Poetry by Ene Mihkelson

by Jüri Talvet

ENE MIHKELSON

 

Yes still this sense that those rare

soulbirds who really hear and know

touch as well as flight

must be sheltered from night’s harshness

All souls suffer a body Sadness limits

them no less than the soulless who

always distinguish cause from ef-

fect They preach fundamentals

the four compass points while from the birdsouls

feather after feather falls in flight

until finally the air cannot carry them

 

(the Juhan Liiv poetry award 1999)

 

 

The soul sometimes gasps in the breast

It does not want to fly to the air in these
explosive times It grips the ribs like bars

But then it comes murmuring Houses tremble

in fear Because everything happens inside

not outside

 

*

 

I am concrete like a comb's tooth that kills

lice I am merciful and I take everything

together to a stove where fire glows

One needs to reserve firewood like death

In the stable I assure a horse it will not be taken

to a fox ranch I feed it hay from my hand

It must be winter I infer it from rosy feet as

I run glowing through snow to the house

 

Where is eternity Where love While it is necessary

to kill lice and horses every last one

 

*

 

Our old good grandmother has died
singing voices have fallen silent

We turned what could be turned
reversed what could be reversed

Now grandmother has died

If you have a memory write it down

If you have a memory of a memory
write it too

 

We want to preserve grandmother's experience
through the later generations

Grandmother's handrail favorite bench

Brittle and colorful autumn leaves

So familiar from life and poetry but
even dearer now because grandmother
is gone The ash-heap of her existence
glows Even makes snow melt when
autumn is over In spring it rises
as grass a flower the sun
the sweet ache of swelling
when the earth moves bones and you
sing with a mocking mouth: grandmother
has died into life

 

*

 

A frog jumped through the scythe
and screamed It was as if
it were the voice of the scythe itself
touching the living

 

*

 

Someday there will no longer be a living soul and people
are of glass They describe circles that enclose
you as well You ask but no one answers Does not know
or feel Your language I would let kill me if you could
see I am still alive

 

*

 

Translated by Jüri Talvet and H.L. Hix

 

 

 

 

ROUNDS

 

 

            I

Like someone who is a stranger to herself I have thought all day

what the meaning of life might be

that would make it amenable to everyone not too gloomy

too hopeless for the reader

optimistic suggestions bright solutions

I think but cannot decide

already it is midnight beyond the window the last bus passes

red lights flashing

I have not gotten past the beginning

 

            II

The heavens console themselves with us

or is it fate or character

that has determined the way

A thousand chances to step aside and

I choose one a chance to betray

a chance to love or simply to let days pass

I choose one

I am ready and now I meet myself

 

            III

From year to year perhaps understanding better what keeps you locked

in yourself

that can really be simple and one

but carefully covered transparent only when keenly observed

palpable at its core when misfortune uncoils

life turns itself around and

starts to flow backward here is the beginning

that the end holds in its hands like a result

 

 

(From Selle talve laused, 1978)

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Stone eye tires like a real one

and nets swell memory grows

like a stubborn shoot that roots

in a crack in stone What a desire

to be a forest and inhale

those strong winds that have

passed over dead and living

matter unhindered

The end of the world is here not beyond many seas

(beyond much blood yes the door is open — closed)

and the world falls when you reach

bluffs from which no road rises

no slope begins

you do not know what is broken from what is whole

If you are somewhere Who and for Whom

Not even a question or an echo

 

 


 

 

Free yourself from bonds

like a leaf that falls

like a number that cannot be divided

like a rhyme without rhythm

the chrysalis of your existence

releases flight

 

 


 

Memory crumbling scatters

dust full of light and

chiming

 

 


 

 

How tender was this tenderness at the merry-

making drinking-table

How callous was this callousness in

aching cold somewhere in a garden

where a tower has been built

mourning bells toll

How passionate was passion there out-

side the high wall of snow

how ethereal were words like arrow-

shaped birds that reached heaven

Everything is valid only in one’s birth-

place and a little beyond

 

 

 


 

Yes of Estonia I would still

testify but how could I speak

of her if I am of the same

matter the same tongue in my mouth

the only one this tiny people

has had for centuries Probably

I have not existed and there was no land

distinct from the people

So I won’t be reciting

the popular anthem I am

only a particle in this blood union

 

 

 


 

 

I no longer recognize those I know

and any stranger seems long

familiar so often I am prepared

to greet her but my anxious

glance turns her away

I remain wondering at her

There she goes and unknown

to me is a life

I wanted to touch

 

(From Tuhased tiivad, 1982)

 

 


 

The camel goes through the eye of the needle and survives

in history books spring returns geography maps savannahs

distant countries with strange animals

panther in a northern land and polar bear in the south

don’t live at all live in the present day

 

 

 


 

 

From beyond nonexistence imagination looks at me, not the one who was, I my-

self look, do not forget there is no one but myself.

If I look from outside, see myself as other, then why the other

could not be me there beyond what the walls have grown over.

When I leap into the air, I may one day pierce the air, the tree of yearning

grows tall.

 

(From Igiliikuja, 1985)

 


 

 

The door is opened Light leaks in

bright white an increasingly intense streak

Who is there you ask sleepily

It is silent Inside it is your fear one

unfortunate morning

Things are mostly friendly

chair offers a seat table

invites eating Between light

and shadow are only those

frightening with the night you still fear

with your teeth in day’s coil

 

 

 

 


She complains to her friend that someone spites her

someone gossips at night In the day

shadows slip away Faces

cannot be captured

Often she rings another town

The underworld listens Remembers

words and wonders why the voice

travelling the line laughed

but did not cry

A dark bird has been released

and covers the town with its wings Black

wing feathers fall into

the sleep They disturb

 

 

(From Tulek on su saatus, 1987)

 


 

 

A frog jumped through the scythe

and screamed It was as if

it were the voice of the scythe itself

touching the living

 


 

Our old good grandmother has died

singing voices have fallen silent

We turned what could be turned

reversed what could be reversed

Now grandmother has died

If you have a memory write it down

If you have a memory of a memory

write it too

 

We want to preserve grandmother’s experience

through the later generations

Grandmother’s handrail favorite bench

Brittle and colorful autumn leaves

So familiar from life and poetry but

even dearer now because grandmother

is gone The ash-heap of her existence

glows Even makes snow melt when

autumn is over In spring it rises

as grass a flower the sun

the sweet ache of swelling

when the earth moves bones and you

sing with a mocking mouth: grandmother

has died into life

 

 

(From Elujoonis, 1989)

 


 

 

Our fathers have awakened They beckon

with bony hands on the mountain famous from the Bible story

Our mothers are young and precious in rooms

that smell of Christmas trees With dirty hands we scratch

glass doubles of Judah and Christ

from the hiding-place of times long past

 

 

 


 

 

I am concrete like a comb’s tooth that kills

lice I am merciful and I take everything

together to a stove where fire glows

One needs to reserve firewood like death

In the stable I assure a horse it will not be taken

to a fox ranch I feed it hay from my hand

It must be winter I infer it from rosy feet as

I run glowing through snow to the house

 

Where is eternity Where love While it is necessary

to kill lice and horses every last one

 

 


 

Little brother’s hands are sad Oh sad hands

of my brother On the table fingers crossed He

smiles Life so far has gone well My own hands

hang by my side No strength to lift fingers

to stroke Outside the willow weeps Sadness in the very name

We divide names from lives

 

Then mother enters though home is not here

She simply knows how to enter feeling our guilt

Fathers stand in doorways Suddenly straight as a wall

 

 

 

 


 

 

Someday there will no longer be a living soul and people

are of glass They describe circles that enclose

you as well You ask but no one answers Does not know

or feel Your language I would let kill me if you could

see I am still alive

 

 

 


 

 

The soul sometimes gasps in the breast

It does not want to fly to the air in these

explosive times It grips the ribs like bars

But then it comes murmuring Houses tremble

in fear Because everything happens inside

not outside

 

 

 


 

 

To a provincial town’s slow life I rushed

impulsively tearing shrouds of the crucified

Speaking of vanity that from a distance seemed holy

Quite flayed I remained naked

Be silent when you touch the heart

Borderlands are fiction

 

 

(From Hüüdja hääl, 1993)

 


 

 

The last word The last The last The only

possible I will be pushed to the stove on a cabbage

leaf like a scone The eyes of the coals

glow Soon the protective crust will taste good

I will be broken and not feel pain

I will be eaten and it is bread

I dream of marigolds and the spring from which

I drank in childhood

 

 

(From Pidevis neelab üht nuga, 1997)

 

 

 

I, KAFKA AND DELEUZE-GUATTARI

 

 

1.

Look how the machine of living works

what desires fill it The Trinity

moulders among old junk God blows his

nose on the silver wholeheavens

If there was once love now the body is

so pierced by possibilities that shamelessly I

lie into piety

 

The dream is always real and we crave

the same eyes without asking about color

Verse has rhythm and meter and repetitions

have their own circular motivations

Let me be a machine God

trains the animal in me and the schizoid freedom

 

2.

I am one but the perspective is

everywhere and always so different that

I disappear into intersecting shafts of light

and am the same everywhere if whoever

in whatever place cares to notice me

How much nonexistence surrounds all

of us and even that weighed by reason

What else could absence be if not

death and what else is memory

if not renamed life

 

(From the monthly Vikerkaar, 12/1998)