An eye of the unseen

Issue 2/2007 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems and aphorisms by Aaro Hellaakoski. Introduction by Pertti Lassila


How tranquilly the evening’s darkening,
dusk deepening beneath the trees.
Consult the long alleyways of the skies
for the gift of this evening
and the cause of your ease.

But the waste! the pain and stress –
those reachings into secrets of the dark –
quarrying endlessness,
plummeting bottomlessness,
quizzing every question mark.

Why this rummaging into whence and why?
Empty let’s be. Open and free.
Let secrets come, or let them fly
away, diffuse like cloudscapes
or whisperings through a tree.

Eyes must glow as your spirits peer
through a wakeful cranny in where you are.
Only the silent have ears to hear.
When the doorstep feels the touch of a toe
only the vigilant’s door is ajar.

Huojuvat keulat (’Swaying prows’, 1945)

Moonlight in the forest

Under the sleeping branches light
glimmers weirdly in the night,

through the wood the cryptic road
comes from nowhere, nowhere goes.

My shadow’s fled. And soon
my body’s gone. Dissolved in moon.

My footfall hovers ownerless.
Fingers touch on emptiness.

Jääpeili (‘Ice mirror’, 1928)

A rustling

The odour of all the leaves bursting –
that’s all I know now
in this rustle and flow
of rain. Doors are opening

into the greater art and key:
as things are, just let them be,
chancy, clear,
as the wind is here.

Just now I’m whole, just now
I’m one with every bursting bough.
Summer scenting my mouth and me,
I’m a glint of rain on a tree –

exhaling into the leaves,
and smiling at the huge verve
of a daybreak on the skyline’s curve.
I neither deny nor believe.


A sunbeam glistened,
flickered for a flash
on the side of a comber,
stroked the rockside,
vanished between leaves.
In passing we
swapped a word or so.
We’d, just a little,
the other.
We were working together.
Rejoicing at it, I hummed,
hummed, just so.
Don’t know,
did that light,
the slightest of lights,
also know
that I was.
That we were.


I’m silent as death.
Not a move not a word.
But what’s this I heard?
A wind’s breath –

deep in my being
where no being’s available
The utterly unsayable
is ready for saying ­

openly now
with no fierce
pain. Yes, my wall’s pierced
through and through –

for gladly somewhere
– as no one’s speaking –
a song’s breathing
in dreamers everywhere

Death’s sitting on my shoulder

Death’s sitting on my shoulder. Ravenlike?
No. A little beak pecked my cheek, the faintest knock

promising some song, to make me look
for the unlocking, when all the bolts slide back.

Huomenna seestyvää (‘It will brighten up tomorrow’, 1953)


I’m an eye of the unseen.
In a flick of a moment
the eye woke to awareness –
beelike it gathered in
a superabundance
of earth, high sky
and all water’s wetness!

Eagerly, deeper still
it pierced – and divined
an insight of the eye
beyond the cosmos.
For an instant of bliss
it turned eternal. Guess
the joy that was!

Uusi runo (‘A new poem’, 1934)

So small

So small we became
             a while ago
we rested on a maple leaf
      toe to toe
fitting so roomily
      in a second's crevice
time seemed to surrender
to share our bliss
no eye can construe
the full reach of joy
as the art of diminishing
      can sometimes do!

Jääpeili (‘Ice mirror’, 1928)

The new song

No compulsion, not a sting.
My body doesn’t seem to be.

As if a nightbird started to sing
its far shy carol from some tree ­

as if from its dim chrysalis
a little grub awoke to bliss ­

or someone struck from off his shoulder
a miserable old bugaboo ­

and a weird flying creature
stretched a fragile wing and flew.

Ah limitless bright light:
the gift of lyrical flight!

Vartiossa (‘On guard’, 1941)



Lumipalloja. Aforismeja (‘Snowballs. Aphorisms’, 1955)

Emptiness can only be in a human being. Ask a worm if it’s empty.
Ask the wind if it’s empty.

Don’t ask, Is there a god or not? Ask, Do I need a god or not?

I die in order to be.

Obviously God can be sought. But he can equally well be unsought –
trusting a god is a better seeker that I.

I find or am found; I sing, like a bird, or birdsong is in me; I am, or being is in me: these are the poet’s experiences. – Presumably they have some value as evidence.

Being oneself is the very least requirement.

Don’t get a shock if your life was the circumference of a circle. But also you may imagine it isn’t empty.

Translated by Herbert Lomas

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