Risto Rasa: Three Poems

Yö oli himmeä, nyt linnut
alkavat laulunsa, crescendo,
on posteljoonin aika.

* * * * *

The night was dull. Now the birds
have struck up their song crescendo.
It’s time for the postman.


Sade kohahtaa kuin katsomo.

* * * * *

The rain murmurs like an audience.


Kohon vierestä
kala nappaa hyttysen.
Voi rannan hiljaisuutta
ja aamuauringon pehmeyttä
etten kyllästy kun
saalista ei tule.

* * * * *

The fish nabs a mosquito
alongside the float.
Oh, the silence of the shore,
the morning sun’s softness.
I won’t be fed up when
I don’t catch a thing.

Source: Risto Rasa, Hiljaa, nyt se laulaa (Helsinki: Otava, 1976), pp. 19–21. Photos and translation by Living in FIN

Johanna Venho, “(Returning)”


Lentokoneesta näen tutun vihreän,
havut ilta-auringossa. Oman ääneni väri,
tämäkö on maa johon minut tehtiin.
Asuin poissa kauan, puhuin särmätöntä kieltä,
nauroin vaikeasti. Tarkkailin muita.
Toista ei voi tuntea: toisen eteen
on mentävä kuin ikonin. Odota.
Joku alkaa kertoa, sana tai pari imeytyy vereen.
Kaipasin näitä ihmisiä: kuulostelua.
Kesäyövaloa silmien alla. Tämäkö on maa
johon hajoan, mullastani kasvaa
syvä, tumma kuusi. Tuuli näppäilee oksia öisin.

imatrankoski (2)


I see the familiar green from the plane,
Conifer sprigs in the evening sun. The color of my own voice,
This is the land I was made for.
I lived away for a long time. I spoke an edgeless tongue,
I laughed gravely. I observed others.
The other cannot be known: others
Must be approached like icons. Wait.
Someone speaks, the blood absorbs a word or two.
I missed these people, listening,
The light of summer nights under my eyes. This is the land
Where I shall decompose, a deep dark fir
Growing from my soil. The wind shall pluck its boughs at night.

Source: Johanna Venho, Postia Saturnukseen (Porvoo–Helsinki–Juva: WSOY, 1998), p. 70. Translation and photo of Imatra Rapids (Imatrankoski) by Living in FIN

Angry Birds

Angry Magpies and Crows Attack Elderly Woman in Imatrankoski
Anu Pakarinen
June 6, 2019

birds-1Raili Lindberg is still shaken by the incident.

Imatra resident Raili Lindberg was the victim of a nasty attack last week in her neighborhood in Imatrankoski.

After going shopping, Lindberg was taking the same route home.

Her journey was interrupted when four or five large birds attacked her on the bike path running from Jutinkatu to Pasinkuja.

birds-2Magpies and crows attacked Raili Lindberg on the bike trail between Jutinkatu and Pasinkuja last Wednesday.

Lundberg says she was attacked by magpies, but her description suggests crows were also involved.

“A neighbor tried to warn me, shouting from the balcony for me not to go down that bike path.  Since the birds were screaming, I couldn’t make out what he was saying nor could I hear anything clearly. I kept going and the birds attacked with their claws wide open. They jumped on my head and pecked it,” Lindberg says.

Rescuer Pecked As Well
Lindberg tried to protect herself by crouching, but the birds would not relent. She says she went into shock and cried for help.

“With four or five birds pecking the crown of my head, I went into a bit of a shock. The neighbor tried to come and help, but the birds pecked him, too.”

The attack ended only when Lindberg escaped by moving forward down the bike path, her hair, neck, and clothes soaked in blood.

“I was covered in blood. I really didn’t know what to do. Then I called the Imatra municipal authorities,” says Lindberg.

The Police Get Involved
Apparently, the city reported the matter to the police since a police patrol soon arrived at the scene.

bird-3Several scabs, still visible on Lindberg’s scalp, are a memento of last week’s assault.

After consulting with the region’s on-call veterinarian, Lieutenant Timo Kuokkanen of the Southeast Finland Police Department, watch commander at the time, ordered the birds destroyed because there was no other way of solving the problem.

Kuokkanen says there was a danger the problem would continue all summer.

“I got the impression the birds were aggressive and this had been happening for some time. There were several people who had suffered bloody head wounds.”

The police patrol reported shooting one crow. The fate of the other birds is unknown.

Lindberg Hopes Tree Will Be Cut Down
Lindberg says she went to the doctor this week. Her wounds were cleaned, and she was given a tetanus shot and prescribed a course of pills.

She is still shaken by the incident.

“Lost in my thoughts, I was walking the same way again when the birds started cawing. Then I came to my senses and got the heck out of there.”

birds-4Was that the nest?

She knows that, ordinarily, birds have always been aggressive this time of year in the very same spot. The cause could be a nest located near the bike trail. According to her, there have been threatening situations in the past, but she does not know of the birds ever having attacked anyone so badly before.

“They should cut the whole tree down!”

Lieutenant Kuokkanen argues the episode is quite exceptional.

If magpies and crows continue to endanger people, he urges them to dial 112. The police will come to the scene to see what can be done.

All photos by Anu Pakarinen. Courtesy of ES. Translated by Living in FIN

Pentti Saarikoski, “Photograph”

imatra valtuusto

Pilvet kermaa,
lehmä, kuu, Egypti,
siinä olen sanonut viisi sanaa ymmärryksellä,

kuuromykälle rakennnettiin talo jossa ei ole ikkunoita,
kunnanhallitus seisoo portailla,
valokuvaaja valokuvaa pitäjänlehteä varten,
kuuromykkä istuu talossaan niin pimeässä ettei häntä ole,
mutta onhan talo,
talo on, kuu, pilvet, lehmä,
kuka vielä muistaa lehmän?
Kuka muistaa mitä Egypti tarkoittaa?
Näistä tapahtumista on kulunut kauan
aikaa pimeässä,

kuuromykkä istunut talossaan jossa ei ole ikkunoita,
tuolilla jossa on kaksi jalkaa, onhan miehellä omat jalat terveet,
kunnanhallitus seisonut portailla
esimerkkinä hyvästä hallituksesta
joka alensi veroäyrin hinnan.

Cream clouds,
cow, moon, Egypt.
There: I have said five words whilst making sense.

A deaf mute was built a house without windows.
The council stands on the steps.
A photographer takes a photo for the local paper.
The deaf mute sits in the house so dark he is not there,
but the house is there in any case.
The house is there, the moon, the clouds, the cow.
Who still remembers the cow?
Who remembers what Egypt means?
Such a long time has passed
in the dark since these events.

The deaf mute sitting in the house without windows.
An armchair with two legs, and the man, too, has healthy legs, his own legs.
The council standing on the steps.
A model of good government,
they lowered the rates.


Source: Pentti Saarikoski, Runot (Otava, 2004), p. 101. Translated by Living in FIN. Photograph of Imatra Town Council courtesy of imatra.fi.

Pentti Saarikoski, “New Clichés”

sirkus tahti

Uusia klisheitä

ja me ollaan tilapäisiä täällä,
ajat ajatukset ja taivas teltta,
mutta on suunta johon me elämme ikuisesti,

jokainen ilta
laihat hartiat
ja jokaiset kasvot kuin kasvot jotka on otettu pois,
takaapäin nähty
jokainen ilta kuin sirkus näytöksen jälkeen,
laihat hartiat taivasta vasten
kun aika ja teltta on otettu pois,
punaiset vaunut, portailla aurinko
nuorallatanssija, koko maailma
häkeissä kuin silmissä jotka katsovat kaukaa

New Clichés

we are temporary here,
times thoughts and the blue yonder a big top,
but there is a direction where we live forever,

every night
scrawny shoulders
and every face like a face taken off,
seen from behind
every night like a circus after the show,
scrawny shoulders against the sky
when time and tent are taken away,
red streetcars, sun on the stairs
a tightrope walker, the whole world
in cages as in eyes gazing from a ways away


Source: Pentti Saarikoski, Runot (Otava, 2004), p. 98. Translation and photo by Living in FIN


A musical rendition of “New Clichés” by well-known Finnish singer-songwriter Liisa Akimof

Hannu Salakka, “Land, Frost, Ice, Drifts, Air”


Maa, routa, jää, hanki, ilma
joka liimaa sieraimet ja pusertaa
ihmisestä huurua,
kun maasta noustaan näin kerros kerrokselta
on vaikea uskoa,
että sisus on tulta, tai edes lämmin.
Talot kuin kivettynyttä laavaa,
näyttävät asutuilta
vain aivan pilkko pimeällä,
kun ikkunoissa on valo.
Talojen ihmiset
ovat oppineet jälleen tulemaan toimeen
ilman tuulta.
Jos heidän tulee ikävä,
he voivat juhannuksena matkustaa
sitä katsomaan.

Land, frost, ice, drifts, air,
plugging up the nostrils and squeezing
vapor from a person’s lungs.
When you clamber over the ground so, from floor to floor,
it’s hard to believe
there’s a fire inside, much less that it’s warm.
Petrified lava, the houses
appear inhabited,
just entirely pitch black
when there’s light in the windows.
The people of the houses
have once again learned to get along
without wind.
If they get bored
they can journey on Midsummer Day
wherever their hearts desire.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), p. 427. Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Hannu Salakka, “In the Midst of Fear”

kuutostiensiltaFinnish Highway 6 bridge over the Vuoksi River in Imatra, South Karelia

Yön unet ovat sanomattoman hiljaisia,
josta ei muista muuta kuin

Haaveilija nukahtaa aurinkoon
ja sulattaa siipensä,
vajoaa yöhön
ja sen metsään,
jossa minulla on rautaiset kynnet
ja terävät siivet
eikä yö ole hiljainen,
hammas puree hammasta vasten,
huohotus katkeaa,
kädet puristavat jokaisen tukahdetun äänen
kaikua joka parahtaa.

Ja joka aamu on herättävä keskelle kaikkea,
niin monen on käytävä peloissaan makuulle
ja moni herätetään kesken uniaan.

Joka aamu on herättävä keskelle
kaikkea pelkoaan,
laskettava käsi veljellisesti sen olkapäälle
ja sitten,
tunteettomasti ja uupumatta,
pakotettava se takaisin

Night dreams are unspeakably quiet,
a world
of which nothing is remembered than
it lived its own life.

The dreamer falls asleep in the sun
and melts its wings,
subsiding into the night
and the forest
where I have iron claws
and sharpened wings,
and the night is not quiet.
Tooth grinds against tooth,
the panting breaks off,
hands stifle the echo of every pent-up voice
crying out.

Each morning waking up in the midst of everything.
So many must go to sleep in fear,
and many are woken in the middle of their dreams.

Having each morning to wake up in the midst
of all the fear,
Laying a brotherly hand on its shoulder
and then,
callously and tirelessly,
forcing it back
into the light of day.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), p. 281. Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Hannu Salakka, “It Cools Slowly”

kaupungintalo.jpgImatra City Hall, Summer 2018

Viilenee hitaasti,
miedot tuoksut kohoavat aaltoina.
Valvoa myöhään, herätä varhain,
olla jouten koko pitkän päivän.
Mutta jokin huolestuttaa.
Ehkä kadonnut taito päästä irti asioista,
jotka eivät tapahdu täällä.

It cools slowly,
the mild smells rising in waves.
Staying up late, waking up early,
being idle all the livelong day.
But there is something troubling.
Perhaps the lost skill of breaking free of things
that did not happen here.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), p. 156. Photo and translation by Living in FIN

Hannu Salakka, “Citizen”



Minun maani
johon olen kahlehdittu.
Minulla on maani kieli ja kansalaisuus
ja uskontunnustus.

Voin kävellä ja elää ja kulkea
ja muuttaa paikasta toiseen.

Maani on ottanut omakseen kasvoni,
tapani puhua ja tehdä
ja kirjoittanut sen kaiken muistiin.

Sillä on virkapuku ja vähän tukkaa,
se pyytää puheilleen
ja karjuu vasten kasvoja
mutta jätän ymmärtämättä,
ajattelen vain mitä se tulee maksamaan.

Jos sillä olisi sääri,
potkaisin sitä säären.
Jos se olisi näkyvästi julma
en anoisi mitään
vaan jäisin seisaalleni.

Mutta se ei ole kukaan.

Ei ketään kahleen toisessa päässä,
kahle ei vain anna periksi.

Olen tällä tiellä, elän ja kävelen.


Country of mine
to which I am shackled.
Country whose tongue and nationality
and creed are mine.

I can walk and live and travel
and move from place to place.

My country has coopted my face,
my name,
my manner of speaking and doing things
and written it all down.

It has a uniform and sparse hair.
It asks to say its piece
and bellows in people’s faces.
But I left the fool,
thinking only what I would have to pay.

If it had a shin,
I would kick its shin.
If it were conspicuously cruel,
I would not plead for anything,
but I would remain standing.

It is nobody, though.

There is no one on the other end of the shackles.
The shackles just don’t buckle.

I am on this road, living and walking.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), pp. 284–285. Translation and photo by Thomas H. Campbell