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Poetry

Four Prose Poems

By Jan Kaus
Translated from Estonian by Adam Cullen

Förby   

We have no dipping moon over a metropolis’s hills. We have no breeze caressing the parchment of an aging poetess that would cause her to say: “It comes from the desert! It comes from the desert!” We have wind against the wall of a wooden house like a throbbing ovation. We have a view from the window onto ruins that will be concealed in a few years by forgotten rowan trees. There is the transition of land into sea, there is the unsettled sea that spits foam and kelp. We have fireworks in achromatic tones. October, which seemingly comes to visit from the world beyond ours. In the old days, deceased ancestors went to sauna at that time.

Matsiranna

On the veranda of this house dries a lone hogweed. In the yard scuttle more ticks than the average body would accommodate. Around this house is a forest that is at once dense and spacious, a forest like in a good horror film. Opening beyond the forest is the frameless door of the sea. Ever since the former Pioneer camp was used for prison guards’ summer outings, plastic cups started sprouting on the beach. They did not affect the feeling that voluntary solitude is still possible for a while longer.

Tusti  

A Fleming once mentioned how Estonia’s lack of views irritated him. The trees grow too close. Here, on the rim of a miniature primeval valley, some of them fall every year, as if craving to drink from the trickling stream at the foot of the valley. In winter, I like the firs most of all. I stand in my living room, listening to the President’s address. I realize the glass of champagne in my hand is just as quiet as the darkness beyond the window. Fireworks do not reach these parts. The firs stand in the way. If I were to believe in a god, then I’d rather it be one with a back, from behind which stretches a well-kept asphalt road.

In Front of the Estonia

It happened just recently. The weather was pretty vile, as it often is in these parts—although he could not recall his parents having cursed the weather so frequently, but he supposed the Mediterranean was farther away than the Laptev Sea in those days. He was waiting for a taxi. It was the pre-Christmas season and decorations were already twinkling. Cameras were flashing in front of the Estonia Theater, and he noticed that the building was especially festive somehow. Colorful lights shone through the windows; obviously something special was going on. He saw ladies in fur coats and gentlemen in patent leather shoes hurrying towards the theater, their eyes on the ground so as not to end up in a snowbank or slip on the ice. A number of the ladies and gentlemen were already bobbing in the gleam of the light behind the windows. Later, he found out that a political party had held its Christmas celebration in the theater, but at that moment it seemed as if the rest of the city was oddly dim beside it. As if some people were taking cover in the theater from the darkening world. Suddenly, he got the impression that a cold and stormy sea extended right behind the building. There was no Old Town nor Toompea Hill—only the bare sea, restless, almost icy. The asphalt is just about to rupture, the wavy-edged paving stones about to split, and the theater to drift away from the city; invisible currents will carry along all those people in tuxedos and gowns, although they won’t even notice that the solitary lights behind the windows are replaced by lurching darkness. People glide on the parquet, the ship glides along the water. It all ended with the taxi arriving and the Estonia Theater standing on in its place. Or standing back, rather.


“Förby,” “Matsiranna,”  “Tusti,” and
“’Estonia’ Ees” © Jan Kaus. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by Adam Cullen. All rights reserved.  

English Estonian

Förby   

We have no dipping moon over a metropolis’s hills. We have no breeze caressing the parchment of an aging poetess that would cause her to say: “It comes from the desert! It comes from the desert!” We have wind against the wall of a wooden house like a throbbing ovation. We have a view from the window onto ruins that will be concealed in a few years by forgotten rowan trees. There is the transition of land into sea, there is the unsettled sea that spits foam and kelp. We have fireworks in achromatic tones. October, which seemingly comes to visit from the world beyond ours. In the old days, deceased ancestors went to sauna at that time.

Matsiranna

On the veranda of this house dries a lone hogweed. In the yard scuttle more ticks than the average body would accommodate. Around this house is a forest that is at once dense and spacious, a forest like in a good horror film. Opening beyond the forest is the frameless door of the sea. Ever since the former Pioneer camp was used for prison guards’ summer outings, plastic cups started sprouting on the beach. They did not affect the feeling that voluntary solitude is still possible for a while longer.

Tusti  

A Fleming once mentioned how Estonia’s lack of views irritated him. The trees grow too close. Here, on the rim of a miniature primeval valley, some of them fall every year, as if craving to drink from the trickling stream at the foot of the valley. In winter, I like the firs most of all. I stand in my living room, listening to the President’s address. I realize the glass of champagne in my hand is just as quiet as the darkness beyond the window. Fireworks do not reach these parts. The firs stand in the way. If I were to believe in a god, then I’d rather it be one with a back, from behind which stretches a well-kept asphalt road.

In Front of the Estonia

It happened just recently. The weather was pretty vile, as it often is in these parts—although he could not recall his parents having cursed the weather so frequently, but he supposed the Mediterranean was farther away than the Laptev Sea in those days. He was waiting for a taxi. It was the pre-Christmas season and decorations were already twinkling. Cameras were flashing in front of the Estonia Theater, and he noticed that the building was especially festive somehow. Colorful lights shone through the windows; obviously something special was going on. He saw ladies in fur coats and gentlemen in patent leather shoes hurrying towards the theater, their eyes on the ground so as not to end up in a snowbank or slip on the ice. A number of the ladies and gentlemen were already bobbing in the gleam of the light behind the windows. Later, he found out that a political party had held its Christmas celebration in the theater, but at that moment it seemed as if the rest of the city was oddly dim beside it. As if some people were taking cover in the theater from the darkening world. Suddenly, he got the impression that a cold and stormy sea extended right behind the building. There was no Old Town nor Toompea Hill—only the bare sea, restless, almost icy. The asphalt is just about to rupture, the wavy-edged paving stones about to split, and the theater to drift away from the city; invisible currents will carry along all those people in tuxedos and gowns, although they won’t even notice that the solitary lights behind the windows are replaced by lurching darkness. People glide on the parquet, the ship glides along the water. It all ended with the taxi arriving and the Estonia Theater standing on in its place. Or standing back, rather.


“Förby,” “Matsiranna,”  “Tusti,” and
“’Estonia’ Ees” © Jan Kaus. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by Adam Cullen. All rights reserved.  

Förby

Meil pole kõikuvat kuud üle suurlinna mägede. Meil pole briisi paitamas vananeva luuletajanna pärgamenti, nii et too saaks öelda: ”See tuleb kõrbest, see tuleb kõrbest!” Meil on tuul vastu puumaja seina nagu tuikav ovatsioon. Meil on aknast vaade varemetele, mida mõne aasta pärast varjavad unustatud pihlakad. On maa üleminek mereks, on närviline meri, mis sülgab vahtu ja adru. Meil on akromaatiliste toonide tulevärk. Oktoober, mis justkui saabuks külla maailmast pärast meid. Vanasti käisid surnud esivanemad sel ajal saunas.

Matsiranna

Selle maja verandal kuivab üksik karuputk. Hoovis sibab rohkem puuke, kui keskmine keha mahutaks. Selle maja ümber on mets, mis on korraga tihe ja avar, mets kui heas õudusfilmis. Metsa taga avaneb mere raamideta uks. Alates hetkest, kui endises pioneerilaagris hakkasid toimuma vangivalvurite suvepäevad, ilmusid randa kasvama plastiktopsid. Need ei mõjutanud tunnet, et vabatahtlik üksindus on mõni aeg veel võimalik.

Tusti

Kord rääkis üks flaamlane, kuidas Eestis ärritab teda vaatevälja puudumine. Puud kasvavad liiga lähedal. Siin, miniatuurse ürgoru äärel, langeb mõni neist igal aastal, justkui igatseks juua oru põhjas nirisevast ojast. Talvel meeldivad mulle kõige rohkem kuused. Seisan elutoas ja kuulan presidendi tervitust. Avastan, et šampuseklaas mu käes on sama vaikne kui pimedus akna taga. Siiakanti ilutulestik ei ulatu. Kuused seisavad ees. Kui usuksin jumalat, siis heal meelel sellist, kellel on selg, mille tagant viib ära heas korras asfalttee.

„Estonia“ Ees

See juhtus hiljuti. Oli üsna jube ilm, nagu siinkandis sageli – kuigi ta ei mäleta, et tema vanemad oleksid ilmaolusid nõnda sagedasti kirunud, aga eks sel ajal oli Vahemeri kaugemal kui Laptevite meri. Ta ootas taksot. Oli jõulueelne aeg, kaunistused juba särasid. „Estonia“ ees sähvisid välklambid ja ta märkas, et maja on kuidagi eriliselt pidulik. Akendest paistsid värvilised tuled, ilmselgelt toimus seal midagi erakordset. Ta nägi kasukatega daame ja lakk-kingadega härrasid teatri suunas kiirustamas, pilk maas, et hange ei satuks ega jääl ei libiseks. Osa daame ja härrasid hõljus juba ka akende taga valgussäras. Hiljem sai ta teada, et üks partei pidas „Estonias“ jõulupidu, aga tol hetkel tundus talle, et ülejäänud linn on teatri kõrval kummaliselt hämar. Nagu põgeneks osa inimesi pimeneva maailma eest teatrisse varjule. Korraga tekkis mulje, et külm ja tormine meri algas kohe teatri tagant. Ei mingit vanalinna ega Toompead, paljas meri, rahutu, peaaegu jäine. Kohe ragiseb asfalt, murenevad laineliste servadega sillutisekivid ning teater hakkab linnast eemale triivima, nähtamatud hoovused võtavad kaasa kõik need frakkides ja tualettides inimesed, aga nemad ei pane tähelegi, et üksikud tuled akende taga on asendunud kõikuva pimedusega. Inimesed libisevad parketil, laev libiseb veepinnal. Lugu lõppes sellega, et takso tuli ja „Estonia“ seisis oma kohal edasi. Või pigem tagasi.

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