Paavo Haavikko
Translated by Anselm Hollo
from The Winter Palace

The Seventh Poem

This poem.
A short play,
And the year, and the years
One short line,
And suddenly
It began:

Under the stars I flee from poverty, heading North,
Leaving behind the tower with its protruding ears,
This terrible world
Where images can grow out of the ears,
This terrible world
Where the voice flies out through the eyes:

Flew through the broken windows of that woodshed
Back home.

O sky, empty hole,
With treetops;
O bitch, world.

Scene Two: light on the branches
By the riverbank,
Spring, autumn, and spring and autumn
Are the four phases of woman,
Hand-painted on her skin.
Spring, roseate, and autumn, rain;
Winter, sleep,
And in summer the sheen on her hair,
And the ducks, making creaky noise
You could feel on your skin.

Soft is a woman's skin,
When you look through her eyes
At the unborn three
And she does not know a name for herself.
Perhaps you could call her
Dancing Caryatid,
Untiring structure, supporting the world.

And this is Scene Three;
In which this flowering woman replied:

I flew, I gave birth, on the wing,
And the world came,
This, I carry it now,
And I was the fox that flew
When earth was not, tree was not,
And I grew tired:
Woke up in a bottle, small,
The bottle made clink, and I jumped,
Crawled out of it, onto the stones,
I almost fell, I wanted to end it all!
Be empty! Abort myself! When I saw
Who is
The world.

I, broken, like the windows.

Scene Four, she said:
How do I know what is a dream
And where does the shoulder end, the breast begin?
Make me this poem, make it warm enough for winter,
Make it cheap to live in, with closets for things
And with a room for the soul,
And I will inhabit this line for a long long time,
In a poem that does not shed its leaves,
That is a voice I can live in, a house.

I said, this is Scene Four,
I am constructing a poem,
Out of what, do you think? Out of nothing?
A short poem, to be spoken standing up
Or lying down, alone. And are you not
Your own house?

She said, I – world –
I am so vulnerable! Hurry!
Build me that house!

But I said to myself,
Don't try to please:
For what else would you want to do, and that is
Your undoing. . .
And then this woman wanted to know,
What are you mumbling? can't you understand
I want a place, to live in?

O yes, I said,
The sun and the moon
And the heavenly quarters, up to the number of four,
I shall plant them all around the house, and trees,
Flowers, a maple-tree that remembers a hundred autumns –
And the maple began to leaf and sprout, push flowers
To amaze me –

And this is Scene Four, Five begins here, I said:
I, too, would like to live in a house, with my belongings;
A spacious house; and yet, they want one word to be
A complete sentence – they, even they are hoping
For the preservation of productive speech –

I am leaving this poem, against all sense,
I would not like to meet myself, I unleash
The twelve double volumes of history I have illustrated,
Empty now, as I leave the fruit that does not flower,
It is a poem, no well-built sentence to isolate me,
I am not protesting; nor am I negotiating,
I'm simply going, going through it all, it is open, closed.
Like these decades,
And that was Scene Five; the seventh poem,
The end
Of the play.