by Eeva-Liisa Manner
Like Odysseus, the Inquisitive, I have felt this journey
to be dangerous, and have rejoiced in it.
I am empty now,
my empty boat is tired of the adventure.
Take these cocooned words and put them away
In them are tree and butterfly and lizard and dragonfly
and snail and gastropod and spiral staircase
and snake because it too is necessary.
In them are plesiosaur and the swan's stretched neck and song
and rain forest and the scales and the cry of the cross bill.
In them are the fleeing hoof and the memory of the injured horse,
and the memory of how human beings, snares must be avoided.
In them are slow snowy death and swift hieroglyphs
and the slender writing of toes in sedimented salt.
and the plates of the mussel shell and the spirals that ring
and the secret of the counterpoint invented by the nummulites,
- oh, how they ring -
In them are brain-coral and coral and the brain
in which all the mysterious numbers do their patient work,
practise mathematics and change
and ceremonial magic;
the numbers which are beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful thing there is,
but bring misfortune, seldom fortune
even to those who know the formulae of alchemy.
Take them and sow them in the wind
Take them and sow them in the current
Take them and sow them under the snow to overwinter
Take and deliver me from evil.
(from Tämä matka [This Journey], 1956)
translated from Finnish by David McDuff and Hildi Hawkins