By Tuva Korsström
The collection Monokord (Monochord) appeared in the same year as Under jorden sjönk. It was followed by Dikter III (Poems III, 1956), Vid gaitans (By the Gaeta, 1957), and I tunga hängen mognar bären (The berries ripen in heavy clusters, 1959. For a short period in the mid-fifties Mirjam Tuominen was unable to write and started to draw instead. Some of her pencil drawings were published in Dikter III.
The period without words was provoked by two short spells of internment in a mental hospital. This happened against Mirjam Tuominen's will and she interpreted it as an act of deceit on the part of her relatives. She forbade her mother, sister, ex-husband and most of her friends to have any contact at all with her or her daughters.
Tuominen's attitude to society during the later period of her life could be described with the words she herself used about Strindberg's paranoia: it implied a division into two halves, one consisting of enemies and the other of future enemies. She gradually isolated herself from the rest of the world. Her life became the 'work illness poverty' she had anticipated in Under jorden sjönk.
She allowed herself only the company of those spiritual companions she loved and trusted: angels, saints, her dead father and a varying number of dead writers, artists and philosophers:
You who do not want to believe
you have never looked into your brains
I have looked into my brain
I have looked into a shaft
I have burrowed in a mine.
Forty years I burrowed
Moses in the desert in a mine
half a human lifetime
until I got there
A trauma lifted
a pressure vanished
I was inside the vein
brilliant gold flowed out.
Half a human lifetime
in order to get there.
I am in the subconscious.
in order to will the pure.
My patience is long
as the prophet's in the desert.
A cry comes from mountain peaks:
'I am a stranger
in a land that is not mine.'
I am making it mine.
I will only be content
with the best
the best in man.
Sediment is not water.
I will only be content with water
clear fresh from the primordial source.
But she could not ban the demons, the devils and the tormentors from her inner world. She chose solitude, silence and light, but she also received a chorus of evil voices from Hell. She was never able to free herself from her inner visions of the war and the concentration camps. It was precisely those visions that may have caused her illness. She developed a frightening and self-destructive ability to react directly and actively to political news from outside. The atomic bomb, the Korean war, the execution of the Rosenbergs disturbed her particularly. But even those visions of horror were turned into poetry:
but the child followed the ball's fate
was carried on women's backs in gypsy bundles mass migrations
was gassed beaten to death kicked
hurled into sewers
thrown from burning houses
by desperate homeless mothers
German Polish Jewish Russian
now without distinction
doomed for racial impurity
never found any refuge
other than the nether world of cloaca
where mothers were glad
if sometimes a washroom was opened for them
dirty as in the bistros of southern seaports
with a toilet hole in the floor
and a device with a grating
for the washing of the inner sexual parts
here they could relieve their bowels or bear the child
which an unknown father of unknown nationality had given them
while they slept unconscious of anything
but dreams of home and gentle stars
and tranquillity's narrow sickle-moon on deep blue late autumn nights...
(to be continued)