Virkkoi uudenvuoden vaaka

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Uudenvuoden vaaka virkkoi,
jousi nytkyen narisi:

“Mitäs astut mittaamahan
minkä tiedät jo todeksi.
Syksyn lienet syönyt, maannut,
tummin ilmoin istuskellut,
kävellyt vain kauppareissut,
kukkuroillaan kangaskassit
croissantteja, kakkusia,
sullottu on suuhun kaikki.”

Vaa’an väitteen vahvistivat
pitsapötsi peilissäni,
valos’ vessan mallasmassu,
viinervatsa valtavaksi
metrin nyörillä mitattu.

Kuunnellessa kurjan kotvan
kakkukaipuun kertomusta
suen lailla suivaannuinkin,
pätsiin pötsini manasin:

“Talipallo helvettihin,
pyöryläinen pai’an alta.
Rasvarenkaan poies paskon,
pullanjäänteet punnistelen.”

Vajonnut ei silti vatsa,
vaikka vettä kittailinkin,
virtsasin kuin villivarsa,
urosnorsuna ulostin,
pierut pönttöhön pöräytin.
Niinpä täytyi työtä tehdä,
kolistella keittiössä
kasvisruokaa kattiloihin,
pannassa pöperöpastat.
Leivät laskin, hylkäsinkin
hyllylle mehut makiat,
hitaat säästin hiilareista,
öljyistä vain ylhäisimmät.
Väistynyt ei viekas vatsa,
kiusallaankaan karkottunut.

Viikot vyöryin halki talven,
viinereittä viihdyin vallan,
sokereitta suunnistelin.
Kevään katsoin, kunnes kuljin
annoksilla pienen allin,
sopalla siron sopulin.

Aamulla ain kutkuttelin
kahvilla kitaa kivistä,
sumusilmin sinnittelin
nälän näyttelyn ohitse.

Kesää kohti polkusetkin
alavilla aukesivat,
mehtä lauloi, liikkui jalka,
asusti saloilla askel.
Vihdoin vehreys voitti talven,
viita villinä visersi.
Laaksoihin jäi paksu pallo,
yltä kanteleen katosi.

Vaan kun saapuu hyinen syksy,
iltaan hiipii hieno aatos:
kenties voisin viinereitä
ihan yksin kahvin kanssa
natustella, maiskutella,
kun ei kutsu metsä musta.
Jospa kakkukahvit keitän,
pullaa pikkuisen pupellan.

Varmasti nyt viisaampana
voita leivälle levitän.
Silti kuuluu jostain kiukku,
vaatehuoneesta valitus.
Viruu vaaka varjos vöiden
yksin soukkaa seuraa vailla.
Jospa joulun jälkeen jousta
jaloin jumpatuin jututan,
taikka himpun hämmästyen
alan askeleet alusta.

Muutama poikkeama tekstin ja videon välillä johtuu siitä, että korjasin tekstistä vielä joitakin mittavirheitä, kun esim. sana alkoi pitkällä tavulla runopolven laskussa. Tämä taisi olla ensimmäinen kirjoittamani kalevalamittainen runo, joten silloin mittaan lipsahti helpommin vääränmittaisia tavuja kuin nykyään.

Debbie Reynolds – Tammy

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Written for the romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor and sung by its heroine, Tammy captures that moment of sweet melancholy when a relationship is still out of reach, but seems entirely possibly based on the strength of emotion alone.

There are many songs with a woman’s name in the title, but this is the only one I know in which she is singing about herself in third person. Or is she? Her emotion is so overwhelming that it seems like the whole world is singing it. The cottonwoods, the hootie owl, the whippoorwill, the breeze, everything in existence knows that Tammy’s in love… except the man himself. Yet it is the projection of her own dreams, the passion that makes her heart beat so loudly that surely he must hear. Dare she even dream that he might reciprocate her feelings?

Debbie Reynolds who acted the lead role sings the tune sweetly, balancing well the joy of infatuation and the sadness of uncertainty, while the moody violin emphasizes the latter. This song actually has a connection to Sixteen Reasons by Connie Stevens: both singers were actresses who married Eddie Fisher, himself known for romantic songs, though I haven’t heard a song of his that would be as touching as these two. Reynolds and Fisher also had a child who became famous, Carrie Fisher.

Perhaps it is so touching because the song is so tender while love is so powerful that it encompasses everything. In loving him, Tammy is a part of everything. And seen from another perspective, when you are loved by just one person, the whole world seems a bit kinder, and in some ways it is. Perception is changed by loving someone as well as being loved, and never does it feel more complete than when there’s a degree of mutuality, even if just for a moment. Having that experience transforms a person forever. Even if years of solitude would follow, it offers us a glimpse of what is possible, what is the meaning of beauty, what can appear as a purpose emerging from the doubt and ignorance. The night is warm, anything is possible, and this relationship must become real. It is the dream that if we love someone strongly enough, surely we will be loved back. The real world teaches that it isn’t so, but for a moment in romance it seems possible: love alone is enough.

There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, “She is near, she is near;”
And the white rose weeps, “She is late;”
The larkspur listens, “I hear, I hear;”
And the lily whispers, “I wait.”

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead,
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.

From Maud by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Luulin ymmärtäväni hiljaisuutta

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Luulin ymmärtäväni hiljaisuutta,
kun en enää selittänyt itseäni,
mutta olinkin vain kuullut viimein
sisimpäni olevan sanaton.
Hiljaisuus on yhä mysteeri,
koska en osaa erottaa sitä
omasta tyhjyydestäni.
Tyynenä tai täynnä melskettä,
soinko maailman värejä,
kuulenko vain itseni?
Hiljaa kulkee planeetta radallaan,
hiljaa herää rakastettuni käsi kyljelläni,
ilmakehä äänissään haikea,
vartalo sateista raukea.

He was only sitting

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He was only sitting in the park minding his own business when it happened. Everyone had told him not to feed the pigeons because they will get too bold and besides they might carry diseases. Now this was his punishment, although no one thought it was fair. Love started gushing out of him like from an open wound, this would surely leave a scar.

A young woman screamed and people scrambled to get away from him. Give him space to breathe! People were not sure whom to call but surely there must be an authority to take care of these cases.

He smiled stupidly, hardly even knowing what was going on. All these panicking people were so beautiful he wanted to laugh. For a while it looked like he had recovered from this malady but it turned out that – instead of continuously streaming out – his love formed big bubbles that were only faintly red, people could hardly see them.

Two best friends got caught in one, an elderly couple, even children were trapped and like soap bubbles they floated high, rising above the earth and crossing the seas. Some of them disappeared behind the sun. When the whole town was covered in another bubble nobody noticed anything special anymore but there were more birds singing.

He looked exhausted, not so much from the disease but from people’s efforts to contain it. When he moved his feet on the gravel it sounded like music, he found the grass and the hedges fascinating. People shook their heads but accepted his condition as he was merely eccentric, not dangerous.

One day a stranger came into town, a woman who had followed the glow on the horizon. When she smiled he knew she could lead him to the land of light. They walked out of town, into the woods, and with her desire she healed him.

People started missing his presence, he might not have been much but it was sad to lose the village idiot. But in the autumn he came back, looking satisfied but wistful. Now he sits on the bench once more, looking up at the sky as though waiting for something. Everything seems normal again, perhaps he looks a bit sad. But most people don’t notice him anymore anyway.

Comment: these early stories were written almost 11 years ago, this one on 21/02/11. In many cases I’m not sure whether I like them anymore. This story has more than a hint of irony in it, which makes me wonder now how to read it. It’s possible to see it as a reflection on how the presence of love doesn’t mean it’s reciprocated or even understood, and how it may bring more light into the world even while nobody appreciates it. But I think the story works better if you think of it as a broader allegory on religious figures and how their messages are received, whether truthful or not. Generally I like ambiguity and letting readers decide how to see the characters and their meanings, but looking back on this story now I wonder whether I should have directed the reader a bit more towards an allegorical interpretation.

Johnny Mathis – My Funny Valentine

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My Funny Valentine has always disturbed me. The sweet melody of this jazz standard is such a big contrast to the lyrics which are a confession of love, yet profess an absolutely judgmental attitude, even controlling. Yet the lyrics are ambiguous enough so that each singer can change the meaning slightly with lyrical variation and vocal interpretation, which must be one reason why the song has been recorded many times.

Most versions I’ve heard have been sung by men, and most omit the first verse, which Johnny Mathis chose to include with one small change. The song was composed by Richard Rogers, with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, for the musical Babes in Arms, first performed in 1937. It was written for a female character to sing, and the “Valentine” of the title is actually the name of the male protagonist. The belittling of the object of love is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 (My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun). The sonnet is a parody of 16th century clichés in love poems, how the mistress is compared to beautiful objects in nature. Shakespeare claims that even though his mistress is not pleasant to look at, hear, or even smell, he still loves her. It is an unpleasant statement even while it takes the form of a love confession, much like some other Shakespeare sonnets considered romantic, but which are mainly about the poet’s own greatness in writing love confessions, for example, sonnet 18 (Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?).

So, there is a long history of such love confessions in literature: your looks are laughable, and you aren’t smart, but I love you anyway. The attitude feels like the speaker is above the one who is supposedly loved. Moreover, this song has another romantic cliché that undermines the sincerity of feeling: the plead for the lover not to change at all. What kind of love is so weak that it must tout its own strength by insinuating it does not want change, even in negative qualities, altering when it alteration finds?

The first verse is actually significant in softening the statement. The melody sounds like an English folk song, and use of “thou” gives the song a hint of irony, as if it was also a parody. The Mathis version softens it even more. The last lines in the original verse are:

Thou noble upright truthful sincere,
And slightly dopey gent

But Mathis sings “I’m your noble, upright…”. It makes the singer appear more self-conscious, proud and arrogant, yet admitting it, but also admitting being slightly dopey.

Further, the meaning can be also reversed. I’ve read that Lorenz Hart was possibly writing about his own insecurity, and it is certainly possible. After all, it is more common to disparage oneself in such a way than other people. The lyrics may be an expression of a wish: I see myself this way, unattractive and unlovable, but I am hoping someone could love me as I am anyway. It does sound more sincere that way, and it is striking how the ruthlessness of such self-denigrating thoughts is revealed when sung to another person.

The most famous version of the song is probably the one by Chet Baker. He sings softly, with a pretty voice that has a similar velvet tone as that of Mathis. But the feelings is very different. Despite its softness the delivery is somewhat deadpan; the tone stays the same throughout the song. The more softly he sings, the more disturbing the lyrical content becomes when every hint of irony is stripped from it, creating a mood in which the singer sounds like he’s absolutely believing in himself as a great lover even while putting down the object of his love.

In contrast, the Mathis version has a lot more emotional variation and the range of vocal techniques used reveals it more as a performed gesture. And strangely enough, that makes it sound more sincere, as if all the variation and performance aspects made it clear that the singer is actually vulnerable, having to hide behind the mask of performance. That is one of the fascinating aspects of performance: the more we try to perform technically perfectly, the more we are revealing vulnerability behind it all. And the performance that actually sounds vulnerable may be just as much for show. It is not always easy to determine who is being more sincere: those who most bravely appear to confess their love may only be brave not out of strength of feeling, but because of indifference. And they who have the least to lose when rejected can sound very convincing, turning a confession into a performance without shyness.

Lapsen muututtua tomuksi

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Lapsen muututtua tomuksi
maa pölähtää jokaisella askeleella,
hieta laulaa hyvin hiljaa,
tuulen ääni on hennompi,
kuin se iloitsisi oksistossa,
aivan huomaamatta
vie kivelle pudonneet pisarat,
kalvas valo leviää kaikkialle,
valo, ja ihminen, ja valo.

Istun itseni varjossa

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Istun itseni varjossa,
kysyn: kuka peittää kuun?
Näen vain valoa, joka näyttää pimeydeltä;
yö sekoittaa aistini kuin rakastajan hengitys.
Nousen, kävelen kohti sinua, en saavuta;
yritämme tanssia siten,
ettemme olisi toistemme varjossa.
Huuhkaja nauraa, hiljainen huilu,
ihmisyys on koomista.
Vaikka olet sylissäni,
kutsun sinua yhä.

The morning sun

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The morning sun laid its head on her chest, which made her look like she was made of gold, only more precious. Light never disturbs our sleep except when it is so bright that it awakens the desire to exist more fully, to burn like a star. But we were young then and more often awakened by lust than the desire to keep on living. Maybe it was just a craving of the flesh but it felt like enlightenment.

I was in love and the whole world was present in us, everything was made of joy as though the universe was a fluid made of feelings. Her skin was an empty sheet of paper on which I could write my invisible love. Why does it have to be invisible? Perhaps so that we would not know that the paper is never empty.

My fingers drew paths on her stomach but left no traces. Just when I was thinking of tiny strawberries swimming in milk she sighed something and I lifted my head from her breast. It is enough of a miracle that we are breathing, which made this moment sacred. She is the altar on which I worship our existence.

From the window we could see the beach and the ocean kissing the sands without tiring. The sea is more patient than we could ever be, but she is more beautiful. I wanted the sea to stay outside but it kept coming out of our pores and I would keep swimming in her currents, breathing in the scent of her sweat, the scent of eternity.

The morning made us both glimmer but I was not sure whether the light came from within us or from the sun. It surely felt like we had turned into two stars orbiting each other. The space was gone now, the world had never been this empty, or this full. But time still existed, the movements of her legs were showing the way to the future. Will death be waiting for us there? Do not worry, it will.

She smiled and touched my chin gently. We had only now been born.