Eeva Kilpi, “November”


Minulla on salainen rakastettu, sanoo isoäiti.
An invisible lover.
En osynlig älskare.
Salarakas, niin kuin nykysuomeksi sanotaan.

Kukaan ei ole nähnyt häntä.
En minäkään.
Hän tulee pimeällä
ja lähtee ennen aamunkoittoa.
Emme sytytä valoa.
Kohtaamme pimeässä
ja tunnustelemme toisemme esiin.
Etsimme toistemme huulet
ja paljonhan niitä on muitakin elimiä.
Kaikki ne löytyvät kyllä
vaikka silmät ummessa.

Harva se yö me leikimme
kaunotarta ja hirviötä,
minä vain en koskaan sytytä kynttilää.

Naapurit uskovat nähneensä hänet,
hänellä on kuulemma joka kerta
eri naamio.
Mutta niistähän minä en halua
tietää mitään.

Pääasia on hänen iso

“Watch free net TV. You are loved.”


I have a secret lover, says grandmother.
An invisible lover.
En osynlig älskare.
A salarakas, as they say in modern Finnish.

No one has seen him.
Not even me.
He comes after dark
and leaves before daybreak.
We don’t switch on the lights.
We meet in the dark
and feel each other out.
We find each other’s lips,
and there are many other organs.
All of them will be found
even though my eyes are closed.

Almost nightly we play
Beauty and the Beast.
I just never light a candle.

The neighbors believe they have seen him.
Reportedly, each time he wears
a different mask.
But I want to know
nothing about them.

The main thing is his huge
ardor, his warmth.

Source: Eeva Kilpi, Kuolinsiivous (WSOY, 2012). Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Eeva Kilpi, “October”


Kun saisi kuolla nukkuessaan
eikä ainakaan yhtiökokouksessa
kesken kriittisen puheenvuoron,
vaan omassa vuoteessa unta nähden.
Kuninkaallinen kuolema, sanoo naapuri.
Toivomme sitä yhdessä
hartaasti, toistuvasti,
ikkunanraosta jutellessamme.
Rivissä kuollaan
mutta ei ikäjärjestyksessä
ja pohdiskellaan miksi.
Opitaan sairauksien nimiä,
tervehditään oireita,
tuttuja jo kaikki.
Kun ehtisi siivota sitä ennen.
Kun jaksaisi.
Onkohan se edes mahdollista?

On se.
Mahdollista kuin myöhäinen sieniretki
kuin äkkiarvaamatta löytynyt karpalosuo
jonka näkee harjanteelta,
kuin puolukat lokakuussa,
kuin mustikat lumen alta.

Tehdään maailma valmiiksi.
Mehän osataan.


You should die in your sleep
and certainly not at the annual meeting
in the middle of a critical speech,
but in one’s own bed, dreaming.
It’s a royal death, says the neighbor.
We hope for it together
earnestly, repeatedly,
gabbing through the gap in the window.
People die like dominoes
but not by age
and wonder why.
They memorize the names of diseases,
they greet all the symptoms
like old friends.
Would that you had time to clean the house beforehand.
(She sighs.)
Would that you had the strength.
Do you think it’s even possible?

It is.
It’s as possible as a late mushrooming trip
in the sunshine,
like a cranberry bog, found unexpectedly,
that you can see from the ridge,
like lingonberries in October,
like blueberries beneath the snow.

Let’s get the world ready.
We know how.

Source: Eeva Kilpi, Kuolinsiivous (WSOY, 2012). Translation and photo by Living in FIN

10,000 Steps (International Translation Day)

In recent years, I have celebrated International Translation Day on this day, September 30, here at Living in FIN. Today, I discovered that the overarching theme of this year’s celebration is “Finding the words for a world in crisis.” It is not that I think that the world is not in crisis (or that I thought it was ever not in crisis), but having worked for thirteen years on a much more intense and exhausting online translation project that only this month has, for the first time, passed the ten thousand monthly views mark, I do wonder how much difference translation makes to a “world in crisis.”

More to the point, when you sometimes wait, as I do, for months to get paid for rush translation jobs, that is, for “real work” (not the fun I’m having here) or are offered (as I was the other day) 1,200 euros for translating a six-hundred-page book (which should cost at least 12,000 euros) you feel both inspired and then, just as instantly, let down when you read that translation is a “moral debt,” as I did a few days ago on the Facebook page of a well-known poet and translator.

A moral debt to whom? To people who think that translation is as easy as falling off a chair, a kind of menial mechanical intellectual labor? To people who cannot be bothered to learn to speak any foreign language fluently? To people hostile to the foreign tongues in their midst?

Yes, it’s lovely to share your talents by giving people access to the lives, dreams, sufferings, and joys of other people, sometimes far away, whose languages they don’t speak. But since, I suspect, most translators labor without much in the way of recognition and appreciation (and money) from anyone, including even the people who benefit from their work, it’s better to imagine that, on the one hand, translating is something you’re doing for your own sake, something you’re doing to escape “the heavy bear that goes with me,” as Delmore Schwartz so aptly called his (our) brutish inner self, and, on the other, that translators are workers, too, and should demand good pay for fair work.

So, the hell with “moral debt.” Let’s be escapists instead. Here is today’s installment of Viivi & Wagner.

Panel 1
Wagner: I’m going to circle the bed until I get to 10,000 steps.

Panel 3
Viivi: I’d like to sleep. How many steps have you taken today?
Wagner: Those two just now.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Almost Finns have a few pro-tips for dealing with the kaamos, the polar night or the nearly endless darkness of winter nights and days on or above the sixtieth parallel.

Turn on the English subtitles if you don’t speak Finnish. Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the link.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Living in FIN party without a few words of gloomy wisdom from the late great Hannu Salakka.

Elämä ei sellaista
kuin lauseiden synnystä saattaisi luulla.
Olen vain hetkeksi karannut tähän miettimään,

Life is not like that
like the way you might think sentences are born.
I’ve just run away for a while to think about it,
to think back.

lapsi opettaa kävelemään
niinkuin vanhaa miestä,
pysähtelemäänkin, katselemaan taakseen.

On afternoon strolls
a child teaches you to walk
like an old man,
even teaching you to stop and look back.

joka ei ole iloinen eikä surullinen,
mutta täynnä tunnetta.

A sound (a voice),
which is neither happy nor sad,
but full of emotion.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), pp. 419–421. Translated by Living in FIN. Images courtesy of Duolingo, the best thing since sliced bread, especially since it started teaching Finnish.

Hannu Salakka, “Bird Calls, Migrating Flocks in Flight”

Kutsuäänet, muuttoparvien lento.
Tuntuu että kaipuunikin jättää minut
oman onneni nojaan
ojanlaitaan, pellonreunaan.
Alan ymmärtää,
että en ole vielä nähnyt kaikkea
mitä en enää koskaan tule näkemään.

Bird calls, migrating flocks in flight.
It feels like my longing is leaving me too
reclining in my own happiness
at the top of a ditch, the edge of a field.
It is starting to dawn on me
that I have not yet seen all of
what I will never see again.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), p. 575. Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Eeva Kilpi, “September”


Nämä minuudet joiksi hajoan,
anteeksi vain,
ne eivät ole suurellisuutta,
ne ovat luonnonilmiö,
ne ovat kasvullisuutta,
josta emme ole olleet tietoisia,
inhimillistä jakautumista,
suvutonta ja suvullista,
hengen hedelmää.
Mitä ovat eläimet?
Mitä eläimet ovat?
Ne ovat minua.
Ne ovat rihmastoani
joka haukkuu niityllä,
vilistää taloni ohi pimeässä.
Minä, itiöemä,
tarkkailen niitä ikkunasta,
kuulostelen ja haistan.
Koko ajan pelkään niiden puolesta
kuin jäsenteni menettämistä.
Ja enemmänkin.
Minähän olen vain osa kaikkea.
Minä kaiun.


These selves into which I shatter,
forgive me,
are not a grandiosity.
They are a natural phenomenon.
They are a vegetation,
a polymorphism
of which we have been unaware,
human division,
asexual and sexual,
the fruit of the spirit.*
What are animals?
What, indeed, are animals?
They are me.
They are my mycelium,
yelping in the meadow,
scurrying past my house in the dark.
I, spore mother,**
watch them from the window,
listening to them, scenting them.
I am always afraid for them,
as if afraid of losing my limbs.
And more.
I am just a part of everything,

Source: Eeva Kilpi, Kuolinsiivous (WSOY, 2012). Translation and photo by Living in FIN

* Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

** The word in Finnish is itiöemä, a compound of itiö (“spore”) +‎ emä (“mother” or “womb”), meaning “a sporocarp or fruiting body of a fungus.” Since neither “sporocarp” nor “fruiting body” sounds particularly poetic, and since Ms. Kilpi’s usage of the word here is as metaphorical as it is scientific, I opted for the non-scientific but etymologically and poetically more satisfying “spore mother.”

Eeva Kilpi, “August”


Täytyy olla elossa,
täytyy olla terve ja tajuissaan
että me voimme kohdata,
että sinä osaat tänne
ja että sinä osaat täältä pois.

Ja että siinä välissä
löydät minut pimeässä.



We must be alive,
we must be healthy and conscious
so we can meet,
so you know how to get here
and how to get out.

And so that in between
you find me in the dark.

Source: Eeva Kilpi, Kuolinsiivous (WSOY, 2012). Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Hannu Salakka, “Evening”


Jokaiseen ääneen vastaa aina jokin toinen ääni.
Sinä vain olet nyt yksin;
lintu lentää ikkunaan.

Mietteliäät pilvet painuvat maailman ohimoille.

ilta paino



Every sound is always answered by some other sound.
Only you are alone now;
a bird flies in the window.

Pensive clouds press down on the world’s temples.


Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), p. 380. Translation and photo by Living in FIN. The award-winning Finnish writer Hannu Salakka died seventeen years ago today, at the age of forty-eight, in Kangasniemi (South Savonia, Finland), near where the photo, above, was taken.

Hannu Salakka: Five Poems

Menneisyys on vain ennustus
matkalla takaisin
että aikani siellä oli jo ohi.

The past is just a forecast
of what is coming.
On the way back
I understood
my time there was over.


Märkä, viileä yö.
Ajattelin sinua
niinkuin jotakin lämmintä.

A wet, cool night.
I was thinking of you
as something warm.


ehkä jotakin muutta.
Äkkiä vain sellainen olo
että sitä ei tunne.

Eikä se saa edes surulliseksi nyt
kun ei enää mikään saa.

Stirrings of love,
maybe of something else.
Suddenly you just have the kind of feeling
that you cannot feel it.

And now it doesn’t even make you sad anymore
when nothing comes of it.


Liikkuvaa vettä katsellen
tuulen kummallista kieltä
ja äkkiä tunnen
että on vielä jotakin uutta,

Istun hetken
kuin rauhallisin mielin.

Looking at the moving water
I listen
to the wind’s strange tongue
and suddenly I feel
there is still something new,
something unreachable.

I’ll sit for a while
as if my mind were at peace.


Kun lakkaa odottamasta
jää vain todellisuus,
se minkä voi nähdä.
Ja muistot,
kuinka toisin luuli olevan.

When you stop expecting
all that remains is reality,
what you can see.
And memories,
how different you thought you were.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), pp. 251–255. Translation and photos by Living in FIN

Eeva Kilpi, “July”


Oli muuan, sanoo isoäiti,
oli muuan joka kiitti suudelmista,
joskus jopa jokaisesta pususta
ja aika usein hän muisti sanoa:
”Kiitos toissapäiväisestä.”
Ja kun minä vastasin: ”Samoin”,
hän kiitti siitäkin.

Rakkaus on sellaista.
Se avaa sydämet ylenpalttisuuteen.

Rakastavaiset ovat harvoin
ystävällisiä toisilleen,
mutta hän ylsi siihenkin.
Ja minä ajattelen yhä:
Miten harvinaista on hyvyys
ja aina se yllättää.



There was a certain someone, Grandma says,
there was a certain someone who thanked me for kisses,
sometimes even for every single smooch,
and quite often he would remember to say,
“Thanks for the one from the day before yesterday.”
And when I said, “Same to you,”
He would thank me for that, too.

Love is like that.
It opens hearts to effusiveness.

Lovers are rarely
nice to each other,
but he made it there, too.
And still I think:
how rare is kindness,
it always surprises you.

Source: Eeva Kilpi, Kuolinsiivous (WSOY, 2012). Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Eeva Kilpi, “June”


Linnut kylpevät minussa,
sudenkorennot risteilevät ylläni,
hirvet juovat minua.

Olen auerta.
Olen hämärää.
Olen pilvi jonka lampi hengittää syliinsä.

Olen haihtumaisillani.

Sada minut alas, ihminen.



Birds bask in me,
dragonflies cruise over me,
moose drink me.

I am haze.
I am twilight.
I am a cloud the pond breathes into its embrace.

I am on the verge of fading away.

Get me down, human.

Source: Eeva Kilpi, Kuolinsiivous (WSOY, 2012). Translation and photo by Living in FIN