Poetry by Kristiina Ehin

by Kristiina Ehin, Ilmar Lehtpere


a hot day in Brezhnev’s time
and I still just a little girl
in a blue cotton print skirt
flee through the yellow corn field
from the big people’s big birthday
where the aspic melted on long party tables
and my sisters and cousins had disappeared
into peals of laughter from the hammock and berry bushes

and then
suddenly I come
to a deserted country house

in a broken box I find a slender pipe
that smells of old men
even older than grandfather
a black sweet bitter pipe from between the lips
of a frighteningly old sick man maybe
already dead

it fitted into my pocket and all evening
swinging nodding off eating strawberry cake
I felt its lovely
black soothing stem
in my sweaty palm 


you went looking for your eyes
in Siberia’s deep rivers
the endless tundra sang your soul bare
the forests silenced your eyes into mossy softness
and with your fingers you scratched
the budding antlers of reindeer calves furtively born

is that why
you know how to touch
my soul so easily
without drowning
in the legendary sea of my dreaming eyes?

you drank warm blood
from the neck of a sacrificial animal
spoke to no one for months
but trees and songbirds

is that why
you can observe me with interest in a café
the way you would look at
flaming red clouds of an evening?

you have slept three hundred miles away
from the nearest town
between two hills of snow
your feet bleeding
your compass lost
and your fire iron broken

is that why
you are dark and forever unfilled
like the night?


it is a time you can see
through a dozen forests
trees as bare as a soul
woods barren of berries and mercies

snow descended from eternity
on this and the far side of seeing
I touched a shadow
that appeared before me
who knows where from

I stroked its dark
deep sunken cheeks
its eyeless eye-sockets

if you were to come to life
I would have to go
or we would go together
to where the snowstorm is coming from
to where it is going


the first riddle touches on the senses
the apple tree lined border of a yard
that I know even in pitch-darkness

the second touches on dreaming
belief that easily fades
the third is
a voiceless cry

the fourth
a bewitched knife in a younger brother’s hand
and the blade knows
how the older brother fares

the fifth
the hour you are to come
neither walking nor riding
neither naked nor clothed

the sixth
the last petal of justice
that still will not fall

Translated by Ilmar Lehtpere