A Book of Rooms
Read seven prose poems from Huoneiden kirja ('A Book of Rooms', Otava, 2003). Translated by Herbert Lomas.

1 The Storeroom Man
' The storeroom where the man who last renovated the house lived,' by Saila Susiluoto. Translated by Herbert Lomas.

The man made a chair in his own image, with four limbs, able to bear, for centuries, a weight greater than his own. He drank a glass of lazy summer's sweat, built a house in a week, and that lasted for centuries too. When he couldn't bring a woman a flower he brought the picture of a flower. When he couldn't bring her himself he brought another picture where water delivered open sea, the sun its sunny mood. He said: brightness is a mutual agreement. And when he walked, the sun glowed on his thighs, his calves said: we're getting strong so you can walk, not faster than before, but still further.

2. Greek Tiles
'The bathroom's Greek tiles', by Saila Susiluoto. Translated by Herbert Lomas.

My daughter scatters bubbles in the air, she says: the dolphins save a singer who sings each song as if it were her last, from sheer joy, from happiness, from sheer love of the last songs. I sail along the bath's enamelled water, my song's a flute, a brilliant xylophone. When I sing, out of the foam a castle forms, a wall, meandering corridors, my voice echoes along them. I sing to the one born from the foam with seashells at her ears, and to the one who remains unborn. I have a permeable foam-castle, I'm a poor empress, the universe's woman, dear to the gods.

3. The Nursery
by Saila Susiluoto. Translated by Herbert Lomas.

It's raining in the nursery, and everything can be imagined: the skidding of the cars, the wet market-stall roofs, the rustle of the raincoats. A child jumps in a puddle, his boot soaks up water. Now it doesn't creak any more, and, since it's got a hole in it, the child too understands now what's going on when a tub doesn't hold water, leaving nothing inside, when a dish doesn't fill, when a boat leaks or a person does, when you have to keep bailing in so as not to become empty, and not to drown in what you're trying to hold in. But the boot wanted no water from the start, and the child's foot didn't want the boot, this the child knows, now at last the child knows everything, everything that can be known.

4. Glass painting
by Saila Susiluoto. Translated by Herbert Lomas.

In the garden two heads are growing for the birds. The lily-corollas rise high, they crane towards the sun, split wide, deeply orange, like monks' flapping robes, they slash gashes in the sun. Two lily-blossoms grow from each stem, and each stem divides, with another growing out at each juncture, as in a grafting on an apple tree, or in a hopeful human being. A shoot is squeezed into the wound, it grows into that lacerated earth, into that woman, at the new moon, when the moon's a shining, steely sliver of bone, when your step's weak, with a ravine below, when the silver cars crash into blood-red and milk-white ones, when the rivers double their forks, the sphinx frees itself into animal and human, a human into man and woman, a woman into adult and child, a child into good and bad. About good and bad let's not speak. Everyone finally takes on the form of tears, their jewels, what remains of a person, in the rain. It's the universal mould, the closing tone.

5. Pisces
'The room under the sign of Pisces', by Saila Susiluoto. Translated by Herbert Lomas.

A girl sits by an aquarium, motionless, for a year or two. Her heart glides slowly inside her like the moon, slowly as the moon it glides along the blood's calm current. Then the fish swim to look at her with flashing skin. She sees their shapes, their scales, the texture of their fluttering fins. She sees their mandibles flowing with amber, their robes that are bodies, their eargills that scent out the green salt of the billows. She sees the seven wonders of the sea, finally the eyes they eat with. A fish glides from the silence of the water, looks out from the glass, and shouts: you'll be getting hungry, you'll catch a fish, question and answer, between them the endless echo!

6. Labyrinth
by Saila Susiluoto. Translated by Herbert Lomas.

Trees rise from the water towards a matt black sky. Their wet trunks seep water and the smell of bark, their roots take their rest in the shimmer of the water. In the shimmer of the water glisten mosses, forget-me-nots, sunny waves from fields of rape. The houses rise from the water like tall grey teeth, black streamers fluttering in their windows, we lose our way in the labyrinth, each one. And what's ignited when we fumble into each other in the dark, it's not a filament but a light.

7. Window Under Water
'A window partly under water', by Saila Susiluoto. Translated by Herbert Lomas.

If beauty only exists between birth and breakdown, the power to blossom only on loan from these, memory's truer than fact. If truth is beauty, beauty truth. It's true, water has walked on me, artfully as a conjurer. Sorrow's walked through me in the shape of people. Now a boat's tossing from the ceiling of the highest room, and we're tossing on thin threads. With our griefs, our throughways, it's a way, not from head to foot, but through heads. With no delay where form becomes truth, if truth only exists between birth and breakdown.

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