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.