Paavo Haavikko
Translated by Anselm Hollo
from The Winter Palace

The Fifth Poem

A beautiful child sat playing in the sand
And finger-writing:

        Who? Where from? Where to?

I answered,

        O beautiful child, tell me, is

Interrupting me:

        I am two children, hand in hand,

I wanted to know:

        O beautiful child who finds it so easy to talk,
        tell me, where does the grass-tree grow,
        where does the grass flower,
        the wind and the breath of the wind,
        the strawberry, the leaf of grass, the rose?

Again, it broke in:

        I am not at one with myself,
        I am full of contraries,
        I talk about anything, I am a boy and a girl,
        one and two,
        and you, are you night and day?

I said:

        I am a poor robber, a productive consumer
        looking for honest labour,
        I want to go back to where I was born,
        either/or or and/or
        the board-panelling of the outside walls either
        horizontal or vertical or/or not,
        I want to be silent, there.

It shouted:

        But first you have to calm down the wind,
        the walking wind, the dense tree-growing wind!

And l:

        O syntax, that has only a few exceptions.
        You, slyness of sincerity,
        you rule.

It wanted to know:

        Why are you praising the language that rules?

        I would like to teach this poem a lesson, I said,
        I can' t get rid of it,
        this breath has grown trees. . .
        I came from there, I took the road through the forest,
        but oh, it was stormy weather,
        autumn weather...

That child then said:

        But, if it gives way
        why shouldn't you try to be free,
        to walk through the night. and look for someone
        whom it would fit, .
        that uninhabited breath?