Leave and stay

19 December 2011 | Fiction, poetry

Butterflies, metamorphoses, burial and remembering are the recurrent images in Henriikka Tavi’s third collection, entitled Toivo (‘Hope’). Introduction by Mervi Kantokorpi

Poems from the collection Toivo (‘Hope’, Teos, 2011)

Mourning cloak

I will tell you, though you cannot hear it.
This is a story that you will come to forget.
I have gone, but there is no departure. And as
the meadow of absence begins to lapse into grief:
Do not grieve.

I was here a moment ago and
soon will be between the dermis and the epidermis.
I stand in a row behind myself; I am a memory of you.
Oh, you weak spark! You powerful
desire to turn into a fortune!
You were the crowd in my head.

I am serious, you only imagine me.
Don’t disappear. Leave and stay.
I’ll be no further than this.


This is a sacrilege of sorts.
My intention is to blur the boundary between the living and the dead.
My intention is to smear that line till it’s all smudged.
I’m trying to put a spark in you.
I’m writing to you so that you’ll come and visit
me. I remember things so little.


we forgive ourselves
we bury you in graveyards
we cast a blind eye on our mistakes
we let you take your reasons to the grave

Living men bear the coffin, lower it into the ground,
remove the straps, release their grip; there is a thud.
Three spadefuls of earth: The Father! The Son! And the Holy Spirit!


But I write not to release my grip; I’m writing
to hold on to you. Perhaps you too need contact,
though you no longer exist. Perhaps you’re cold,
though you no longer exist. Perhaps you feel ill,
though you are no longer. Though you are no longer, I
shall write to you. I remember what you look like.

I remember things so little.


I’ve heard this many times before: Take a photograph of me, one that records my fatigue. As a legacy I’ll leave you a leaking rowing boat, the unfinished renovations and innumerable hours of missed sleep. Sleep now. But I don’t want to sleep. Sleep now. I’m not at all tired. I’m writing to you; perhaps it’ll cheer you up. I don’t know what kind of person you are.


You are older than me; be even older.
People are absorbed into one another. And the further
I write, the further away everything shifts.

I break a cloud, but the cloud will not break. Then you shift
your weight to the leg that’s in the air and say:
‘Now I’ll lean into the emptiness that will
carry me back. Is empty a good or a bad thing?’


And everything goes on just as before. Everything has to go on just as before. There is nothing else: there is my mother, my sister and me. And the roads that run carry us towards what is to come, so that you can remain lying there on your orange blanket. The falling is my father, then that too falls away. Best do without.

I am my own father.


My mother is my father.

My sister is my father.

I cannot remember you at all.

I try to remember even less.


I am the man in our house. I am our mother’s father, and my sisters’ father, and our father’s father, and the gravel pit’s father. But dear father, I am a bad father, born of every womb. My mother is my mother, and my sisters are my mothers, and you are my mother, and all the objects in the universe are my mothers.

I am a king of sorts, donkey’s ears of sorts.

Everything I touch is imbued with the closeness that keeps mother and child alive.

Translated by David Hackston


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