POETRY: Juhan Viiding

Poems
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(c) Jüri J Dubov
Translated by Jüri Talvet and Harvey Hix

Everyone is alone, poets say.
Still there’s a small difference.
I have tried to see that difference;
to make it bigger and also smaller.
In winter in Estonia there is seldom hail.
Pure pain cannot be reduced.

(1975)

I HAVE BEEN TOLD

Make verses: it is no concern of yours
how the machine lubricates its bolt,
how the machine finds its nut.
Is the human being your only interest
And liberty the only flame that burns?

Other things are more important: delicate
lampshades and jack-o’-lanterns, hearth, doorbell.
Is that weakmindedness, the life you study
really worth burdening the heart?

When the newspaper appears, you will know who you were,
try to withstand some twenty winters more.
Try to withstand some twenty years more!
When the newspaper appear, you will read who you were.

Try to withstand some twenty winters more
without letting the soul’s scraps be deadened.
And when for the last time you have risen,
not to worry, we will have forgotten
your only, your lifelong prayer.

(1978)

JÜRI’S YARN

Our surface is commercial,
o u r is a quite conventional word
that y o u , respectable, will not read,
and if you do you will soon guess,
guess it doesn’t concern you at all.

Commercial is our surface,
liberal-minded our interior,
and the universal standard is envy’s measure,
k n o w n by the other living cadaver

and here in Eurasia’s narrow corridor
that for some reason lacks circulation
a symbol has been laid, not a carpet,
a symbol cut, not a carnation,
a symbol smoked, not a pipe,
a symbol turned, not an instrument,
and a violin sounds, not music.

You can speak of what lowers the soul,
announce other thoughts, those
that destroy habit’s circle,
those that you yourself compose.

And anything sought in your yarn
will be what it does not contain.
Oh heaven, do not let be shattered
all you hold holy. What is inside.

(1978)

And all that. The limits of tolerance
differ from person to person.
What’s the matter with you? Even beautiful souls
have asked that, looking at me strangely.
And shaken their heads as if with pity.
I know no other limits than the horizon.
It’s not wide, it’s widening.
That movement eases my mind
and the nerve-knot in my neck, on the left.
A mute hope of life, an eternal spell.
There are no words, but there is something.

(1998)
[1980]







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