06. 03. 2009. 12:17

In the Vise of Two Skies (poems)

Roland Acsai

"The lake’s rippled surface / Mirrored the sky with such clarity / One couldn’t tell / Which way was up or down. / Between the two, on horizon’s ebb, / In the light’s narrow beam, / A factory building loomed with metallic hue. / Only in Finland one sees / Such metaphysical form – I thought"

Kemijoki
 
I cross the old railroad bridge –
Each step
Closer to Vera
Though I set out
In the opposite direction.
 
Last night we walked
By the river.
On the opposite bank,
A church’s crucifix shone red;
Clouds reflected in the blackish water.
 
The Moon with its double-rainbow
Was a giant eye.
It reminded me of Azrael,
Angel of death,
Enthroned in sixth heaven,
Her body overlaid with eyes.
She shuts one,
And an angel dies.
 
Slowly I
Permeate toward heaven
Like sap in a tree trunk.
 
Today I’m precisely as old
As I always was.
Today I love precisely the one
Who I always loved.
 

Toward Main Square
 
The blind sky’s white cane,
I probe the streets
Of Rovaniemi or the riverbank
Where one may suddenly encounter Ophelia and Lady Shalott.
 
On the pavement an empty beer can
Rattles in the wind.
The signals at the pedestrian crossing
Chirp in competition –
The sky and I
May set out.
 

Ruska
 
“What you carry in
You must carry out” –
This is the wilderness code.
 
The empty wine bottle
Like my assorted fears;
I can’t be stone among stones
With fossilized angel wings.
 
We ministered
Autumn’s rituals,
But winter already bared its chests;
The musty smell
Of moth-eaten greatcoats
Assailed us.
 
Trees, clouds, rocks reflected
In our faces,
Clear, as in a mountain lake.
 
As the sun descended,
The heart of pines
Darkened.
The first wing beats
Of northern lights
Spread over the sky.
 
The fog, a giant snake,
Slowly wound around
The mountain –
For a moment I stood still,
Mesmerized
By its glance.
 
When I looked up,
The others
Were far ahead.
 
I found my hands to find
Vera’s hands with them.
 
 
In the Vise of Two Skies
 
Before evening errands we descended
To the lake
Where we have never been
And stood
On the dock.
 
Above us a heavy band
Of dark-blue cloud floated
Like cut-to-size
Sheet metal.
 
The lake’s rippled surface
Mirrored the sky with such clarity
One couldn’t tell
Which way was up or down.
 
Between the two, on horizon’s ebb,
In the light’s narrow beam,
A factory building loomed with metallic hue.
 
Only in Finland one sees
Such metaphysical form – I thought,
As we stood on the dock
In the vise of two skies.
 

The Kemijarvi Cemetery
 
These tombstones like
Wild geese on a lake at night.
If a twig snapped underfoot
They’d take flight.
Hands in pockets, we stand
In each other’s stillness.
 
Snowflakes like ghosts
Envelop us
As we read the alien names
Carved in stone.
Lechts, Hakalas, Ahonens;
Their faces in the palm of the earth.
 
A squirrel – nature’s sanctuary lamp –
Scurries along the stone fence.
It seems someone
Was watching. Behind us a lake’s
Opacified lens.
 
 
Dancer in the Dark
 
I rode my bike over forest trails
In autumn’s hypnosis, alone,
Until I reached the lake shore.
 
Invisible rain drizzled. The wind blew
The paper mill’s penetrating odor
Away from me.
 
Distant hills steamed
Like your body under the night sky
As you step from the sauna.
 
I watched a leaf: the desire
With which it clings to a rock,
And felt desire’s throb.
 
Pity you aren’t here,
I thought, and can’t see what I see
Because right now you are painting
Giant eyes while listening to a soundtrack
About a blind girl.


Napapiiri
 
The creaking of the wooden bridge is unfamiliar
As I wheel over it. Bitter cold stings my face;
It’s sobering. My bicycle’s bell rings by itself,
Its sound spreads in the frigid air.
 
With the flight of the swan to the opposite bank.
Frost settles over trees like sheets
On furniture in an abandoned flat.
The gap between our push-to beds:
Silence between two words.
 
Your glove is a glove over my hand,
Your scarf around my neck,
I wish you embraced me instead.
 
Eighty miles south of the Arctic Waistline,
I stare at the sky’s cumulus
Chocolate wrappers frozen in the lake
And think of your umbilicus.
 
Translated by Géza Simon
 
Roland Acsai (1975) has four volumes to date. These poems were born out of the experience of a year spent in Finland with his wife, a painter.

Tags: Roland Acsai