Poetry by Arved Viirlaid

by Arved Viirlaid


A THOUSAND TIMES

A thousand times the falling coffin lid
has tried to keep me underneath,
where the dove, my dream, has veered amid
warm ashes on the verge of death.

A thousand times my mouth was seared
by the hot hoofs of Death’s companion,
and all my bones have been divided
between his plague and famine.

A thousand times in a tangled history
my tongue cut off and lost without a trace:
the more it sings, the more the story
burns its scars into my face.

(From A Vagabond’s Gospel – Hulkuri evangeelium, 1948)



WHAT WAS SAID

What did the dream tell me?
That I should greet
             the rising day.

The morning jumped up
like a tiny frog –
making a face at me,
             splashed into a puddle.

And already the sun
was painting the bushes’ heads red.
A black calf and I
stared at the new open gate.

(From Songs of Longing – Hõllalaulud, 1967)









                                    My mother
                          softly sings and chants
                     sings into the whir of spinning
              wheel accompanied by hypnotic creaks in
            wood a song for chasing sleep away melodies
          shaped by nimble and swift fingers when storms
        brew in the yard and boys grabbing hug each other’s
          chest like brawlers at fairs or red-faced assassins
          push girls on swings through 360º of vertical arc
          around the sea shaft when the sky has fallen long
            ago like soot scraped and gathered around like
          darkness which glowed as they slept in black soil
             grown alkaline and earth parched red singing
                  together with throats coated white as
                    salted wounds and all in a ball each
                             strand of the yarn full of
                                 song and droning
                                        as sleep
                                                          awakens
                                                                just before dawn
                                                                         and storms rest  
                                                                                like
                                                                                  a
                                                                                 fuse
                                                                                inside the
                                                                              globe
                                                                         or
                                                                      lightning
                                                               atop
                                                the worlds’s toe  


         (From Songs of Longing – Hõllalaulud, 1967)


        Translated by T.E. Moks and R.W. Stedingh