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”

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Kansalainen

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,
nimeni,
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.

Citizen

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

Hannu Salakka, “Father’s Faded Shirtback”

The demolition of Mansikkala School, Imatra, South Karelia, 16 June 2018. Photo by Living in FIN

Isän kauhtunut paidanselkä
pullistelee tuulessa.
En edes yritä kipittää hänen edelleen.
Sitten hän pysähtyy, kääntyy ja katsoo minuun
ja sanoo:
tulee vain tänne,
ei täällä ole mitään pelkäämistaä.
Ja minä hullu uskon häntä.
Ja niin joudun kauas tulevaisuuteen.

Father’s faded shirtback
swells in the wind.
I don’t even try to scurry in front of him.
Then he stops, turns, looks at me, and says,
“It’s only coming.
There’s nothing to fear.”
I am crazy enough to believe him.
And so I would wind up far in the future.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), p. 587. Translated by Thomas H. Campbell

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “Bandages”

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Laastareita on mukana,
kaiken voi korjata, paikata, peitota.
Tehdä eheäksi. Vartalo on neulanpistoja täynnä,
koruommel kun suojaväri,
kokoon harsitut saumat terälehtien hiussuonet.
Kaiken varalta en halua parantua.
Sormenpäähän nousee tumma nuppu,
tuskin aavistuksen kokoinen

alan puhaltaa

ja kukka aukeaa, valtoimenaan.
Ratamonlehdet joutavat mennä
ja jokainen kaunis sana maatuu,
kaatuu astiakaapin lautasrivistö.
Langanpäät sulavat suolaan.
Tähän tulee sydämenlyönti,
valonkatkaisijan kipakka isku.

* * * * *

Bandages we have.
Everything can be mended, patched, defeated.
Made whole. The body is chockablock with stitches,
embroidery as protective coloring,
seams caulked together, capillaries of petals.
To be on the safe side, I don’t want to get better.
A dark bud thrusts into the fingertip,
the size barely suggested

inflating the areola

and the flower opens, riotously.
The plantain leaves have to go,
every lovely word decomposes,
and the plates stacked in the cupboard collapse.
The thread ends dissolve in the salt.
The heartbeat comes to this,
The light switch’s sudden attack.

Source: Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 33. Photo and translation by Thomas H. Campbell

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “Everything Must Be Imagined”

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Kaikki on kuviteltava, jos mielii pysyä hengissä.
Kun nurkan takaa huutaa pum, ei tiedä, keneen osuu.
Piha on ei kenenkään maat, ruumiit makaavat rauhassa,
hipihiljaa vieri veressä. Teen keinussa kieppejä kaksitoista
kertaa peräkkäin, en ole aivan terve. Puut ovat tänään vaiti,
vain Drakenit vihlovat ilmaa, kovaa ja korkealta laulan
radion päälle.

Olen vanha, ehkä kymmenen vuotta. Humallun tuskasta,
kepeistä suruista tulee krapula. Keittiöön laskeutuu kirpeä
napalmi ja uunissa tuoksuu vehnäs. Syön rusinat
yksitellen jokaisen pullan päältä.

* * * * *

Everything must be imagined if you want to stay alive.
When you shout “Bang!” from round the corner, you don’t know who you’ll hit.
The yard is no man’s land. The bodies lie in peace,
quite quietly, side by side, bloodied. I do twelve twirls in a row
on the swing. I’m not entirely well. Today the trees are still,
only the Drakens grate the air. I sing loud and high
over the radio.

I’m old, maybe ten. I’m drunk on suffering,
easy woes give me a hangover. Acrid napalm
settles on the kitchen, the oven smells of rolls. I eat the raisins
one by one from the top of each and every bun.

Source: Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 56. Photo and translation by Thomas H. Campbell

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “Contrary to Popular Belief”

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Toisin kuin luullaan, useat asiat tulevat valmiiksi,
sellaisiksi kuin niiden halutaan tulevan.
Vapaudesta puhutaan kuin valinnasta,
pidetään hengitys tasaisena että ilma kantaa
höyhentä.
Voi nostaa vihreän rinkan selkään,
vähemmän se painaa kuin omat hartiat.
Saa puhua viidellä kielellä siitä mistä puhetta riittää,
eikä muutosta ole havaittavissa kun siiryymme
paikasta toiseen; kiinnitämme huomioon
samaan maisemaan, siihen jonka omin silmin näemme.

Ajojää sulaa pyörien alla ja vuoret kolahtelevat toisiinsa,
jättiläisen kyynärpäät. Ajamme peräkkäin autoilla
kuuntelemaan valaan röyhtäilyjä. Kun tuuli yltyy,
alkaa tärisyttää, silmät ja tasapainoaisti antavat eri viestin.
Mutta ei hätää:
pahoinvointiin auttaa piste
jonka rantaviivalta löydämme, se johon taas on tuijotettava.

Olemme syyttömiä,
miljoonia vuosia vanhat ruhot painuvat pinnan alle.
Niin meidät harppunoidaan
kesken lauseen, kesken haukotuksen

eikä mikään voi torjua lohtua.

* * * * * * * * *

Contrary to popular belief, many things emerge intact,
just as one would want them to turn out.
Freedom is spoken of as a choice.
One breathes steadily so the air holds
a feather aloft.
You can lift the green rucksack on your back:
it weighs less than your own shoulders.
You may speak in five languages about something when a chat would do,
nor is change observable when we move
from place to place. We fix our gaze
on the same landscape, towards what see with our own eyes.

Drift ice melts under the wheels, and mountains bump into each other,
a giant’s elbows. We drive one after another in cars
to hearken to a whale’s belches. When the wind blows harder,
it begins to shake, and the eyes and sense of balance send a different message.
Not to worry:
nausea is alleviated by a point
we locate on the shoreline, a point toward which we must stare again.

We are blameless,
carcasses, millions of years old, sinking below the surface.
We are thus harpooned
in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of a yawn

nor can anything ward off consolation.

Source: Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 29. Translation and photo by Thomas H. Campbell

The Imatra Sling

imatra sling.JPGThe Imatra Sling. Photo by Living in FIN

“Supreme Court rules in favor of baker who would not make wedding cake for gay couple.”

That is why they call it the Supreme Court, because, historically and episodically, it has reinforced racial, class, gender and sexual supremacy in the so-called United States.

Incidentally, I would never eat a cake made by a baker who would not make a wedding cake for a gay couple, not for political reasons, but because a cook or baker who has so much hatred in his soul inevitably infuses his dishes, cakes, pies, and cupcakes with the same hatred.

So, I have never understood the appeal of televised cooking competition programs in which hatred, anger, jealousy, and the spirit of cutthroat rivalry prevail. Having watched Gordon Ramsay in his calmer moments, I realize he actually is a terrific cook, but the atmosphere he cultivates in most of the TV programs he presents seems bound to produce tasteless, even harmful food.

I just made the first chicken mole in my life. I cannot even remember how exactly I made it and what I put in the mole sauce. I was winging it. But it turned out tasty, because I enjoyed making it, and I always enjoy improvising.

It was improvisation that led me to invent the cocktail I have dubbed the Imatra Sling, which consists of lots of ice in a tumbler glass, a heaping helping of ginger beer poured over the ice, whatever garnishes come to hand (tonight, it was a fresh basil leaf and an orange slice), and three-star Finnish jaloviina, a so-called cut brandy that has its own peculiar history, dating back to the two wars Finland fought against the Soviet Union in the 1940s.

Since I have tested the Imatra Sling on actual people who like alcoholic cocktails, I know it is a winner, but for the time being I won’t be going public with my profoundly random chicken mole sauce.

The happiest place I have ever been in my life was the café next to the flat where my longtime friend K. lived in the Castro after graduating from college and moving to San Francisco. Every morning, the cafe was chockablock with beautiful, happy gay men living in a community where it would have been unthinkable to hate them. In fact, it was easy to love so many handsome, happy men.

This post is going in way too many directions, just like my mole sauce, but I wanted to say the so-called United States will not have much of a future if its highest court reverts to the low road of defending the New Jim Crow, segregation, and homophobia. I thought we had been through all that pure evil before, at great cost to our country and a great loss of life, but, apparently, we will have to go through it all over again. // LIF

Tuomas Timonen, “You Had Vanished Utterly”

kaupunkitalo pysäköinti

olit kokonaan kadonnut,
pelkkä rehevä, kukikas, kivinen valo

valkoisella liinalla
musta pallo, musta

viiva, musta torni
valkoisella liinalla

tuulee, myrsky
tekee tuloaan, sälekaihtimet

helkkävät, ikkunat
paukahtelevat ja

on kuin
ja niin on, syksyllä

vien sinut Sipooseen
keräämään mustikoita

*****

you had vanished utterly,
nothing but a flowery, lush, flinty light

in a white cloth
a black ball, a black

line, a black tower
in a white cloth

the wind blows, the storm
makes its way, the blinds

jangle, the windows
rattle, and

so on
and so, in the autumn,

I take you to Sipoo
to pick bilberries

Source: Tuomas Timonen, Asetelmia (Helsinki: Teos, 2013), p. 51. Translation and photo by Thomas H. Campbell

Adding Insult to Injury

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The urban planning geniuses who run Imatra, South Karelia, have re-purposed the former Prisma supermarket in the town’s Linnala (Mansikkala) neighborhood. They have given it over to the mysterious tribe of sub-artists known as taggers. Soon, I expect, the building will be entirely blanketed with these cryptic spray-painted runes, signifying nothing except the onset of urban decay and the collapse of public order.

Unless I am terribly mistaken, neither the building’s owners nor city officials have plans for doing anything more ambitious with the ex-store, yet another huge slab of empty commercial space. Imatra is now chockablock with such vacated stores and offices.

Currently being tagged into oblivion by young people who fancy themselves rebels but are among the dullest conformists on earth, the old Prisma store is smack dab across the street from the new Prisma hypermarket, which was built for Russian shopping tourists, not for local residents, whose peace of mind and quality of life dropped through the floorboards during the two or three years it took to build the gigantic consumerist palazzo, the city’s largest chunk of commercial real estate.

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But it was all worth it. Anything giant construction companies, urban planners, and semi-monopolies (e.g., the S Group, which owns the Prisma chain and approximately fifty percent of all other chain stores, restaurants, and hotels in Finland) wants to do, wherever it wants to do it, and whatever its impact on the people living in the vicinity, it is always worth it.

And you should see the improvements to the neighborhood occasioned by the S Group’s flat-roofed ziggurat!

Do you know the expression “adding insult to injury”?

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That seems to have been the principle guiding the hackwork done by subcontractors and the City of Imatra when they beautified, so to speak, the wave of mutilation that had just rolled over the neighborhood.

First, they made it triply difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate their old haunts by constructing an impossible maze of new roads, footpaths, and roundabouts in the emerging shopping mecca. (Since the new Prisma opened, chain stores Tokmanni and Jysk got in on the act, closing their old stores in other parts of town and building new outlets in the once spacious but now crowded neighborhood, thus joining the nonstop shopping party started eight or so years ago by K City Market, Lidl, Raja Market, and Prisma).

To put it crudely, they made life easier for motorists at the expense of non-motorists. Or they forgot about non-motorists altogether, which is more likely.

Planners also dotted the environs with sickly little trees, some of them resembling nothing so much as unattractive sticks, stuck maliciously into the dirt by angry taggers or other vandals, or the pathetic Christmas tree that Charlie Brown and Snoopy buy in the cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas, which immediately sheds all its needles when they bring it home.

This so-called greenery will never grow into anything verdant and flourishing, because that might block the view of the stunning big box the S Group plopped down in the middle of what used to be a grassy meadow and grove of tall trees where old folks and children would ski in the winters. That is, before the City of Imatra decided that attracting Russian shoppers was its only real mission and it could safely turn its back on its own pedestrians, cyclists, children, old people, and poor people.

Photos by Living in FIN