Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Finnish poet, Lassi Nummi, died a year ago. His beautiful love poem 'When one of us is gone' is tender, serious and witty.

When One Of Us Is Gone 
(from the Finnish of Lassi Nummi)

When one of us is gone
and the other is grieving
and the dim dawn brings only the watery snuffle
          of a winter’s day
oozing darkness and gloom from early morning
– maybe, maybe we could try
to whisper very quietly
and exchange news
through that curtain, as people call it?
If there is such a thing. And if there is anything behind it.
We’d talk of everyday matters as we do now
when one of us is in the country
or in another town –
someone has written to the newspaper, someone has had a baby,
got divorced, got married, has died,
talked nonsense. That flower we got last Christmas
has begun to behave strangely. The place needs cleaning
but it’s hard to get round to it. And how are the boys?
I don’t know what the other would say – won’t try to imagine.
A question or just a grunt would be enough
as when one of us is half asleep and says
is that so? – really? – keep talking – yes I’m listening,
          I’m just resting my eyes for a bit ...
(Then usually you fall asleep
          no later than mid-way through the next sentence.)
– No doubt it would be against the rules. But if we were
and if we whispered quietly so no one could hear us
– perhaps it wouldn’t disturb anyone, over there or on this side,
in these small rooms and those great mansions?
The rain, too, breathes softly as it strokes the earth.
The wind is barely moaning. The branches and curtains are rustling,
the darkness seeps from branch to branch.
The rain in the gutters
is starting to keep up a steady murmur
and surely between all these sounds
our two voices
could slip through, our hushed whisperings.

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