Riina Katajavuori
from Who Speaks (1994)
translated by Anselm Hollo

Nine Poems from "Who Speaks"


End of the Road

You write like a man,
that counts in your favour.
You lose your roundness, turn angular.
Leaning back, you strike a new pose
in which to gaze solemnly across the plains,
the factory chimneys.

You have seen the laboratory, the bottles and pipettes,
how it all works. Who's in charge.

You crave the white substance,
crave the black.


No Passing

The road is endless, its face
crushed, it wishes
all the best.

Clouds gallop across fields,
drop a cluster of shadow spheres.

The road flows
through the city where tree trunks
lean against young men,
where the dream is of an endless road
with a crushed face,
wishing all the best.

Clouds gallop, etc.


Untitled "When I close my eyes..."

When I close my eyes,
I take everything with me.
Walls, ceiling, the room's slanted light,
floorboards under my feet
in slipper socks.

I take the going to sleep and the waking up.
A split stone,
a grey cobblestone look,
The lanes run through me,
have run, Italy.

When I close my eyes,
I take everything with me.


Untitled "This city is a disease..."

This city is a disease, it tunnels thin passages into one's head.
Empty angels live in ghost hotels,
the wallpaper pattern is little houses on the prairie.

The women know who they are, they dance with the mirror.
Their eyes move sideways.

I look because they don't.
The bottles are full and the wires hang
from point A to point X

I arrive in this city to be remote.

The roads are icy,
good for going and coming.

Must I know whom to bow to,
must I be located,


The Changes

If your child sleeps under a tree, you
must be ready to leap down from the balcony.

Soon there will be cobblers again, even in the United States.
How birds change their color.

The far shore is covered by emptiness.
Unknown species live there.

When you emigrate, you die
and lose your sun.



Due to the minute hand's patience
the hour hand is an hour fast.

Soon it will be later than it is,
night sky shimmers, beach vacation blue.

You have forgotten what it is like to scream.

Because of those hours
that have not yet passed, you never remember
what it was really like

when you thought
this way, hoped.


Winter Trees Night Trees Grief Trees

The trees' skeletal structure fills the frame.

No top.
             No root.

The rhythm of a birch grove.
An argument.

The same land.


The Return

Only for a week they bloom, those creamy flowers,
my reason for traveling back.

The fields wave,
ears of grain, I can't tell one from the other.

The bread was not warm

wet on the field it still lay,
shabby, on a tilt.

Into this landscape I dig my lair
as if I had something to say.


Untitled "They lie in the flurrying snow..."

They lie in the flurrying snow, languid as a naked woman taking a shower,
the mountains, their luscious thighs ajar; under snow-white skin,
confident rib-tongues curve down to the gully
where a lone skier slides and struggles in unbroken snow

A dense stand of spruce grows from her thighs, moonlight
shimmers on her flank, her hair is green

A hundred miles long, face hidden under the covers, out of the smoke
droplets emerge

slow is her breath in the wind, waiting for spring, under the snow

No one can conquer that vision, move it, bury it, stitch it shut

she has come without being invited, living rooms grow inside her,
mice rub their whiskers in her hiding places,
obedient, the sun sets behind her, opens the dark door