Poetry by Elo Viiding

by Elo Viiding

Translated by Kalju Kruusa with the help of B. Lussier and Elin Sütiste


from the collection The First Will (Esimene tahe):

* * *

A tired woman on the bus
compares my chest
with that of her daughter
compares my shoes
with those of her daughter
compares my eyes
with those of her daughter
compares our lives
with her own
compares her life
with an incomparable pain
the bus takes a turn
and comes to a decision
and comes to a decision

 
LEFT OTHERWHERE 
 
You probably had no other option. By background
you were like one of us.
Vicissitudes.
For you to survive, your relatives thaw blood from ice,
and day after day they rise in the morning
to shed. To be given a day,
which would be no worse, no better.
Simply that of a
survivor. We need survivors.
To give a call and agree on a date,
because everyone’s number counts.
Your options: pack your things.
And as long as you have no contract, you have your shadow.
Only the hazard of a drip could save you.
With a violent needle and blood they will cure your
violence and blood
in intensive care. There, all the storeys
of the mind are concurrent, and you couldn't
move upward, support yourself, see –
this is a refuge city. We
do not set foot there.
In a muddy pool a wild dog’s snout is reflected.
You are a complication. A bystander can tell: literature
teems with these.
The legends of your forebears have forever been crafted.
You probably have no other option than to
wait for the shepherds.
They come with ice, hoarse in your throat,
keep you waiting, you sit on an iron bedframe, ask how far it’ll fall
where it falls.
Over the skating rink and the morgue, over the ladder,
an old copper moon hangs.
Remain calm. It is you who,
swallowing strong iron tablets,
produce blood. It renews, resounds, risks, originates
from yourself – it is not alien.

And all that will come is right here,
if you have been lying long. Or are they shepherds.
They lie beside you.

 
* * *

A very beautiful girl
with golden shoes
sat down in the seat
next to me
spread her big hair
across her shoulders
the lights went out
the play began
from the girl’s lap
a silver doll slipped

I didn’t dare to watch the shine
of her eyes in the dark

and I saw

blood
blood

 
* * *

I was alone that night like many,
and the oneness within me was as manifold.
All that hounded me took the shape of many,
no one was unique, all were like all.
I remember asking why me
as though I remembered why me, and I cried out.

I walked past the dorm, the building had two sides,
two pears were rotting on the pavement, two boards were nailed over two windows;
through one, two men, two women, two children could be seen,
two trees, two victims, two plastic bags, two necklaces of gold
in such an attractive environment! I was so acutely one: I quickened pace, why you?
A knife strikes the one who bleeds.

Suddenly I knew exactly why me. You can be born here primarily to
trip up a barbed wire, to wait like a curse for your going and coming,
for the time when you see your face even more clearly, lose your memory, and set everything right.
Or get going. Or point a finger at someone.
I was alone that night like many
and the oneness within me was as manifold.
All that hounded me took the shape of many,
no one was unique, all were like all.
I remember asking why me
as though I remembered why me, and I cried out.

You know, it’s really not such a big deal to be here, they told me,
obey your thirst in this country, big hearty concessions
march into your consciousness asking whether you want to live or die and
be taken for a quitter. You want our air?
I’d like to thank those of you who talked to me about killing and
historical heroes, historical plays,
historical novels, historical figures,
historical historical, how well I do remember these!
It seems it was only yesterday, the empty schoolhouse
where a first-year pupil was crucified.
He had no money.

I was alone that night like many,
and the oneness within me was as manifold.
All that hounded me took the shape of many,
no one was unique, all were like all.
I remember asking why me
as though I remembered why me and I cried out.
I remember the humiliation of my loins,
I remember each immigrant brother and sister who came to me with a visa problem,
and then left me to rot in the cave of my convictions.
But I’ll keep quiet to avoid
crucifixion.

I was alone that night like many,
and the oneness within me was as manifold.
All that hounded me took the shape of many,
no one was unique, all were like all.
I remembered why me and I cried out.
But I don’t remember
the answer I received. They’ll probably push the stones aside,
so it’ll be easier.
And what shall I do with these?
I’ll roll these back. Into the way of somebody else.
I’ll wash my hands of it and make out like I was seen in vain,
but first I’ll dupe them big time, I’ll sneer,
fight for my daily depression,
as long as I keep my mouth shut, trim my hedge even,
cross my arms over my chest and see to it that my light isn’t too dazzling.


 
from the collection Certain Exceptions (Teatud erandid):

THE EXTRAORDINARY IMPORTANCE OF A PRIVATE LIFE


Husband goes to work. Runs into breasts, a belly, mental health, legs, buttocks,  a retail prospector of war criminals, a family centre’s new perspectives, a belly.
Wife goes to work. Runs into a belly, legs, a belly, breasts, buttocks, impartiality, legs.
Husband comes home from work. Runs into breasts, breasts, a belly, legs, buttocks, the masses.
Wife comes home from work. Runs into breasts, a single-edged sword, legs, buttocks, legs, a belly.
Husband goes to work. Runs into buttocks, breasts, pension, legs, buttocks, legs, an ambassador, the extraordinary importance of a private life.
Wife goes to work. Runs into breasts, breasts, a belly, buttocks, legs, legs, buttocks, the role of an intellectual in society, a public opinion poll (from your point of view, is it necessary to make superfluous moves?), buttocks, breasts, legs, a belly.
Husband comes home from work. Runs into buttocks, buttocks, buttocks, legs, a belly, legs, breasts, a belly, a belly, taxpayer’s money, a belly.
Wife comes home from work. Runs into legs – buttocks – a belly – breasts – social security. Legs, legs, legs.
Husband goes to his grave. Runs into buttocks (?), breasts (?), a primrose (?), legs (?), a belly (?), 2 maggots, a policeman (?), a belly.
Wife goes to her grave. Runs into her husband (?), legs (?), buttocks (?), a pine needle (?), breasts (?), (??), a man, a belly (?), a woman (?).
From the grave, from their depths come buttocks, breasts, legs, a belly (the editorial staff of the magazine Monument), they take their last breath for a spell.
 
 
STRAWBERRY, THE NEXT ESTONIA
(a conference for economic analysts, best-selling writers, and the media-friendly)

So you appreciate happiness?
What could we offer you instead?
Comprehensive presentations, a conference on
the Next Estonia. On the next—can you imagine—decent day,
dogs will gnaw at these bones. Who are not actually dogs, who are
dogs as far as they, strengthless, have been cast
before
other
dogs.

Somewhere in the throat of the conference hall, something is moving –
a cruel, terrorist Christine,
whose shadow is not familiar to the chair-scratchers.
Christine has been selling Bacon Sandwiches, ha-ha,
while you’ve been selling
your romantic biographies, sex and war novels.
Have been summoning designers and pampered film directors
with running noses. PR stylists and actors. Quasiwriters
and artists whose names flirt with you in every tabloid.

They invite you into their company, introduce you
to new music. They’ve got money, and they readily spend
it on parties with predictable endings.

Glower, Christine, a house built
carelessly collapses. Neubauten!
They knew what was desirable, a certificate of appreciation from the Architects’ Union
on the breast, but you had your will.

Only you remembered the hope,
they remained indecisive. You wrapped your mother
in gauze
and took the hand of your sunken brother. You held
the wheel-chair, gently, while the sweet sparkling,
convertible youth entered universities to study
philology.

And, oh outcast one, now whose adulthood
is, Strawberry Girl Christine, your childhood?

 
AGE OF THE TALK-AWAYS

You are silent.
Hence:
You think wrong. You work wrong, maybe in the wrong place.
You should start talking to somebody –
you should talk. To lead a full life,
like words. You’ve got a wife. A husband. Leave.
You’ve got a child. Everybody is happier if
you live like words do. Talk honestly, sincerely,
vainly. Forget the social pressure. The redundancy and
uniqueness of your crap will bring forth a still less visible, a still
truer truth
in a hypocritical environment.
Start with your Great Story. This corpse—bustling, swarming—
rotting into the future
bears your name.

Talking is sex. Everyone knows that.
Do it well. (No need to hold
yourself back.
Look who you have been turned into,
you are required to daily.)
In fact, I’d like to have a talk with you about it,
I’ll give you a call and dive into our affairs. For God’s sake,
the list of the books I was going to lend you
is ready. Page 8:
talking quickly and softly, using one intonation,
knowing when the conversation reaches orgasm. Start out
artistically,
gradually move into a seedy private area. Release a cry.
Perish. The big splash makes you
feel better. Feeling enriches, all the rich are
equal, all the riches – fruit of talking us into things. All the fruits are
therapeutic, ours is not known as the age of talk-aways for nothing,
and enjoy the fruits that insist enjoy more!
Stop being silent, give yourself a name at last!
Start
with a Great Story. Reach your buried listener.



 
* * *

Life is what
we live and die
what we want to say
about one another
how much we
give away
threatening with kindness
ask back
from ourselves
this cannot be done away with
cannot be sold
what we devour
and starve for
how far
we carry

the most
burdensome
lifework
the most
oppressive
guilt