Anni Sumari (Finland)
Translated by David McDuff
[To write, or speak . . . ]
To write, or speak, for explaining what?
Shall I explain the old drug runner who
tearfully sings of burning poppy fields?
Or one-legged George, who still nimbly
rides his tiny bicycle, offering
his local folk wine from a 1.5 litre squash bottle?
The contrast of balmy breeze and empty beach?
The frail, refined old men who in their corduroy jackets
delve in the rubbish, inspecting one another.
The sea - flashing its teeth in every whitecap wave.
The casino owned by the writers' union, with whose profits
a delivery van goes round distributing food parcels
to penniless writers? Or my own female body
of which the man I loved was hysterically afraid, so
much that his fear eventually made me
a real woman. The skin's moderate generosity -
at least it's thornless, isn't it? Shall I explain how
we get close to each other? How the doors
of the saloon slam shut behind us, how
the cries of hurrah fall silent when we step inside,
how the boats are pulled to the shore, with what ropes
and cables. The spiritual trial
which people hold against one another, where
the accusers, the accused, the witnesses, the public and the judge
constantly change places, and god appears
in the form of the devil?
Packs of dogs run wild,
snarling in the bushes and in their winter hunger
attacking people, as once the wolves
forced their way along the ice of the River Seine to Paris -
a revolution of animals tamed and then run
wild again? Red, palate-red
snow and death. Am I to explain the contents
of the sealed vessels? The Flood, when
the Mediterranean rushed into the Black Sea?
The martyrdom of a misty-eyed fish grilled in ash?
The civil war-era murderer who collects
obsolete copper coins as brown as
fingertips? The nuns who had to smash
the locks in order to show the tourists the vaults
of the old church under the new one? The nuns battering
with clubs and hammers at the gates of heaven?
The figure of Christ painted on the ceiling, into whose chest
a hook has been driven, the crystal chandelier that hangs from it?
The boy I loved who bought a one-way ticket
to the Himalayas? The pebbles under any of which
I could have laid myself to rest? So that beauty
came to an end... perhaps morality... human misery
growing diluted like the smell of seaweed approaching
inland. The teenage sea, snotting
and spitting on the stone steps? The eternal family tree
of the marble lions? The rubber-suited diver
who drowned (kinky, real kinky), and whose body
trailed a buoy behind it, a navigation marker,
an image of the madonna or a rubber duck; I didn't stay
to look too closely. You smell the sea...
you hear the train... you close. Close everything, even your eyes.
Shall I explain the hair, which is silken and
gold like a soft picture frame? The sad
white empty fresco? There is still life
in this century. Some prefer
to kiss human lips rather than fill their ears
with the squelching obscenity of the pale grey sea.
But I can't possibly draw breath any more, let alone
breathe a slander, even though Michelangelo
sighed into one of my ears and Dante groaned
into the other at the same time; why would they do that.
Is that Corsica dimly visible on the left, or is
it just Genoa on the right? It was so dark
on the 22.11.2004. A simple list will do. Or perhaps
I would explain the pale green boy who in olden times
diving into the sea sat in the carcass of a sunken ship
at the table of the drowned cook in the lotus position
with a carving knife under his backside, opening his thighs
and my drugged adolescence swam inside him?
Under the green breathing sea, the cables,
the amphoras and the squids.
The same man, later, lies with his throat
cut by a highway robber with white-peaked
mountains in the background as in a painting, the fresh
blood runs like a hare, it runs like a hare and
rattles a hare's rattle; the blood's rainbow-
colours and the fleeing robber's back, a round
loaf. My arms, gold-gleaming as I bathe
in the old streets of Venice
and the Finnish language is my inescapable fate,
my tangled gilded hair which the Mediterranean has
pickled like salt herrings on a Gorgon.
Shall I explain that soon one will be able to sleep one's night
in peace? The nights, the little nights, with their powerful hands
which could even lull the monster
of insomnia, the beautiful night, fleeting through the deep, the dark
dragonfly almost feminine a glossy
feather of the black swan, the night that inherited
victory - if victory can be inherited.
There was a time when explanation
took place in people's hands and writing in their
larynxes. In spring the ice departs and in winter
it returns. In my womb even now parts
of foreign tissue the boy I loved.
The Lord of Sipan
On the right of the Lord of Sipan
his adjutant is buried, like a brother
side by side with him, and on his left
another adjutant facing the other way, his feet
level with the Lord of Sipan's ears, as if
his toes were listening to one another
in that silent grave. At the foot of
the Lord of Sipan's bed is a 17-year-old girl
in a splendid headdress, at the head
two more, one upon the other, the left leg
of the one lying on top has been severed.
In a layer of earth a few yards further up
lies a soldier, who cursed his fate even more:
both of his legs unfortunately had to be
snapped off at the ankles, he cried out,
cursed, got drunk, raved, spoke a few
words of truth, but was unable to creep away
when the truth arrived.
Around here today: points of colour
in the crowd that the rain bends crouched
azaleas and carnations, a string bag
and live crayfish which are caught for sacrifice,
taken away beyond the reach
of the river god, in the other direction.
The crawling creatures, you should hear them
bawling, raving, cursing the higher beings
and claiming that the system stinks.