Tõnu Õnnepalu (Anton Nigov, Emil Tode)



Flesh has become word, word has not become flesh.
Who lives, can become word,
this is my little human hope
and today it is visible, today, today!

Today awakens the flesh in my flesh and the earth in my bones
and the sap of trees, the earth water, rises upwards,
earth’s cold blind water, lifeless water, ice water,
presses up throught the veins,
through the bitter flesh of pines,
the sweet flesh of maples,
up, out, into steam, as spirit,
in vain, water presses, sap presses, blood presses, yes,
not listening, in vain!

The hum of ducks is the Victory Song today,
the Nameless’ immense fleshly voice in the tranquil mist of the sea,
under the bright morning covers, in the warm, wordless light,
yes, in wordlessness, in not becoming word, in not being held by the word.

And I remain outside of it, outside of this great day,
because inside me there are words,
seeing and hearing I think words,
I do not hum like ducks, I do not flap wings,
the words in my head are mute motionless song,
needless sounds that nobody hears,
blind light that nobody sees,
an unmade move, caress and pain that nobody feels.

But there is something else in me, there happens to be everything
that touches everything else today and flies away.

And the word is smaller than this,
for really there is very little in word.
Perhaps this or that, perhaps a lot,
perhaps almost everything remains outside the word.

The word is ill of it, always in pain for what it is not.
In pain of this morning,
in pain of the flesh and blood,
in pain of water and light,
in pain for being closed in the head.

It may be that this is my work, that this is
the pressing voice of the Nameless speaking in me:
to let the word free, let it out of the head,
let it die, sow it into the vast earth of the unword,
into the darkness of myself and un-self,
outside the gates into the great light where Today is waiting,
where the wordless, shapeless, ever changing All is waiting.

And I myself should wait, not knowing for what,
cry and mourn for the word, weep for my self
that has no more name,
lie down on bare ground before the Gates
as beggars lie down to sleep in the open
and wait to be let in,
wait to get out,
wait for the Hour of Change, for the Unknown.


My soul is ready for the journey,
coat drawn close and girdled as was the command.
For the carriage will not wait or stay long
in this station
before the long and difficult ascent
that may finally lead to the fearsome mountain,
onto the strange empty ridge where the Nameless is waiting,
or perhaps to another valley, different from this one.

My soul is ready for the journey
but it does not know the way
for it leads through soul’s own bare territory
and the day journeys are hidden behind the shadows of night.

My soul is ready for the journey
but yet it is afraid to go.
Could it not rest for a while
under the pavilion of your soul?
Does it not belong to the Possible
that it were allowed a moment of oblivion there?
Or is it really your soul that has asked for permission
to sit at the hearth whose fire does not warm me?
And is it not that when one finds rest for a while
and can loosen the girdle,
the other must keep guard and cannot have a share
of the shade and refreshment that it unknowingly offers?

My soul is ready for the journey
but where it is, it is alone,
and still it is night, the Moon lures, but does not show
under what tent’s cloth the shadows seem to move
and whose shadows they are.
Are they the others, the foreign travellers?
And if morning is still far away.

Is this reddish glow
from the campfire of the Nameless
or is the decampment day already hoisting the flag of light
and the pavilion taken down
before I can even see you face to face?
And where I am lying sleeplessly
it is only an image of your body,
for your soul is travelling too and must not stop.

No, my soul is ready for the journey
and already the changing Moon
burns up in the rising glow of the Day.

And you are nowhere but far,
no, you are nowhere but far
and I am far from you.
And far from me travels my soul.


A clear morning after the rain in March
can suddenly seem as if it was October

and the mind becomes sad
because the sky is so painfully clean
and the poplars leafless
and suddenly
I know nothing
about the sap swelling their buds
for inside me there swells the tide of sadness
and I am buried under the cool wave of light
longing and fear
and something else
as an empty seashore in the autumn with sun in October

though now it is March


There is no freedom spring air
glowing and surging around us
on this festival of the last melting snow
when the alder catkins
are heavy with yellow dust
and the earth is heavy with water
and the eyes feel heavy wwith the beauty of light
when joy
comes and races
hands free down the hill
the lark falls through the air
when the sky
enfolds us into its perfect void
whose colours have no name
blue blue blue
a thousand times everything
with different meanings but
the dead grass and the earth
smell as for the first time in my life
and the pines
begin to rustle
when suddenly
an icy cold damp gust of wind from the sea
and the pinetops swaying in the sky
as if in the midst of a great sadness
for there is no freedom

First published in the bilingual collection of poetry Windship with Oars of Light (Huma 2001)

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