Pentti Saarikoski
from Trilogy: The Dance Floor on the Mountain
translated by Anselm Hollo


Sisyphus, his day's work done, and the sun
rolls from zenith to the southeast;
the only table manners you need to know
are: eat with humility
Before you start, set aside the book you were reading
about a small nation overshadowed
by one more powerful
when you're done wash the dishes, calmly
then you can live
until sunset as if you were free of
the burden of all the stories
you haven't heard
a few more crimes can always be found in the world
than you thought possible

Sisyphus revealed
to mortals
the limits
of immortality

I close the door, lock it, run
across the meadow as fast as my legs will take me
so they won't have time to see me from the empty houses
In the woods I stop among the sprucetrees
where black mushrooms grow
they are people, summer people
who changed into mushrooms
when they found out what he knew, Mr. Teesup
who used to live in these mountains
I've also seen his name spelled Tessup
and Tesupp, even Thisyp
behind his back, he was The Crazy American

But there's a trail through the woods
easy to follow once you find the head
where the trail descends to the right
stands a smooth bulbous rock and when you climb onto it
you suddenly see everything, the whole village
far away down below like a toy
so small this place is so high
is where the gods dwell
who request reports from their assistants
on which to base their decisions
on the fate of humans
In the shade of a mountain like this one
even the small are safe
see how calmly from every chimney
the smoke rises even tonight!
see how pretty the turn of the road
the traffic, how smooth!
Useless to feel sorry for those who rebel
by thinking otherwise,
a crime can always be found
to justify their punishment

The Crazy American
wore two discs cut out of tin
around his neck, one larger than the other
he said they were the result of his solar measurements
He said:
Who has measured the Sun
knows more than those who make
engines and decisions
has been surgically removed
from those in power

To scare off crows from the clover meadow
Mr. Teesup banged tin plates and sang
an incomprehensible but melancholy song
Of Teesup there is a memento
on the mountain, much farther down than the gods
but higher up than the people

a tetrahedron made out of sticks
a landmark for me to find my way
to the dance floor
and through the labyrinth