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, “Everything Must Be Imagined”

kauppakatu disaster

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

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

Hannu Salakka, “It Cools Slowly”

imatra-destroyed sculpture

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 like waves.
Staying up late, waking up early,
being idle the livelong day.
But something is unsettling.
Perhaps the lost art of getting loose of things
that did not happen here.

—Hannu Salakka, Kesä kesältä syvemmin (Otava, 1977), p. 36. Translation and photo by Living in FIN.

A few years ago, citing “numerous” complaints from the “general public,” the Imatra municipal parks and maintenance department summarily loaded the lovely brutalist modernist sculpture in the middle of the picture, above, onto a flatbed truck, took it to the local rolled steel plant, and melted it down in the plant’s blast furnace.

It was left to the Imatra municipal culture department, which had not been warned by the parks and maintenace department it was planning to commit this act of iconoclasm, to telephone the sculptor, who is quite famous in Finland and alive and well in Helsinki, to explain what had been done to his artwork by the yahoos in Karelia. It was reported that he took the strange news quite well, all things considered. LIF

Eeva Kilpi, “Fart Hard in Your Own Hut”

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Pieraista kovaa omassa tuvassa.
Joskus sitä on valmis epäröimättä
uskomann kapitalismiin.

* * * * * *

Fart hard in your own hut.
Sometimes it is unhesitatingly ready
to believe in capitalism.

—Eeva Kilpi, Runoja 1972–1976 (WSOY, 1978), p. 40. The poem was chosen using the True Random Number Generator at random.org. Photo and translation by Living in FIN

* * * * * *

The photo, above, is of an empty “fish restaurant,” built near Ukonniemi Beach on Lake Saimaa in Imatra, South Karelia, by the city government and their favorite private contractors at great expense to the once-beautiful natural environment and local taxpayers.

Although no restaurateurs had agreed to lease or operate the future restaurant when the project was mooted and approved by city planners and city councilors, the constructionn of the “fish restaurant,” which involved felling hundreds of trees, building black-topped car roads where once there had only been soft footpaths, and dozens of other kinds of deviltry disguised as “landscaping” and “improvements,” went ahead anyway.

The initial phase, the destruction of the original, gorgeous landscape, ran into considerable cost overruns, and project managers found themselves asking the city for more money to keep up their wave of mutilation.

Several years later, no one has emerged operate or lease the restaurant, although the building is ostensibly ready to fry up fish fingers and put them all in a line.

The restaurant would be a great opportunity for any shyster who wants to go in and out of business in less than a year, because the wonderful Nuotta Restaurant and Smokehouse, located on the other side of Ukonniemi Beach, has been doing land-office business ever since it added a rooftop terrace last summer.

The food and atmosphere at the Nuotta are nonpareil, as all its regular and irregular customers know, and its view of Imatra Harbor and Laimassaari is stunning. On a warm, sunny day, I could sit there for hours, just sipping a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

Even my dog thinks Nuotta is the cat’s meow. He once forced me to go there, after a long walk through the forest, so we could sit there for half an hour and just inhale the view. I had to order a cup of coffee and a doughnut to justify our odd-couple presence on the veranda. My dog was immeasurably pleased.

So why would such a tiny harbor need another fish restaurant? This isn’t “innovation,” as the current so-called bourgeois Finnish government would call it. This is sheer stupidity that was egged on local decision-makers by the construction lobby, who are always trying to drum up new projects for themselves, whatever cost to the built heritage, environment, and taxpayers, and whether their dubious improvements are really needed by flesh-and-blood, paying customers and townsfolk or not. LIF

 

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “Our Golden-Brown Heads”

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Meidän kullanruskeat päämme ovat kumartuneet
toisiaan vasten, kynä rapisee hiiren jälkiä, suu avautuu
välillä leijonan kokoiseen haukotukseen, mutta sieraimet
värähtävät valppaasti. Nyt tehdään salaisuuksia. Avaudutaan.
Liittoudutaan. Kuuntelen ekassa pulpetissa Eleanor Rigbya
joka laulaa ikkunalaudalla, jalat eivät mahdu enää
pulpetin alle, katson lasin läpi mustia haavoja
koivujen kyljissä, hiiltyneitä arpia tiukan valon syleilyssä.

Kun tunti loppuu ja sujautamme paperit reppuun,
näen hänen reunamerkintänsä: tähtiä marginaaleissa,
kirkkaita kovia terässiipisiä ikuisia.

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Our golden-brown heads are stooped
towards each other, pencils scratch mouse tracks, mouths open
occasionally into lion-sized yawns, but nostrils
vibrate vigilantly. Secrets are made. They are revealed.
Alliances are formed. At the first desk I listen to Eleanor Rigby
singing in the windowsill. Legs no longer fit
under the desk. I look through glass at black wounds
on the birch sides, charred scars in the taut light’s embraces.

When the lesson ends and we slip our papers into rucksacks,
I see his edge markings: stars in the margins,
bright hard steel-winged everlasting.

— Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 42.

Photo of former Savikanta School (Imatra, South Karelia) and translation by Living in FIN