I don’t want to be a weak little girl gnat. I want to be a sharp-toothed boy blackfly. Because I like human flesh, bitter-sweet human flesh in a wet woollen sock. I don’t mind the bad taste, because afterwards I can jump in the lake and rinse my mouth and body for so long that all the smells and tastes go away.
I climb as nimbly as a bear. I’m not afraid. I don’t remember to be afraid. It doesn’t matter, even though I may fall. Because the earth would receive me. The earth loves me. The earth will never deceive me.
If I fall sick, the earth will look after me. If it accidentally scratches me, soon it will unfold a soft tussock of moss that I can crawl on to. It will look after me, rock me in its arms like a baby, and I will be able to drink the milk from its breast, clear pure resin-tasting milk.
The earth puts the birch tree’s roots round me like hands. The hands caress me, stroke my hair and the back of my neck and my armpits and my tummy and the soles of my feet and everywhere but my poppy and my bottom. The birch mother’s finger doesn't go inside me. Her cry doesn't hurt my ears. If I want, she is quite still. She lets me sleep and sleep. And only when I myself want it, does the birch mother lift me from inside the earth, and again I can climb up her warm trunk to the top. I can suck the sap-milk through a long straw in a little nest.
The milk is warm like Mummy’s skin in the early morning, when she has finally fallen asleep and I have woken up to smell her scent.
That's what the birch mother feels like. The birch mother is kind, and she is never angry. She doesn’t punish me. She cries when Granny turns her by the fingers and toes and tears birch twigs from her body. The birch mother cries, because she thinks beating is wrong. No one must be beaten. No one must ever be beaten.
No one must even be cuffed on the ear or slapped. Never. No one.
The birch mother cries when Granny beats me. The birch mother cries when Grandpa splits my trunk in two with his axe and throws the pieces in the stove, lights the sauna fire for me. And when the sauna is hot, Grandpa climbs up on the bench and pees straight into my heart.
It's so humiliating that I will have to die. I will have to die many times, but I won’t get into heaven.
And I can’t manage to climb any more, either. I can’t climb higher than my nest. I will stay with the little birds and live under heaven. I will look after the baby birds while their mother is travelling about. I will keep nasty things away, because I know what nasty things feel like.
I don’t have a mother either. The only thing I have of Mummy is a checked lilac-coloured handkerchief with a little harebell printed on one corner.
At the top of the birch tree I ring the harebell, so that Mummy will know to come to me. I want Mummy to come and find me in the bird’s nest. In the bird’s nest I would be able to tell her how bad I feel.
At Granny’s I am silent, and if I do speak, it’s all lies. All of it.
Oh Mummy, come and take me away from the top of this birch tree. I will give you the bird’s nest as a present. You can put it in your hair, on top of your bun. You can dance in the circular saw garden with the Arabian princess and in the flower meadow with the sunflower. You can dance in the garden of the skull chamber and I will initiate you as an Indian mother. I will give you the finger of a dead reindeer calf. When I wave a birch branch, the finger will turn into gold and you will be able to work miracles with it. Anything you like. Even though it’s dead.
Dead. Dead. Dead.
Mummy doesn’t come. The little bird doesn’t come. Pentti doesn’t come.
I am cold in the bird’s nest. I want down, but I don’t dare to climb. I don’t dare to look down. I’m dizzy and I feel sick. A cloud ship is swaying there. I jump into it. I shall leave the kingdom of Jesus now now now I shall jump, into the seesaw of the ship.
Black waves down below. The nasty pirate is taking the sun on the deck of his ship. The skull and crossbones flag is flying. La-la-la, Grandpa’s still on the waves. I sway high up with the clouds. I sway yes I sway, though my body lies cold and frozen in the attic of Granny’s house, in the little yellow bed, which has latticed sides and Mummy’s name on the headboard. Amalia Elina. Mummy. Rest in peace. Saara Seitikki. Fly in peace.
I sleep and the ship flies alone, glides through the gates of space and then the gates close.
It’s night. It’s still night. Late summer. The gnats are angry now, and the blackflies are fat.
translated from Finnish by David McDuff
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