Monday, 18 July 2011

Poems from The Pelican

by Tommi Parkko

"So long as a man rides his hobby-horse peaceably and quietly along the King’s highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him,—pray, Sir, what have either you or I to do with it?"

Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy


i

It was that time, the bear was lowered from the mouth of heaven,
a yellow helmet, on it a red cross and a bird,
the ropes passed from the groin to the shoulders
from the tops of the trees deep into the stomach.

You were by the side of the highway, the land opened up before you
its shipwrecked tale:
asphalt and grass, a stone's helplessness, a ploughed acidic field.

The stone was newborn, and the fontanel,
the voice bounced on the bones of the skull, the mill ground
salt, in the grains of the wheat an abyss, an abyss
for disputes and thundering.

On the road that led to the edge the elks and the birds
confronted one another,
you saw it all and it was good,
stone and flesh intertwined like milk round coffee,
you can isolate the limit! Your axis round everything,
the stars, the child's skin smelt fresh.

ii

You have not been given your voice, you
and three others.
You were too late, the alarm clock stopped, the train left,
you read the book by chance, the round form,
the sounds had already been assigned.
Not good enough for you the noise,
the whir of the cypress or the swishings of the whale.

You have not received a voice
from anyone, no rattle
of tongue or creature
though you asked and asked.

Your friends took the boom of the thunder,
the tinkling of the waterfall and the cry of the pelican.

you listen your ears
hopeful, starry bright,
there is nothing yet:
do not turn your back on a world
that does not give you your voice.


iii

The police band accompanies two thousand
dachshunds into town, coffee pots drift on the tide
noses outstretched.
My illness is not a medicine, but one must
dive into the river all the same.

I wait for the darkness that on my eyelids is like a paper margin,
the air’s victory over the land,
a rainbow sucks the water of the river
to rain it down elsewhere. The word is mist
and pouring rain in the library.
I wear out the wooden walls and the newspapers with my open eyes.
It is all from the sky, the frogs,
the slow steps of the ice to the airplane and
the programming that is called maturity.



[From Pelikaani, Savukeidas, Turku, 2011]

Translated from Finnish by David McDuff

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