An international online magazine that publishes Surrealist poetry in English.
Bulgarian collage, Varna, 19 May
Walking uphill I saw an elk,– Tomaž Šalamun
an empty oilfield, flowers' hair.
Thunder rises from the sea
and the sky is supported by lamp posts –
here the weather varies like Vasily's
love, the nicotine-grey sky splits open,
lightning criss-crosses like knives on a throat,
the gods hurl down hooks
and question marks.
Somewhere change was in the air,
the punchbag of solitariness began
to open up again once I got moving.
Can human beings settle in righteous places,
like trees or spawning fish, migrating birds?
Is movement on the earth the same as in the heavens?
More smooth, the currents – apart from humankind's
The forests don't really wander like clouds and neither
do the mountains, except in avalanches.
Only rocks roll
the way that people roam
and it doesn't matter where they come to rest.
The Tartar's home is where his arrow falls
and people don't need reservations
but experiences, surroundings.
– Hey listen, you better leave your ugly
character and looks and memories outside
before you try to barge in here, ya understand?
– I've grown allergic to my tears.
Guests bring good luck.
People who can afford to travel
bring wealth and good fortune,
so that is a reason to show them hospitality.
This is the logic of the ancient trade routes,
but don't forget the Vikings, the Mongolians and
the other Aryans, Teutonic Knights.
People bring with them what they are.
Guests bring good luck and luck must be
treated like a guest: you have to talk to it
when it's present, it must be flattered,
given food, drink, drugs,
it must have the softest bed,
be helped to belch, offered
the most beautiful of the wives
at the back of the tent, it
must be dressed in gathered sleeves and
breeches, or whatever the fashion is now.
The mountains may lose their innocence
but a guest doesn't pass by regardless.
The mountains pack their bags,
forge passports if they need them and arrive
at Mohammed's secret conclave,
sign their names in the Koran.
You follow the snowflakes' shadows on the road
as the children of Israel followed the God of the Old Testament.
Departing is always better than staying,
the path's virginity its only merit,
that's enough (male) delusions for a while.
As if there were any virgin paths,
or virginity at all –
the beloved is a movement in the brain,
in every brain, the movement
of multitudes in the deserts, above the waters.
As if one got there edified by travel,
clicked into position by changing place.
Think, think ceaselessly, and you
will have your fill of life at the right time,
and the place won't mean so much anymore.
The tiny minority of human beings
is the same everywhere: sensitive,
clever, compassionate, tolerant.
But the quality of the majority's misery
and spiritual poverty varies:
is this the exotic reality we seek
in our roaming about the world?
"We will never meet again," I said gloomily.
"You'll travel on one side of hell
and I on the other. In addition,
you are paranoid and intellectually lazy."
"You are a giraffe and potentially an asshole,"
you said imitating my tone of voice and gloom.
"In addition, our playpens
are on different sides of the room"
Terrible panic when one reaches any place,
and such a pain moving on to the next one.
Planes, trains, ships, cars, trails.
The planning is the worst part –
if one goes somewhere for three weeks,
one can't get away any sooner or later.
I've said: there is safety in crowds.
I've said: there are always
good people who will help if anything happens.
There is always enough goodness
for one carer to be found in the throng,
that is why I usually favour cities
but avoid places that are sparsely populated.
The ships are crawling through the rain
with forelamps on their foreheads, the warm air
caresses me like some demigod
merciful enough to be formless, yesterday I took
the sun naked on my balcony, missed
Vasily's crazy arms, who have I
actually encountered here?
Mafiosi with their gold wristwatches, like
Thracian princes, and their
who suck milkshakes through straws
while the men swill beer
under their sun-glasses. A handsome priest
in Varna Cathedral blessed me
in English for two levas.
to have saved the world.
A girl sings in the church choir,
thinking about anything else but that,
even her head is like a church.
Roof shingles of dark hair
fall over narrow shoulders,
her whole profile a church. With a limited
presence in transiency. Weeping golden
bell = forsythia. This is
a green paradise. The lion doesn't exactly
lie down with the lamb, but the wild rose
certainly winds round the pine... I was
so proud of my love! but
as it was not requited, it turned
Here is that gate
you flung open on a darkening
night on a prickly fibre mattress
on a fading recognize-the-stars sky.
The absurdity made the pain worse.
If it at least had been revenge, or another woman,
even a whole army of Amazons –
but you just changed your mind, inclined
your head, did not consider for a second.
It's the very people who follow their
emotions who are the emotional monsters,
they remain unexplained, end up
as legends. The acts of rational
people can always be explained, they explain
them themselves, explain, explain for all
they are worth, that's the kind of worth
they often have.
I am walking along this road
as fast as it is being built
and I will never return.
But people change their form! before
your eyes which seek a form –
they change their form! But your gaze
alters direction, the shock adapts.
The changes arrive with outspread wings
in the form of a plane, from the high
heavens like bombs, ejector seats,
the circular butterflies of parachutes –
in a form of a cross and us
as you lie on my stomach crosswise and
deliver a lecture on curious sexual customs,
– changes arrive. Something has to
change, somewhere, someone, somehow,
backs escape in different directions
as if dragged by four horses.
My limbs go flying in different directions
as if the world were exploding, had exploded
ages ago, in the force of the big bang
my limbs continue their flight
to the four and more points of the compass
and measure time, all the time
there ever was, our cells are as
old as humankind, we are of
old stock, the same stock,
you're not a golden hamster and I'm
not a monkey, it's easy for us to copulate,
but we still have problems of communication.
"I thought we could start
with a clean slate now that some time has passed."
"The slates will always be dirty,
grease and protective lacquer glitter in the room.
The waitress has been asleep all night
but she's still tired," you replied.
And if there's a God
I can imagine Him sighing
heavily and wondering how on earth
these two people can be helped
to stay together, not to
quarrel, for dear god
there's the devil. And scratching his head
and helping damn precisely as
he needs to every bleeding prayer
I have ever damn well prayed
as I pray in my lack of faith,
meticulously, regularly, with all the details
of even the most ridiculous prayer
I have ever invented, with the sarcasm
only a god can manage.
Today you sit hunched in a brothel in Istanbul
smoking a joint or somewhere on the Welsh moors
staring at the sea with gray eyes in the rain,
it sounds more meditative than it is, you have
a worn-out heart, worn-out feet, not to speak of
how the promises are dissolving in the river of time
in the river of a woman's tears.
The Nile is flowing over the ruins of Alexandria,
a slender malachite wrist is rising from the desert.
As the bearers bend over the spring to drink, their
loads fall from their shoulders like wings –
suffering is the river's name,
the river from which we drink barium,
comforting sorrow, pathetic
survival, wouldn't it be
more skilful to give up – as soon as the breath
starts breathing again it is ready
again for all kinds of wickedness,
and I await, horns on my forehead, they
grow as the waiting grows longer
and finally pierce your chest.
You cut the Gordian knot
that choked your throat so long,
you shake off the scales from your dragon
and become a human being. An Alexander
the Great, worse,
Cruel as the rising sun
Translated from the Finnish by David McDuff
Anni Sumari was born in Helsinki, Finland, and studied literature and media/communication studies at the University of Helsinki. She is the author of fifteen books of poetry and prose, including Selected Poems (2006), The Years Above the Waters (2003), Train Play (2001), Sinerian (2000), and Measure and Quantity (1998), for which she won the Finnish National Broadcasting Company's Dancing Bear Prize for best poetry book of the year. She has also received an artist's grant from the Finnish Ministry of Culture for 2004-2006. In 2016, she was the recipient of The International Best Poet of the Year Prize from The International Poetry Translation and Research Centre, China. Her works have been translated into many languages including English, German, French, Belorussian, Serbian, Slovene and Hebrew, and she, in her turn, has published twenty books that she had translated, including works by Samuel Beckett, Louise Glück, and Anne Sexton.