Oh oh mosquito

Oh oh mosquito,
your beastly whine
will it never go?

She whinges
and whines
and begs for my blood,
which she always sucks
a drop at a time.

That was her whine
as she swooped and struck,
eager to dine,
banking, swanking, tanking,
looping the loop,
and planning a second spat.

You wait, I’ll splat you flat.

The snail’s thought

If only the world
would whirl round
pondered the snail,
then out of her hidey-hole might crawl
another snail,
and I’d soon find her
and try to honeymoon her.

How Bunny Burble Bigears became invisible

At the first hint of snow
Bunny Burble Bigears
donned his winter coat,
      went for a walk, and lo!
at the first touch of snow
felt so high
he hopped to the horizon
where earth and sky
sparkled white,
and with his eyes on
all that whiteness
Bunny Burble Bigears.
vanished from sight!
But some day
      you'll maybe see
high in the clouds
tips of glowing ears.
That'll be he.

The Calico Cat’s double life

The Calico Cat was
a smart chap –
black jacket, white waistcoat, red cap,
and hunting boots on his feet.

But in the realms of dream
he’d go and seek
a velvet cape
and read Greek,
teaching himself
ancient history,
and composing
in calico metre
poems about the mystery
of strange dreams
where he meets a
Calico Cat that seems to
be himself:

a smart chap –
in a black jacket, white waistcoat, red cap,
and gaudy hunting boots on his feet.

A dog’s life

I live a dog’s life,
yes, I do,
and I’ve no cause
for complaint
so long as Mistress carefully
spruces my paws
and gives me
sausage-treats to eat,
and cleans my poo
from off the street.

But if all I’m given
is a kennel
and a short lead,
a dog’s life
is as dismal
as days with
nothing but arithmetic to read.

The advertising cat

The TV cat, to advertise,
looks at me with her beautiful eyes.
I'd be very glad
to be in the ad:
For I'd stroke her
and never provoke her,
she'd curl there purring
and be my darling.
I'd give this cat
a lovely house
and show it holes
where there'd be mouse,
I'd stroke her into a mystical mood.
But all she can do
is miaow and mew
     'Why not buy
my catfood.'

The tender-hearted hedgehog

Oh, said the hedgehog,
I'm a tender-hearted pig,
I'm friendly, affectionate and quiet.
Can anyone deny it?
      But he's tormented
      and tossed,
for beneath his prickles
         his sensibility's lost.
Oh, said the hedgehog,
I'm a sad, sad pig,
and so lonely too!
And it's oh so true:
      under his spiky hide
he'd all the stress
of sheer loneliness.
      Folk had found him prickly.
      So he cried and cried.

The foxes go hunting

In their red socks
fox after fox
tiptoes the trail,
nose-to-tail, nose-to-tail.

Suddenly one barks:
hark hark!
Two bares a fang:
Bang bang?
Is that a gun?
Three bites his bum:
yum yum!
Four turns up his tum,
and lies mum.
Hum hum!

The gogglebox-watcher

 A silly goggler
      forgot to play
because he kept goggling
      night and day.
He scarcely ate, he scarcely drank,
      he scarcely lived, his mind was blank.
He just goggled and goggled.
And now he's a weed,
      no food in his belly,
and all his ideas
      come from the telly.

Darkness rides out

Darkness rides a black mare
hailing the world
with her black mare’s tail.
She canters along at a silent pace,
combs her hair
with a starry comb,
bites a slice from the moon, then creeps
inside an owlet’s eyes to sleep.

The paradise birds of night

The shy moon blushes
at the hoos
and to-whit to-whoos
of the night-owl and his aria:

Ave ave Maria.
The night-owl's cry
flits from end to end of the sky:
      O moon O moon!
And the moon puts on
her wedding gown.
      O moon O moon, for whom for whom!

The paradise birds of night, the owl and moon,
toast their betrothal with the night-owl’s croon.

A gloomy Finnish ghost on a white summer night

Oh calamity! despair!
I’m out of work.
If no nights are there
who can I scare?
said the gloomy ghost in the haunted house.

Every day
I'm fading away,
evening or morning
it's myself I'm haunting,
      said the gloomy ghost in the haunted house.
I'll find a drawer
and creep inside it
like a teddy bear
when they're tired of it,
      said the gloomy ghost in the haunted house
      at a very gloomy moment on a white summer night.

Translated by Herbert Lomas


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