ALL THAT WAS AND COULD HAVE BEEN  is still somewhere

earth keeps the memory of seas snail shells are stored in limestone and sandstone watches the sleep of former corals

can one ever walk quietly enough somewhere some spores awaken take flight and needles fall from firs

pines stand silently at noon and the white indifference of birches startles you in the middle of the road

unnamed stones and wordless sand could hardly rest anywhere else

splinters of skylarks high in the sky beads in their palms

and the pure and distant descriptive geometry of swallows on the clean pages of the sky

things no longer stay with names even stones wander and old palm trees wander from one archipelago to another

everything as if torn from a children’s picture book nothing moves everything is new and strangely complete

a bumblebee and a sandy road distant churches and the strings of the four points of the compass on an old home violin 

palms eyes and mouth full of the white sand of silence and the earth itself that old drummer in deep meadows

one sky one world one earth

nettles celebrate their wedding and barbed wire blooms

what remains has simple names vastness forests and the sun and hot stones near the path in the village green

honeybees an endless swarm of honeybees shooting up fast near one’s head lime trees rejoice in the rain and the rainbow drinks at the spring behind the cottage








on Olevimägi* bound

by the sensation of unreality — the city

only sleeps that big space

we call the city and we

with our offices shops warehouses our evening arguments

are phantoms in convoluted landscapes

dead-end streets between walls in its dozing brain

its real face is revealed 

in the foundation and limestone where

beings and things prove true

and speak in a familiar tongue

with me the South-Estonian for whom

history is too brief who

does not go to cafés and who falls asleep reading

in a barn on hay C. G. Jung’s ‘Psychologische Typen’




  * The Hill of St. Olaf  in Tallinn whose name in Estonian (olev) could be associated with ‘being’ or ‘the present.’                                       









take flight

with a trickle of mottled wings

spring arrives spring is

a pinch of punctuation marks

will be left

on white paper











I looked at the sun’s window

a yellow cat slept on the sun’s window


I looked at the hands of the sun

the hands of the sun were mottled with butterfly dust


I wanted to look at the sun’s eyes

but the sun had on sunglasses










A week later

I came home to a great autumn

to a luminous landscape alders

have become leafless colorless maples

rustle songs of protest but yellow

yellow is the flag of the plague there

there is little news Gowon’s men are attacking Enugu

behind the portrait of chairman Mao bedbugs have gathered









The writer from the school of poetics tell me

what will remain of verses if accents syllables

are not counted tell me what remains

what has remained of that yellow

leaf of the elm tree in Kambja on the gravel

of a path overgrown with weeds why

I put it in my mind together with a bullfinch

on the bank of the Emajõgi on a snow-snowy lilac










cranes fly home

under their wings

there remain

clouds and houses

airplanes at airports

and a lonely honeybee that

could not return before nightfall


N  T

A      U

S          S

S             S

U               A

T                   N

C                      C

N                         T

A                           U

S                              S











We spoke of East and West, log cabins and wells.

On the way we passed budding trees,

solitary white anemones, spring fog

and yellow-green mist above the forest:

birches had begun to bloom.

Sometimes we grew silent; I think, in truth

we were of such like mind

that speaking became superfluous.

I asked if SATORI in Japanese

was the usual word for UNDERSTANDING.

‘No,’ he answered, ‘that word

conveys a solemnity.’ The Pedja river

was back in its banks, but in Kärivere

the bottoms were still under water.

An hour was left before the bus to Tartu. We sat in ‘Viru.’

In the lobby I was told that —

without being asked — I should have shown my passport.

I said next time I would.

I returned. On my left the full moon

shone between clouds, and in its glimmer the spruces

stood, as if they were joyous, joyous.

I cannot describe them in any other way.

How the bottoms of the Emajõgi looked

in the moonlight I don’t know, since I was sleeping.







People were coming from the market carrying plum trees;

white lines were being drawn on the asphalt.

Going home, I saw once more

the white tortured trunks of birches

and their foliage breaking out in leaves

and the clouded sky reflected in floodwater pools,

I suddenly felt that this beauty

was becoming almost unsupportable —

it’s better to look on ground where charming

tiny burdocks, nettles and mugworts

are coming up

or go indoors and find in the dictionaries

what, after all, are the meanings of Japanese words,

ykgen, sabi, and mono-no-aware:

obscurity, mystery,

and charm or sadness for what is.





Translated by the author with Sam Hamill and Riina Tamm

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