Tomi Kontio
from In the Sky's Treetop (1998)
translated by Anselm Hollo

Eight Poems from "In the Sky's Treetop"


Don't look, it will stain your eyes.
The buildings are naked and walk

as if they were leading their child
across earth's threshold, to the side of night.

The stars' wreaths, blots on the sky globe, replete
with such a brief, such a deep outcry.

The buildings are; the room is; kneeling, it goes
through the darkness that is theirs:

lost in the charcoal, dug under.
Don't look, Andromeda, it will stain your eyes.



Out of the navel once rose a serpent,
now it has changed into a shadow.

The moon hangs low
above snow fields tinged red,
a foxtail light winds itself
into the forest's boa.

The room used to be smaller.
Now even hunger is fear.

Who once gave breath
now pushes it down to
the snow, under the snow.

A rift in the darkness, a sudden gust,
a bluish chain, the sky's navel.



The dress sleeps on the back of the chair.
The chair stands outside, it is the Queen's chair.

The trees' blood stops, the forest crackles.
Frost burns the crows black.

Schedir, Caph, and Rucha are drawing a woman onto the sky.
The dress wakes up and glides across the pale landscape.

It secretly gathers birds from their branches and buries them in the ocean,
secretly gathers the outlines of stars under its hem.

Cold hands traverse my dream,
tears freeze in my eyes, sweat crowns my forehead.

In every room, these figures are known,
this dance of fear, sewn through the eyes.


Untitled "A tattered white cloak, the moon unfolds..."

A tattered white cloak, the moon unfolds above the housing development.
What a pock-marked monster! Or abused wife who quietly proceeds
through her darkness like a coin dropping into an ocean abyss. How poetic
the landscape becomes when the buildings retreat into their nocturnal
lairs and children's prayers fade into the horizon. The spruce trees grow
through the rock. A meteor shower traverses the sky, writes epigrams on it.
What is the tune I no longer hear? The shadow's motion in the grove when
the sun's bows stroke the honeysuckle leaves? Do I no longer hear the hum
of the stars when their choir gathers like the holes punched into the cylinder
of a music box?
       When, a couple of weeks ago, I spent an evening in a charming Kontula
bar, contemplating the advertising ashtrays and the juke box light reflected
on the floor, the person next to me, another artist of some sort, told me that
the Moon, Luna in Latin, is an outcry, the outcry of a child that has become
lost from itself. The moon may well be more sound than light. And that
death, when it comes, has always been present, as a whisper in the winds of
dreams, as a darkness that winds itself tight around the child, like a wineskin.
There still is a voice I must hear, from beyond the moon's face, from
the dark side.


Untitled "I am waiting for you to come..."

I am waiting for you to come. I seem to be seeing you everywhere. The
wind takes on your form as it touches the snowdrifts and bare birch trees.
A candle flickers in my room the way you did on that corner when Orion
was caught in the roof antenna of a building, as if in his own trap. The
Metro post looked like a huge lollipop. In the morning, children made
music on frozen puddles, and now, in the evening, as the room grows from
the candle's grain, I wait for you, or even just the light of you, just the image
of that light, a turn of the moon.



As the stars drop like dandruff onto the sky's shoulders, I walk on Ostostie
and put a piece of the Milky Way in my pocket. You are close, closer than
ever. I have thought that on a night like this, as I walk through a landscape
I have written and the howl of Sirius is as loud as the whine of the mutt
abandoned in front of the tavern, that on a night like this I might be able
to say something you wanted. To hear.


Kontula 2

A comet running on rails punches a hole in Kontula's star map. On the
square at the shopping center evening prayers are exchanged for a bottle
of peppermint schnapps. The moon trembles in the pine top like a shiver-
ing dove. The windows write predictions on the darkening sky, the sky is
close. A dog rushes away from in front of a restaurant and trots across court-
yards like Kovalev's nose.
       Every motion is only a picture drawn between beginning and end,
drunken graphics on the surface of a flattened galaxy. Someone pastes
Gogo! on it the way one pastes a stamp on an envelope. It is a hope for
another being.



The old birch tree has planted its branches in the sky's eyes. As the earth
turns, messages from distant star systems are heard inside the cottage, the
tree picks up sound from the universe. I tuck in my daughters, and we recite
an evening prayer. Sanni falls asleep but Tilja wants me to lie down next to
her before she dares to close her eyes. The voices have moved out from
inside, as if a mitten had been turned inside out.
       Outside, Scorpio lies in wait for Orion. The space of grass leaves is
starred by the beacons of female glowworms. Autumn is sprouting. I walk
to the living room and put more wood in the stove. I tear bark off a log,
and in the bast I see the stellar filing clerk's cosmology: the squiggles of
hunger and desire. There is the sky I throw onto the fire, there are the traces
of love, the sounds heard from the wood. And there is the sign of fear, as
close as the sky's edge.