Lauri Otonkoski (b. 1959) has worked on many fields of culture: he is poet, musician, essayist and music critic. He has published seven collections of poems, a children’s book and essays. In his poems the observation is the subject. The world flows through senses and consciousness. The singular observation gets seasoned by irony. Otonkoski was awarded Nuori Suomi (Young Finland) Prize for literature in 1995, Yleisradio’s (the equivalent of the BBC) Tanssiva Karhu (Dancing Bear) Prize in 1996, Pekkanen Prize in 1999 and Engel Prize of Church Art in 2001.
And life went on, it went on like a strange fugue, descended over my eyes,
a forked path
denying simple questions.
What number of summers,
I ask in December
when the room is high-ceilinged, a tile stove, a bricked-in
nostalgic sentence that speaks of the warmth of different
as a junction where all the world’s words
find the comparative of silence, the one
Should I crane my neck to look across a few more murky stanzas
in order to see more clearly,
but my eye, once again, conjures into the perspective
the pinched soul of the Middle Ages.
All that is left is a thirst of multiple senses, a cold study of
Yes, even though speech is like trying to master a hundred-string guitar with ten fingers.
Even though stories
disguised as words no longer affect
this time, drowned in its virtual dreams.
Even though nights and days
the same glacier of darkness spreads over the city.
I think something, hands balled up into fists,
as I reach the edge of the park.
All it is, the park, is a patch of humming forest nostalgia
cut out the city.
At the foot of a tree, a dog, its ears cocked in anticipation of
the invention of the perpetuum mobile.
In the tree’s armpit
three purchased vowels whimper,
and there is something else, too, in the air —
a line, unraveling from the eyes of
an avian that has collided with winter.
Christmas morning and the sound of the decomposing year:
another way of arriving in the fifth season.
And at the edges of the park, leaning against the twilight, the church,
the library and the mental hospital:
right; all of life, but for the tavern.
That mute park, that Christmas-less dog
and the morning, so suddenly drafty.
As if the world’s back door had remained ajar,
as I, a bent question mark,
walk my face through that door:
Behind what expression, today,
could one deny recorded history?
What great instrument
travels even today across the firmament
repeating an incomprehensible scale?
How does the tree of memories even today sport a star on its top,
even though the roots’ chain of production
was reorganized many economic conditions ago?
But the door remains open and closed,
it is a revolving door,
glass and wood and motion like memory
or a whim of dreams.
And again it is there, the park,
and the park’s morning’s edge,
but now I’m coming from a direction
that can no longer be described.
As the messenger of so many
good and bad wills
I go below the clouds,
toward Christmas and the millennium.
A hundred black spots
on the sooty snow, the initial congregation
webbed frozen feet
in the corridor of that congealed landscape.
Not asking any questions, not singing.
Is it I,
or some predicted will that throws
a rock at that innocent congregation of ducks.
That trade union flapping away.
But I did give the rock the name Luke,
and thus I know
that the deed was senseless,
yet apostolic by nature.
And finally, the rock cleansed,
scrubbed clean of water, gravel
and all the interpretations,
the Christmas evangelist in my pocket,
I am truly of the same opinion as wind and rain.
“You eyeless, wingless rock,
why do you call her a sinner
who with her tears wet Jesus’s feet,
with her hair dried
and finally anointed them with nard.”
“Perhaps that sinner’s profession was not healthy,
but it certainly was old
and merciful by nature.
If she only nurtured love’s palest segment,
it was a segment nevertheless.”
“She, who had been labeled a sinner, knew
that you only need eyes to speak.
And to touch, a smooth skin
and a touch of another’s.”
But Luke in my pocket who knows everything
that a rock’s only skill is its weight.
And it would rise again to its flight
without repeating its five theses:
1. If you don’t know what sense to use to knock on the labyrinth’s door,
you have already reached the threshold of speech.
2. If you don’t remember that Easter sees Christmas
you have dodged your lesson.
3. If you touch, touch wholly.
4. If you say, say everything, and out loud.
5. If you can’t figure out onto what fragile material’s back
you should draw the heart line of your questions today, you are already richer by many prickly silences.
The dog with the sad posture has already gone off on its trails,
the rock is a rock again,
and no door is open or closed anymore.
And now as then,
November was the month of death,
but after November came December,
and Christmas, and life continued,
it continued like a strange fugue….From Ahava (Worn), 1998. Translated by Anselm Hollo.
- And life went on, it went on
- Herbal wisdom
- On the ear’s walk
- About the third