Aki Salmela

The Last Poets
     for Arkadii Dragomoshenko

One day, and the sun still being nothing
but a gold-plated coin in the evening's pawnshop,
how much will you be able to redeem with this light?
You dress up in the same old beggars,
then leave once more for the same old office,
the scent of a woman's warmth on your father-tongue.
And yearning will not be the more bearable,
not newer the way to surprise oneself in the middle of thoughts,
in the middle of, as if, understanding. And the light,
and the reason for light - however,
come night, you go on being your own separate self,
independent of everything you depend upon.
You are a spider in your wide short-iron web
that, come night, you are forced to stuff back into your self,
no insect there to salvage your long-lastedness.
In un-nuanced tones the hollow trees speak
the wind playing them for a tune of time,
and this will not be an established critique
against established practices.
With just one red lace he tied us,
two particles explodable with each other,
into a small and slender parcel.
I will not call such a thing a poem,
nor a silence. And I am not
the silence breathed, here and now, into this,
a person you'd encounter when spelling something out.
All that will always be slightly displaced,
this here still here but moving already
toward a place we will never catch up with.
This is why real poetry is as impossible
as it is necessary.
We are at a distance of an approximation from a consoling house
its clean walls calling one to inhabit it,
to call it "home". This longed-for
forest is about to stand up on its branches
moving toward that abandoned scenery.
Tremble, Tyrant! Language not able to discern
trees from forest, the rumble from march, and then a sudden
erratic boulder that will stop up your delicate path.
Could it be described as psychological realism?
A political statement? Boldness does not leave
traces for us to follow. That's why it, too,
is a matter of faith, like state, like poem.
When the evening finally arrives, it's bourgeoisly clean
if a bit yellowed by age, its ears
gnawed up by mice, and so very small
is the eternity it carries in its arms that there's no tomorrow.
What is the meaning of this moon?
Of these stars moved by the tongue of a certain love?
Of these quiet bridges
over to a brass that will wake up as a trumpet?

We won't give a shit. And in a double measure, the time
will mishandle us. Taking a piece from there,
another from here - then calling that "a truth".
We will not make ourselves guilty for such
futile wordmongering.
We will move about in the heart of truth
so everything we say will be pure lying,
or, safely, something lie-like.
It's like the Hungarian Rhapsody,
                    all of them together,
rolling swiftly away from under everything uttered by it like a multi-language
landslide that will tuck up this childlike city.
From this on, everything is archaeology;
or palaeontology, if you are holding your predecessor's skull in your hand
or cross-examining it for the sense of your doings.
The task of poetry is to dazzle the eyes to see
what perhaps did not have anything to see in it,
what perhaps has now. These conditions
against an unconditioned reader, the attentiveness of whom
may be the only stable purchase for our boat.
Should you for a moment confuse sorrow with morrow,
rashes with ashes, and terminals with germinability;
something in the midst of the morrow will germinate your image
As if, like laughter, serious play would be the only
sensible occupation and job for a cultivated person
in this world of circus-games grown routine.
In this refrigerator of a rancid commodity where
even the light is not of our own.
This has nothing to do with social criticism,
let me repeat, and praise;
there's nothing to do here; socializing (in dream) with criticism.
We will depart

like balloons. Farewell! With style!
Our chubby bellies full of self-important knowledge,
attained rubbish, and a few gilded silverware items
dropping down trough our memories when we turn back to look at
the scenery plated by the setting sun.

                                        translated by Leevi Lehto

Aki Salmela is a Finnish poet and translator of poetry. He has published two books of poetry in Finnish, Sanomattomia lehtiä (2004), Leikitään kotia (2005) and one chapbook of experimental poetry in English, Word in Progress (2004). His translations include the selected poems of John Ashbery, Valveillaoloa (2004), and the selected poems of Russell Edson, Intuitiivinen matka (2006).

The Last Poets was first published in Tuli&Savu 3/2003 and later included in Sanomattomia lehtiä.

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