A soul on the train

20 May 2011 | Fiction, poetry

In one of Heli Laaksonen’s poems the narrator buys a ticket for her soul and herself in a train’s pet carriage. Her capricious poetry features new potatoes, woodpeckers, weasels, and even a pig in fox’s clothing. Introduction by Mervi Kantokorpi

Poems from Peippo vei (‘The chaffinch took it’, Otava, 2011)

First early

From the potato patch there rose a human seedling, too.
Winston, I called it
as it was Winstons I’d sowed in this row

unmarked by hoe or blight.
I put it in the basket with the others.
It sat there in the quiet pile, at the edge,
looked on while I slogged away,
gnawing a little bit out of the side of a potato.

What was it thinking?
What could it be that earlies think about?
The first summer sparrows are fresh out of the oven.
I so wish they’d only think about nice things.

I try to look happy
to give them a good start.

I sure know you

Who told you
to put a fox costume on
when you’re so sweet on the inside?

Your zip is stuck at the back
and you won’t let me help.
I secretly cut a hole in the side
and feel around a bit with my paw.

I knew it!

There’s a silky-smooth pig’s tail
and a friendly wet snout.

There’s no law that says
you can’t pretend to be a beast
but then it’s no use feeling sorry
because no one dares
talk to you without a fur coat made of wolf.

Don’t ever go clubbing with a housewife

Doe from next door
this is the last time
I’m taking you with me!

Take your hoof off the drummer’s thigh!
You drink wine from glasses, not tumblers!

A hundred and two kilometres an hour in the cycle lane
then one leap over the bonnet;
lift your ankles, too!

Hair standing on end, the birch tree
stares after you
and doesn’t dare open its eyes
all spring.

So is it supposed to be some kind of explanation
that you’d spent a couple of days
at home with the kids?


Over the house flew
a swan
that meant summer.
A crane meant luck
a crow home-sickness
a hen difficulties in sowing
a scaup rain
a chaffinch soup
a pie-eyed flycatcher light summer cloud.

An eider duck meant bachelors
a pigeon, a bun
a woodpecker, death
a jackdaw, laughter.

And we got almost all of them by autumn.

Nature is wise!

Past my foot
went a mallard
and said hi.


I bought a ticket on the train
for the pet carriage
I wanted my soul to have its own seat

have you met my soul
it’s a curly-stemmed
outdoor cucumber
it has a clean apron and a bright laugh
it’s made up its eyes in a dark car
by memory and by feel

we have a pot-plant on the carriage window-sill
and plenty to do before Pieksämäki
furtively mocking the train announcements

I don’t get bored of its company
but I do get terrified
and wistful
and embarrassed
but it’s not dull
and if it could have a say
every seal would have pyjamas
every father a child


Don’t worry weasel
I’ll show you how small the bear is,
just a picture on a glass jar,
how can you have been afraid of that?

If you can’t reach
I will get all the best yesterday’s papers
from the recycling bin
and read the titles aloud by the light of the head lamp

I took a golden ball to the back yard
to hang on the lower branch of your evening pee tree
there you can spatter
looking at the glistening.

Don’t worry weasel
you’re so short you can’t fall.
Now fall into sleep.
It’s land you can see,
not worries.


Älä murhetu murmel,
mää näytän sul kuin piän karhu o,
klasipurkin kyljes kuva vaa,
kui sää simmost olet peljänny?

Jollet uletu,
kurkotan sul paperinkeräyslaatikost
kaik parhama eilise lehre,
luven otsiko ääne ottalampu valos.

Vein takapihal
su iltapissakuuse alaoksal kultapallon killuma,
voit siin suhistel
ja kattella kimmellyst.

Älä murhetu murmel,
olet nii matalaki ettet korkealt putto.
Nyy putto une.
Maat näkyvis,
ei murhei.)

Translated by Hildi Hawkins and Soila Lehtonen


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