Sunday, 17 April 2016

Paavo Haavikko: from The Winter Palace

Chased into silver,
Side by side:
The images.
To have them tell you...

A many-crested roof,
To cut the wind and the birds as they pass.
North
           go the snow, the birds and the grass
(not much industry, there).
An aerial
                 arabesque or ear,
Strung in the wind.

[...]

And what is the subject of this poem,
And is it a poem?

Now, here
A woman who looks past and at you:
Carniverous, a trap, a little meal
With a soft hunger: would she not please?

And she woke up, lightly,
And listened to the night.

Or this onea tortoise,
Overturned, always struggles
To get back onto its belly, but this one
Does not even try;
Would she not want to be a beautiful rose,
Closed
For the night?

[...]

And, sleeping, I am always in the tree I see
When day and night are even, autumn is abroad;

That swarm of birds,
It flew
Through the eyes;

Keep yourself warm
When the pools are freezing,
Here, at the bottom of the sky,

When the sky is thin, and does not hold
And the soul
                    is set free.


Finnish original published 1959, tr. Anselm Hollo. I'm cheating, this isn't an animal poem. But it does feature animals, as in the excerpts ("stumps of bleeding verse": Nabokov) above. It's magnificently resonant of the wild human need to fill emptiness. I've just read it and fallen for it.