Lauri Otonkoski (b. 1959): poet, musician, essayist and music critic. He has published seven books of poetry, a book for children and essays. Awards received by Otonkoski include the Nuori Suomi (Young Finland) Prize for 1995, the Tanssiva Karhu (Dancing Bear) Prize 1996 and 2003 (for the book Olo), and the Engel Ecclesiastical Prize, 2001.
Sitting in a car on a frosty morning only a Finn, as the cold
slams from the padding of the seat into his kidneys,
is able to ask the gods of pistons, liquids
and spark plugs to have mercy on him.
The trunks of the pines were the colour of asphalt
as I drove. The sea screams here on the island like an endless bullet train,
the voice of the south-westerly wind looks blue behind the strait.
If there were snow,
in the yard one would see the tracks of elk, hare and the neighbour’s dog.
But now on the move are only the ghosts risen from the boghole,
which leave no trace. Someone fades the dusk to darkness
If among the trees now priests were running,
their robes would not be visible,
but the bands would flutter like white bats.
In the electric warmth of the cottage I fry an egg and am not afraid
of the darkness that is outside. If the TV were working,
I would get pleasure even from that.
I would watch a random show which would of course be the Business News.
Knowledge expands, love builds, but only the capitalist
is able to be anxious while idle, Paul forgot that.
Stocks were falling, but in the Northern Atlantic
an area of high pressure should give us hope as it filled.
Putin is almost a whore in French. O. bin Laden
looks like a moss-covered mushroom
as he talks on a grainy video about God
and mass murder in turns.
Now the feelings come. A screaming present
without the armour of alcohol, how I really hate them.
The spheres behind the frontal lobe, in which a substance heavier
than the soul is pumped until the head splits
and the heart splashes from its moist ark
to gargle a birch-branch stripped of bark.
The water has risen to the shed, the rowing boat seems to be moving there.
A thump carries through the dark air as it beats its nose against the wall.
Freedom in a carefully measured space. I tried to think
about alcoholism, but only that kind of thought came.
Without memory one could live happy as a green pea on a plate.
Then in spring the patches open in the melted snow and in them flower the intentions.
I had come here now and looked everywhere to see
that the doors were closed against the winter, the walls vertical
and the floor horizontal, like a sleepy sharp-shooter I had
thought I saw something moving. The night went in such a way
that the children’s inheritance was not much increased,
only one thing remained on my mind, whether a thought or a dream:
love and alcohol, that two-headed sorcerer’s serpent,
around my neck like a tightly knotted scarf. And quite hard to take off.
As soon as there was a bit of light in the morning,
for one cannot really talk of sunrise at this time of year,
the cloud cover on the horizon opens just a crack
and there it was all aurora as morning broke
I drove to the southern tip to take off that too-tightly-knotted scarf.
The young birches suddenly stripped raised their hands to their ears
in pure shame. They are sad and pathetic
as if on the way to a concentration camp. The juniper on the other hand
grows straight from the rock and boasts
that Hier gibt’s kein warum. In the inlets already ice-anglers
like black sticks on a grey background,
like a giant bird of prey would suddenly have flown over
and lightened its being swollen with a blueberry-containing meal
precisely at that place.
But I go further out,
throw the narrow spoon straight towards Tallinn.
Before Easter I will sail across the Atlantic. I have heard
that between Bermuda and the Azores there are no reefs,
love or alcohol, and surely that is reason enough
to prepare oneself for the journey. Are there also those
who simply open the doors of the floodgates,
let life slip into a book,
if they are writers, and if they are something else,
then into something else.
I just always have the feeling that I I have to go and look.
That much I am in debt to things. It may chill or warm,
but the sea smokes, it eats its furthest islets
one after the other in its white maw,
with increasing speed it drinks itself metre by metre
in some terrible thirst the size of the Gulf of Finland.
I understand you, sea. I do not fear you, too much.
How much fairer it would be if love were more like smoke.
So that its gushing could be touched.
So one could see it.
How it disperses.