Lauri Otonkoski
from Grey Dog's Rondo (1992)
translated by Anselm Hollo

The Poetry Track

I. Mute Walls

Mute walls and the choked breath of asphalt alleys,
the bouncer's eye's yellow blink on nocturnal streets

hot and cold messages that no one knows how to write anymore
nor leave on the answering machine and the neighbour's dog's crying
and genocides and military virtues

                 and pyromaniacs
shouted up onto emperor's thrones into emperor's clothes

await your measures
O poet


2. Even the Mirrors Had to Be Bribed

                              In the end, even the mirrors
                                        had to be bribed
                              when there was too much extortion
                                                    and faces burst.
                              Slow drifts of nights piled up
                                          on the steps of banks and many
                  a deposed Midas grew pale
                              and thin like candles
                  in wintry graveyards. The golden calf
                                          dried up into a steel nipple.
            Someone looked up to the cold of the stars
as if to ask whose fault and what bodes
                  life's room-shaped
            brooding silence. No longer did a single god
                                    sacrifice a single only son.
                  A blind man tore the outdated star map.
            The galleries burned
                  but the strongest works, good deeds
                                               survived nonetheless.


3. The Moon's Commitments

The moon's commitments: move
                                            and reflect.

Against a light cold as milk
on the east side of the cemetery,
on a branch stretched out over the sea,
                      a squirrel: does not
ponder, reminisce, or make plans,
does not carry
in his glands
this Faustian fury.

To listen to the night's hymns, funeral marches,
                                            or to walk on, self-propelled?


4. In No Man's Land

In no man's land there's a lovely hill
surrounded by valleys suffused by magic
and perennially greening mountains.

No poet will ever find his way here.

And when he, poorer by a day,
having penetrated the traffic's infuriating routine
beaten by aimless wandering and idleness
returns home, meets an expression
that is like an iceberg's summit,
                         how demanding
and with armies altogether too huge
considering the adversary

           does evening come with its autumns
being lit in the parks


5. This Kind of Proposition

Those who speak, lose many words.
Their loneliness grows colder
as evening descends into the heart's deep rooms.

But an energy no one yet knows about
gives warmth like a well in which has been stored
                                             some secret light.

This kind of proposition
                       when others
                       have been refuted

                                             by listening


6 Detachment

What Orphic axe smashed the frames,
let loose the colours and words?

Whence came the heat that melted the clocks,
making time run away?

From this elevated void, many have turned
those few missing degrees to belief,
such flickering detachment can only end badly
                                                      or on the very
                                                      long road
                                              to the wisdom of intuitions