Helena Sinervo (Finland)

Translated by Anselm Hollo


[The stroke of St. Mary's church bell . . .]

The stroke of St. Mary's church bell

makes me think of a voice,

how it sounded and how it stopped sounding.

Two minutes have already passed, and it is

11:32 on the third of February 2004,

mist in the air, egg-white stirred into the horizon,

charged to tell

that the border between

horizon and sea shore

never remains the same,

that my mother is 84 years old today

and bathes submerged in that foam

up to her grey tresses.

Her soul has already disappeared in the distance

whether it transmigrates or not,

her dilapidated body a shell in an egg-white bathing suit

has cast its wake into tin, in my memory.

May this poem be a gift in return for the one

a guardian spirit attached to the fold of her wrist

        in the merry Twenties.




Doesn't that one know how to walk, or should I try that? my father asked

pointing at the person ahead of us stalking along with a long wooden staff.

He toddled beside me toward the station underpass,

his steps shortened to a quarter of what they had been.

Once upon a time I couldn't catch up with him running

as he leaped along, panting, his tie

fluttering across his shoulder,

his clothes stuffed into a suitcase.

He came back home just as mother predicted,

had always returned before, and returns even now,

goes to the hospital again tomorrow

to mash up a banana with a fork to feed it to mother

who no longer recognises her daughter,

does not know she once gave birth to a girl.

We stop at the intersection, embrace.

I promise to visit again soon even though I know

that my soon is not the same as my father's.

I turn toward the station, then look back to see

how he crosses the street and goes on to the town square,

disappears as if through the school gate.