Foreword

Routine comes from the French term route — road. Tangled paths, a network of streets, crossed lines, connected dots. The term routine might evoque all these images. These days in particular, routine brings to mind daily habits, recurrent actions and, for better or for worse, monotony. Therefore, a time of repetition. Does repetition convey a sense of safety? Does sticking to a routine help in uncertain times? These questions inspired the choice of routine for our fifth issue of Purple Ink.

We investigate this theme through nine poems that allow diverse perspectives. Eritrean writer Ribka Sibhatu, for example, guides us to a new land, a “foreign land” where one does not feel at home, and only the presence of the moon, “Grandmother Moon,” that routinely appears is reassuring.

The weekend poem by Maria Stepanova shares its serene and peaceful flow of uneventfulness, hailing the thoughtlessness of the resting body. However, the Sunday mood awakens the consciousness reminding it of the body’s finitude and brevity of life. The Sunday stanzas, although rendering the same morning images, highlight the poet’s resistance to the tension of the upcoming weekdays and epitomizes the significance of personhood and individual freedom. In the pandemic, the poem sounds nostalgic yet resonating with the contemporary fear of devaluation of the uniqueness of human life.

Both Camila Melo Parra’s “Castle’s of Ash” and Andrea Cote’s “In the Clorox War” look at routine’s power to drive compulsion, fascination and obsession as forces of distraction, focus and desire. Particularly throughout the past several months, as many of us find ourselves confined to the home, passing the time has become a great concern as well as confronting loneliness and solitude. As Cote focusses on acts of cleaning as part of daily routine, she speaks to humanity’s tendency to rely on repetition in times of boredom and even fear as a coping mechanism. Melo Parra, like Zoila Forrs in “I Discover You,” employs similar themes of yearning in her depiction of the search for a love lost, whereby search, just as cleaning, channels our focus into a productive force of routine in moments of solitude.

In a similar vein, Mostafa Ibrahim’s poem, “A Feature Film” along with Ahmed Mohsen’s untitled piece look at time as a fundamental aspect of routine. Echoing Cote’s concern with how to pass time and fill one’s day in an era of monotony, Ibrahim discusses how repetition pushes time into cyclic motions, making past, present and future one and the same, later underscored by Mohsen who offers time as the most fundamental manifestation of routine itself.

Leena Kellosalo tackles the potential pitfalls of time as routine in her pair of poems through a rumination on predestination. Ultimately, she encourages engagement as a means of spiritual and bodily awakening in order to challenge the original sin’s deterministic view of humanity. By emphasizing the importance of choice as a pillar of life, she frames routine as both influence on and influenced by the human condition.

Ibrahim, Mohsen and Kellosalo’s poems are accompanied by a mediating translation from their original languages into Spanish, then from Spanish into English. Because the English translations were composed with the Spanish as referent, we felt it important to lay bare the multilayered process of translation throughout which multiple refractions of the same piece are produced. In doing so, we hope not only to underscore the importance of collaboration inherent in the works, but also to engage a larger audience through a multilingual approach that de-emphasizes English as the singular target language or lingua franca of readership.

Colombia (I)

Andrea Cote
Revista Altazor, 2020

En la guerra del Clorox

Creo que hay dos mundos.
En uno de ellos yo lo limpio todo,
todo el tiempo.
En ese mundo tengo laboriosas rutinas
para purgar el día y sus objetos.
Hablo del polvo -en parte-
la capa que todo lo desborda.
Pero voy más allá del polvo.
Me arrodillo ante las cosas, sea carne, madera,
metal o plástico, todo lo recorro,
lo exprimo, lo enjabono, lo desaguo.
Descubro porosidades hasta en lo más llano y las extraigo.
En esto, siento como los músculos de mi cuerpo se tensionan
cuando bajo hasta una superficie y raspo.
Mis extremidades se llenan
de un líquido negro imaginario
que lleva el nombre de un cierto placer que desconozco.
Yo tengo el control.
Esa sensación entre dedos y muslos
es mi gran posesión inesperada
cada vez que, con mi esponja milenaria,
como un gigante enfurecido raspo,
hasta el resquicio de todo
y lo aliviano, lo desgajo y lo azoto
hasta arrancarle el borde puro,
hurgo una a una entre las cosas
y les saco la muerte que cargan.

Pero en las noches, viajo al otro mundo,
con las manos exhaustas,
descamando por debajo de las uñas
mi piel desprovista de toda superficie,
las manos sin animal
sin el brillo de lo vivo
sin la costra de lo muerto.
En mi sueño intoxicado
por vapores desinfectantes
en la ruta corrosiva de lo limpio,
sueño con las tardes inmundas en que yo era libre.
El tedio, la caída ociosa de una gota sucia,
cuando nadábamos la poceta antihigiénica del otro
y nosotros, los inmundos, comiéndonos las uñas en público,
-tan solo por creerlo- fuimos invencibles.

Cote, Andrea. “En la guerra del Clorox.” Revista Altazor. July 2020.
http://www.revistaaltazor.cl/andrea-cote-3/. Accessed 31 August 2020.


In the Clorox War

I believe there are two worlds.
In one of them I clean everything,
all the time.
In that world I have arduous routines
for clearing out the day and its objects.
I’m talking about dust, in part,
the layer that is brimming over everything.
But I go way beyond dust.
I kneel before all things, be it flesh, wood,
metal or plastic, I go over everything,
I wring out, I lather up, I drain,
I discover little holes even in the smoothest surfaces and I clear them out.
With this, I feel like the muscles in my body grow tense
when I get down to the surface and scrape it.
My extremities fill up
with an imaginary black liquid
that carries the name of a certain pleasure that I do not know.
I have control.
That sensation between my fingers and thighs
is my great unexpected possession
every time that, with my millennial sponge,
I scrape like an enraged giant,
to the remnants of everything
and I smooth it over, I break it off, I pound it
until the pure edge is pulled up,
I rummage through things one by one
and I take out the death they carry.

But at night, I travel to another world,
with worn-out hands,
peeling off from under my fingernails
my skin devoid of everything,
hands without animal
without the sparkle of the living
with the scabs of the dead.
In my dream intoxicated
by disinfectant vapors
in the corrosive route of cleanliness,
I dream of the filthy afternoons in which I was free.
The boredom, the leisurely fall of a dirty droplet,
when we swam the unhygienic tide-pool of the other world
and we, the filthy, biting our fingernails in public,
-so alone for believing so- were invincible.


Andrea Cote (1981-) is a Colombian author from Barrancabermeja who has published several collections of poetry including Puerto calcinado (2003), Cosas frágiles (2010), La ruina que nombro (2015) and En las praderas del fin del mundo (2019). Additionally, she has published two works of prose, Una fotógrafa al desnudo: biografía de Tina Modotti (2005) and Blanca Varela o la escritura de la soledad (2004). She currently teaches creative writing in the Bilingual Master’s Program at University of Texas, El Paso and has translated poets Jericho Brown and Tracey K. Smith into Spanish. She has received accolades including the National Prize of Poetry from the Universidad Externado of Colombia in 2003, the Puentes de Struga International Poetry Prize in 2005 and the Cittá de Castrovillari Prize in 2010. Her works have been translated into several languages including English, French, German, Catalan, Italian, Portuguese, Macedonian, Arabic, Polish and Greek. 

Cote’s unedited poem was published this summer in Revista Altazor, a Spanish language electronic journal of literature. The poem, which comes during a time of lockdowns, quarantines and shelter-in-place orders, highlights the all too common human tendency toward obsession in moments of heightened stress, boredom or confinement. As the poetic voice underscores, routine acts of cleaning are a paradoxical endeavor. While they channel our attention, and even our most neurotic tendencies, acts of cleaning can be laborious, painstaking and physically draining. In captivating our attention to detail, cleaning can lead us down a spiral that is both productive and destructive. Cote’s poem, thus, speaks to a collective desire for catharsis, no doubt heightened in our current circumstances as we strive to stay safe and healthy, but also busy.

Translated and prepared by Mai Hunt

Colombia (II)

Camila Melo Parra
Unpublished, 2020

Castillos de ceniza

A sus ojos de noche

Navego como una escafandrista buscando en cada superficie memorias que te nombren.
Visito tu cuerpo para que me delate sus más íntimos apetitos.
Lo acojo en mis manos que figuran caricias y  que fraguan combates:
Tu cuerpo versus mi cuerpo.
De allí nadie saldría vivo porque ese canibalismo tan nuestro, tan insaciable, tan bestial y tan feroz, difícilmente se atrevería a bajar la guardia del placer.
Evoco tu voz y en ella los poemas, las canciones, los clichés.
Visito las cartas donde nos desnudamos de todos los juicios
y le hicimos el quite a la rutina, siendo su hospedaje de paso.
Me quedo allí, haciendo castillos de ceniza para celebrar un amor de fuego.


Castles of Ash

To his eyes of night

I sail like a deep-sea diver looking on each surface for memories that name you.
I visit your body so that it tattles on its most intimate desires to me.
I harbor it in my hands, which shape caresses and forge battles:
Your body against my body.
From there no one would come out alive because that cannibalism, so ours, so insatiable, so brutal and so fierce, would hardly dare to lower pleasure’s guard.
I invoke your voice and, with it, the poems, the songs, the clichés.
I visit the letters where we stripped ourselves of all judgments 
and sidestepped routine, being its transient shelter.
I stay there, building castles of ash to celebrate a love of fire.


Camila Melo Parra is a Colombian poet, who also holds with a degree in Communications and Cultural Project Management. Her work has been part of anthologies like Desnudez roja, published by Clio Artesanal; Como si correr sirviera para escribir. Antología de ficciones sobre correr y tiempo, published by Editorial Otra Parte; and 100 mujeres poetas, published by Nueve Editores. Melo was invited to participate in the Mexical festival “Más allá de las fronteras,” in 2016, and she was part of the multidisciplinary collective exhibition “Apuntes del cuerpo humano” in 2019, also in Mexico. She currently works in the publishing industry and collaborates in print media, where she shares her experience and thoughts about books or her love of art. Since 2009 she writes on her blog “La utopía de Mariana.” Co-founder of Revista Transeúnte, Camila Melo has worked for the cultural section of El Espectador, one of Colombia’s most well-known newspapers, as well as other cultural media in the country.

Melo Parra’s “Castles of Ash” tackles the compulsive, consuming and fierce nature of love and desire. The search for a love lost takes the narrative voice on a deep dive. Just as the memory of love penetrates deep into the body and soul, so much the search to conjure the spirit-like memory of its origin. Cannibalistic in nature, the search strips the poetic voice to its bare bones, making desire and yearning both the disruption of daily routine and the formation of a new routine.

Translation prepared by Kevin Ennis

Egypt (I)

Mostafa Ibrahim
Unpublished, 2020

فيلم طويل

الناس اللي أيامها بتشبه بعضها 
وحياتها حاجة بين المسلسل المتعاد
والكوميديا الفارص ..
مزيج بين الأمل و الصبر
حاجة ما بين السواقة 
و بين ركوب القطر
بين المعافرة و التسليم
خلطة مابين آمال بكرة 
علي أماني عودة إمبارح
علي محاولات إنك تعدي من النهاردة سليم
حاجة بتخليهم يقوموا كل يوم الصبح
يقاوحوا في الدنيا لمدة يوم كمان
ويقولوا يمكن
النهارده..
الدنيا تلمحنا
الناس دي هم احنا
في فيلم طويل 
..أبطاله كلهم كومبارس


Un largometraje

La gente que tiene los días parecidos
Y su vida es algo
entre una serie repetida y una comedia de farsa,
una mezcla entre la esperanza y la paciencia,
algo entre manejar y tomar el tren,
entre la resistencia y la rendición,
una combinación entre las esperanzas del mañana,
los deseos de que vuelva el ayer,
y unos intentos para salir sanos del hoy,
algo que los levanta cada mañana
para luchar contra la vida un día más,
y decir: tal vez hoy
la vida nos viera.
Esa gente somos nosotros
en un largometraje.
Todos sus protagonistas
son extras.


A Feature Film

People whose days are similar
and whose life is something
halfway between a rerun and a farcical comedy;
a mix between hope and patience.
Something halfway between driving and catching the train;
between endurance and submission,
a combination of tomorrow’s hope,
the desire to bring yesterday back,
and the attempt to go safely through today.
Something that wakes them every morning
to confront life one more day,
and say: perhaps today
life could notice us.
Those people are us
in a feature film.
Every protagonist
is an extra.


Mostafa Ibrahim’s poem, “A Feature Film” offers routine as a synonym for cyclic repetition. As days replicate themselves in predictable fashions, those who protagonize them find themselves caught somewhere in between both future and past, yet not quite in a tangible present. While there is movement forward, the cyclic nature of daily routines calls into question a perceived sense of progress, making hope and patience one and the same. As days go by, spinning like film reels on projection, self-reflection, awareness and engagement become the vital signs of life.

Spanish translation prepared by Ahmad Mohsen
English translation prepared by Mai Hunt and Nicolás Barbosa López; edited by Aicha Yass

Egypt (II)

Ahmad Mohsen
Unpublished, 2020

حياة صغيرة

كلٌّ في مكانه
بما في يديه
لا وقت لحزم الأمتعة
لا أمتعة
يجرف البحر الذكريات
يتسرب أصدقاء الماضي البعيدون
من بين الأصابع
تتلاشى الكلمات يومًا بعد يوم
تغيب عجلات السيارات عن رمال الشاطئ
تمتلئ الضفة بجذوع الأشجار
التي حملتها الأمواج من بلاد بعيدة
يُلقي البحر حمله
كحامل حقائب متعب آخر اليوم
الغيوم تصطف يدًا بيدٍ كل مساء
يهرب جزء من جبهة الشمس مرة كل ثلاثة أيام
يصمت كل شيء
لم تعد الطيور إلى الشاطئ عند الغروب
جاءت آخر مرة أسرابًا بعضها وراء بعض
وارتمت في الماء
كمقاتلي الساموراي المنهزمين
لم أتعلّم لغة الأمواج قبل أن تُغلق المدارس
لكنّ الماء يومئ ألا فرق
يومًا بعد يوم
معًا… سنسكن إلى الأبد.


Cada uno en su lugar
con lo que tenga en las manos
No hay tiempo para empacar equipaje
No hay equipaje
El mar arrastra los recuerdos
Los amigos del pasado se escapan entre los dedos
Las palabras desvanecen día tras día
Las ruedas de los automóviles deshabitaron la arena de la playa
La orilla es una reunión de troncos en exilio
que las olas trajeron desde países lejanos
El mar lanza su carga
como un portador de maleta cansado al final de la jornada
Las nubes se alinean mano a mano todas las tardes
Un pedazo de la frente del sol se escapa cada tres días,
se asoma diciéndonos: todavía estoy vivo!
Todo se queda en silencio
Los pájaros no volvieron a la playa a los atardeceres
La última vez vinieron en manadas unas tras otras
Y se tiraron al agua, rendidos
No aprendí el idioma de las olas antes de que cerraran los colegios
Pero el agua me susurra que no importa
Día a día
Juntos… todos reposamos para siempre…


Each person in a spot of their own
with whatever they have in their hands
There is no time to pack any luggage
There is no luggage.
The sea drags memories,
Friends from the past slip through the fingers
Words fade day after day
The print of car wheels has disappeared in the sand
The shore gathers exiled trunks
that waves have brought from distant countries
The sea throws its load
like a tired luggage carrier by the end of the day
Clouds line up hand in hand every afternoon
A piece of the sun’s temple escapes every three days,
it leans out and tells us: I’m still alive!
Everything remains silent
The birds never returned to the beach at sunset
Last time they came in flocks one after the other
And threw themselves into the water, exhausted
I didn’t learn the language of waves before schools were shut
But the water whispers to me it doesn’t matter
Day by day
Together… we will all dwell forever…


Ahmed Mohsen’s piece offers an unexpected vision of routine: time. For many, the notion of routine conjures images of activities, tasks and even mentalities. Routines offer us structure, organization and purpose in our day-to-day lives. And yet, we often overlook the most routine aspect of our lives; the passage of time is the greatest force of unchanged routine. As travelers through time, we move, progress, change and grow whether or not we have the consciousness or foresight to prepare, or as Mohsen underscores, to pack our bags for the journey. Though the passage of time may feel insurmountable as we are unable to stop or even slow it, time offers us the powerful reminder of life. 

Spanish translation prepared by Ahmed Mohsen
English translation prepared by Mai Hunt and Nicolás Barbosa López; edited by Aicha Yass

Eritrea-Italy

Ribka Sibhatu
Aulò! Aulò! Aulò!, 2012

Nonna Luna

Come una volta,
nonna Luna arriva
dalla finestra carica
di storie e memorie.

Coraggio figliola,
non aver paura
ti farò compagnia
ovunque tu sia!

Nonna Luna racconta e canta
poesie che fanno sentire
a casa nella terra straniera.

Sibhatu, Ribka, Simone Brioni, Graziella Parati, and André Naffis-Sahely. Aulò! Aulò! Aulò!: Poesie Di Nostalgia, D’esilio E D’amore = Poems of Nostalgia, Exile and Love. Roma: Kimerafilm, 2012, p. 26


Grandmother Moon

Like once,
grandmother Moon joins me
through the window with a handful of
tales and memories.

Be strong my dear,
do not worry,
I will accompany you
wherever you are!

Grandmother Moon
recites and sings
poems that make me feel
at home in a foreign land.


The author of this poem, Ribka Sibhatu, was born in Asmara, Eritrea, in 1962. She was imprisoned because of her political ideas for one year in 1979 and then fled the country in 1980. After traveling first to Ethiopia and France, she later settled in Rome in 1996. This poem was originally written in Italian, a language deeply connected to Sibhatu’s past years spent in Asmara and her present. In most of Sibhatu’s works, there is a parallel text in Tigrinya that signifies a relationship that replicates Italy and Eritrea’s parallel and shared history. In fact, Eritrea was under Italian colonial rule for over sixty years, between 1882 and 1943. Moreover, in the 1970s, Eritreans were the largest immigrant group in Italy, a consequence of the influx of refugees who fled the Eritrean liberation war with Ethiopia.

“Grandmother Moon” is part of the collection of short poems titled Aulò,  a song – poem from Eritrea published in 1993 by Sinnos, Rome, with the introduction by Tullio De Mauro. In 2012, Simone Brioni, Ermanno Guida, and Graziano Chiscuzzu turned the poetry collection into a successful docu-film. The edition of the poem that I read and analyze here is from the booklet accompanying the film. Sibhatu’s life and the content of this poem allow opening a discussion about different crucial topics, from colonial legacies to decolonization processes, and issues related to citizenship, among others. I choose to focus on the image that the poem’s conclusive lines suggest, “feeling at home in a foreign land.” The poet finds in “Grandmother Moon,” a reassuring presence who talks to her, telling tales and poems. Home, therefore, seems to be for Sibhatu, a place of musicality. Grandmother Moon itself follows a repetitive rhythm, appearing routinely. It represents the ancestors, and it carries the memories of the family legacy.
Gender and Postcolonial Studies scholar Sandra Ponzanesi notes that Sibhatu’s poems can be further understood through the lens of Deleuze’s and Guattari’s idea of “The text becomes the echo of a whole set of preoccupations which are woven in the social fabric of the community” (Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. “What is a Minor literature,” Mississippi Review, vol. 11, no. 3, 1983, pp. 11-13 in Ponzanesi, Sandra. “Post-Colonial Women’s Writing in Italian: A Case Study of the Eritrean Ribka Sibhatu.” Northeast African Studies, vol. 5, no. 3, 1998, pp. 97–115).

Drawing on Deleuze’s and Guattari’s above-quoted understanding of a text as an “echo,” I find “Grandmother Moon” rich in images that can also be used to describe other human conditions of distress without dismissing the important differences. For example, I borrow from the last line of the poem to understand the kind of routine that some people might have experienced during the period of lockdown in the pandemic. The outside suddenly turned into an inaccessible and hostile “foreign land.” The entrance door marked the border between safety and uncertainty. Balconies allowed exceptional socialization. Like in Sibhatu’s poem, strong was the desire for reassuring voices and songs that could enter the windows carrying “a handful of tales and memories.” Going back to the cover of this issue of Purple Ink, one can imagine these sounds pervading the alleys.

Translated and prepared by Leonora Masini

Finland

Leena Kellosalo
“Leonardo sai siivet”, Ntamo, 2015

I.

Makaan mökin terassilla
kukkivat kuuset seuranani
Tässä valoa tulvivassa maisemassa
pureudun planetaariseen kirkkauteen
kun Raippaluodon kirkonkellot
voitelevat sunnuntaita

Aurinko putoaa rinnalle
polttaen hopeista omenariipusta
Irrotan Eevan viettelyksen kaulalta
ja pohdin synnin kihisevää olemusta
kiellettyä hedelmää
ja tuomiokellot kumisevat
Silmissä mustasiipinen välähdys:
alassyösty enkeli
kapina tuomio ja helvetintuska

Pullea paarma tekee yhdeksännen syöksyn
kohti kuumia pakaroitani
kymmenennellä pakenen saunaan
Katselen sopivaa tappoasetta
sandaalia
mutta kädet ovat täynnä pyhyyttä
neitseellistä messua ja aurinkoöljyä
mieli kanervissa lepattavan perhosen
maisemassa
Kunnioitan paarman henkeä
vaikka olen itse riistaa

Vartijani soutaa kumiveneellä
kivikkoista järveä
mustin airoin
ja taivas aukeaa kuin baldakiini


I.

Me echo en la terraza de la cabaña
los pinos reverdecen en mi compañía
En este paisaje inundado de luz
me sujeto al fulgor planetario
mientras las campanas de la iglesia de Raippaluoto
consagran los domingos

Cae el sol en el pecho
quema el plateado medallón de manzana
Retiro la seducción de Eva del cuello
y pienso en la ardiente existencia del pecado
la fruta prohibida
y las campanas del juicio final retumban
En los ojos un relámpago de alas oscuras:
ángel derrocado
rebelión juzgamiento e infernal angustia

El robusto tábano embiste por novena vez
hacia mis nalgas calientes
a la décima huyo a la sauna
Busco el arma perfecta
una sandalia
pero las manos están llenas de santidad
misas virginales y aceite para sol
la mente en la palpitante mariposa del brezo
en el paisaje
Respeto la vida del tábano
aunque la presa sea yo

Mi guardián va en la balsa de caucho
por el pedregoso lago
con remos negros
y el cielo se abre como un baldaquino


I.

I lie on the terrace of the cabin
in the company of flowering pines trees
in this landscape flooded with light
I hold on to the planetary brightness
while the church bells in Raippaluoto
consecrate Sundays

The sun falls on my chest
it burns the silver apple locket
I remove Eve’s seduction from my neck
thinking about the burning existence of sin
the forbidden fruit
and the doom bells toll
In my eyes a dark-winged flash of light:
overthrown angel
rebellion judgment and infernal anguish

The robust horsefly charges for the ninth time
towards my hot buttocks
on the tenth I run in the sauna
I am looking for the perfect weapon
a sandal
but my hands are full of holiness
virginal masses and oil for the sun
my mind in the landscape of a butterfly
fluttering among the heathers
I respect the horsefly’s life
although I am its prey

My guardian rows a rubber boat
through the stony lake
with black oars
and the sky opens up like a baldachin


II.

Kirkkaana elokuun iltana
balalaikka ja laulu
mutta siitä alkaakin jo toinen tarina
siirtyminen maailmasta toiseen

Oravan
puutarhurini
tulinen häntä autokatoksessa:
hauraitten luitten riipaiseva symmetria
jota ei enää ole
ja pimeys syttyy takaisin alkuun
Kirkkaana elokuun iltana
kun aika on maisema
sovitus on
ja kaikki kalliisti maksettava
ja peikonkulta hohtaa
sammalkiven juuressa
hiljainen mies sauvakävelee
pois maisemasta
joka on


II.

En una tarde iluminada de agosto
balalaica y serenata
pero esa ya es otra historia
el paso de un mundo a otro

La rojiza cola
de mi ardilla jardinera
sobre el techo del estacionamiento:
en sus frágiles huesos la desgarradora simetría
que ya no está
y la oscuridad se enciende de regreso al origen
En una tarde iluminada de agosto
cuando el tiempo es un paisaje
hay un acuerdo
y todo lo que debe pagarse caro
y el fuego fatuo resplandecen
en la raíz de la piedra musgosa
un hombre callado avanza con bastones
saliendo del paisaje
que hay


II.

On a bright August evening
balalaika and serenade
but that’s another story
the passage from one world to another

The fiery tail
of the squirrel gardener
in the carport:
heartbreaking symmetry of fragile bones
that is no longer here
and the darkness ignites back to the beginning
On a bright August evening
when time is a landscape
there is an agreement
and everything that must be paid dearly
and the foxfire glows
at the root of the mossy stone
a silent man is walking with ski poles
leaving the landscape
that exists


Leena Kellosalo is a Finnish writer and poet born in Tampere. Kellosalo is an actress, master of philosophy, literature critic, literary writing teacher, and an award-winning speaker and audiobook reader. She has read her poetry at various Finnish literary festivals and events. She has published two books of poetry: Leonardo sai siivet (tr. The Wings Appeared in Leonardo), Ntamo, 2015; and, Hevosenpääsumussa (tr. In the Horse’s Cloudy Head), Ntamo, 2018. Kellosalo was bestowed the 2018 Tampere City Literature Prize for her second book of poetry also in 2018.

Kellosalo’s first poem uses routine as an entryway into a discussion of religion and predestination. In her presentation of Eden and the original sin, Kellosalo compels readers to challenge the definition of routine as a force beyond human control by encouraging an awakening of the mind and body. While the tendencies toward temptation and desire that define human existence suggest that human nature itself is a manifestation of routine, Kellosalo underscores how choice offers a powerful counterbalance to this particular vision of routine. In her second poem, choice is presented as a key element of exploration and discovery, once again highlighting the importance of engagement. 

Spanish translation prepared by Zoila Forss
English translation prepared by Nicolás Barbosa López

Peru-Finland

Zoila Forss
Unpublished, 2020

Te descubro

Recurrente esfera dentro de otra
Una desde fuera
Ninguna desde dentro
Rodar es una elección
Romper su cielo otra
Recurrente es la corriente
y esférica

El cóncavo cielo de mi jardín
enrojece
Lo allano cada día
La convexa almendra de mi ser
oscurece
y se arropa

Desde que fue tu turno partir
oigo tu paso detrás de las nubes
Endurece la membrana
Mi cuerpo es un aerolito más
rondando el disco del sol
Tu señal lo traspasa todo

Has de tomar una pala
y yo un pico
El suelo del recuerdo se resiste
Impenetrable es la esfera
recurrente
El cascado cascarón
nos revela el mapa
que ha de unir nuestros pasos

Bajo la membrana de la luna trago aire
dejo iracundo al vacío
engullo tu promesa
vomito la mía
Caigo al oscuro agujero de esa blanca luz
Mi sangre dicta la exégesis de tu alma
No hay papel que lo aguante todo
murmura el árbol
Ni descubridor que no rompa un huevo
respondo


I Discover You

Recurring sphere within another
One from outside
None from inside
Rolling is a choice
Tearing its sky is another
The current is recurring
and spherical

The concave sky of my garden
reddens
I flatten it every day
The convex kernel of my being
darkens
and wraps itself up

Since it was your turn to leave
I hear your step behind the clouds
It hardens the membrane
My body is one more aerolite
circling the disk of the sun
Your signal runs through it all

You shall take a shovel
and I a pick
The ground of memory resists
The sphere is impenetrable
recurring
The broken-down shell
reveals to us the map
that shall unite our steps

Beneath the moon’s membrane I swallow air
I leave the void enraged
I guzzle your promise down
I vomit mine
I fall into the dark hole of that white light
My blood dictates your soul’s exegesis
There’s no paper that can bear it all
murmurs the tree
Nor discoverer that does not break an egg
I reply


Zoila Forss was born in Lima, Peru, in 1969, and started writing poetry from an early age. She has lived in Finland since 2000, where she has worked as a poet, Finnish-Spanish literary translator, teacher, and nursing assistant in Tuusula, a job that gave her the inspiration to write a series of poems dedicated to former patients. Her first collection of poems was published in a bilingual edition in 2014 by publishing house Colmena. Part of her series of poems, “Mi esencia“ has been published in Revontuli, a collection of poems that began in 1994. Her second book, Arpón sin culpa, was published in a trilingual edition by Rosetta Versos in 2018, in Finland. Imagery has frequently been part of her creative process, and in 2012 began experimenting with video-poetry. In 2020, Colombian publishing house Sílaba Editores published Zoila’s Spanish translation of the poetry of Sami writer Inger-Mari Aikio. Zoila is currently working on a bilingual anthology of Finnish poetry.

“I Discover You” follows the search for a love who no longer remains. The forces of love are the very elements that constructed the world through which the poetic voices traverses with routine-like persistence, not merely to find its love lost, but to relive the very emotions that shape the memory of passion. 

Translation prepared by Kevin Ennis

Russia

Maria Stepanova
2005

Utro subboty. Utro voskreseniia

Все окна раскрыты, все шторы колеб-
-лются, и желтее чем дынные недра
Июльское солнце на плечи и бедра
Намазывается как на хлеб.

Лежать поперечно кровати,
И знать, что не надо вставати,

Что воздух напрасно готовил
Укрытья, ходы, колеи,
Чтоб я в эти пазухи вставила-вставил
Шаги и колена свои.

Равняясь в безмыслии с липовой веткой,
Лежать-розоветь неприличной креветкой

В морщинах пустой простыни.
Как будто не чуя ни тренья ни тленья,
Простым матерьялом без сопротивленья,
Бельем, а его простирни.

Движенье заразно, столетье железно,
Тем более буду
Под грузом субботы лежать бесполезно,
Качая свободу,

Как черную нефть из промасленной почвы –
Из долгих гудков, неотвеченной почты.

2.

Все окна раскрыты, все шторы колеб-
-лются, и желтее чем дынные недра
Июльское солнце на ветхие бедра
Намазывается как на хлеб.

Не помню, мы женщины, или мужчины,
Иль мы разнополы, и кто – вещество,
Ловящее воздух во рты и морщины
И трещины тела едва ль своего,
В морские морщины сухой простыни.

Деталями в масле грядущего тленья,
Простым матерьялом без сопротивленья,
Бельем, а его простирни,

Лежим поперечно кровати,
Пустые сосуд,
Сознав, что не надо вставати,
И так унесут.

Что воздух напрасно готовил
И впрок размягчал колеи,
Чтоб мы в эти пазухи вставила-вставил
Болты и шарниры свои.

И как паровозы на ветер – пол-порции дыма,
В мельчайшее зеркальце, бьющееся невидимо
У старческих губ, проверяя концицию, –
Свою выдыхаю петицию:

Последнего воздуха маленький груз
(На зуб, на зерно, на мышиный укус)
Отдам дорогому заводу.
Сама же иду на свободу.

На волю, на вы, отрясая печати,
Иду воскресенье как мышцы качати;
Как нефть из промасленной почвы –
Из впредь неотвеченной почты.

Retrieved from: public domain


Saturday Morning. Sunday Morning

The windows open, the curtains bil-
lowing, and the July sun, yellower than the depths of a melon,
Spreads itself upon shoulders and hips,
Like on a slice of bread.

Laying crosswise on the bed,
and knowing there’s no need to get up,

That the air in vain prepared
Shelters, paths, and tracks,
So that I might place into their hollow
My steps and knees.

Thoughtless as a linden branch,
laying, turning pink like an indecent shrimp

In the folds of empty sheets.
As if oblivious to the friction and decay,
The simple material, offering no resistance,
The bedlinen and its stretch.

Movement spreads like a disease, a century of iron,
All the more reason
to lay uselessly beneath the weight of Saturday,
Pumping my freedom,

Like black gasoline from the oleaginous earth—
From ceaseless buzzers, unanswered letters.

2.

The windows open, the curtains bil-
lowing, and the July sun, yellower than the depths of a melon,
Spreads upon broken down hips
Like on a slice of bread.

I don’t remember – are we women or are we men
or are we different sexes, and who is matter,
Trapping air in mouths and wrinkles,
In the cracks of bodies barely theirs,
In the saltwater wrinkles of dry linens.

Trivia in the oil of approaching decay,
Simple material without resistance,
Of bedlinen and its stretch,

We lay crosswise on the bed,
Empty vessels,
Knowing that there is no reason to get up,
We’ll get swept away anyway.

That the air in vain prepared,
And in anticipation softened the tracks,
So that we might place into their hollow
Our latches and hinges.

And like locomotives in the wind – fragments of smoke,
In the smallest of mirrors, beating imperceptibly
On senile lips, assessing the conthishons, –
Exhaling our petition:

Little load of the last bit of air,
(of a tooth, of a grain, of a mousebite)
I will give to the beloved factory.
And I myself am breaking free.

Towards volition, towards you, shaking off seals,
Sundays I walk like swinging muscles;
Like gasoline from the oleaginous soil –
From future mail unanswered.

Translated by Alexander Dumanis and Natalia Vygovskaia


Maria Stepanova is a contemporary poet, essayist, and editor in chief of the online newspaper Colta. In 2018 she was awarded the Bolshaya Kniga (The Big Book) Award for In Memory of Memory, a project focused on history of cultural memory. She is author of ten poetry collections and two books of essays. Her poems have been translated into English, Italian, German, French and Hebrew.

We have chosen this poem for our collection because it leaves the reader with the feeling of nostalgia for the time of pleasant, careless leisure, when being secluded in one’s home was the utmost degree of the desire to forget about the triviality of working week. Stepanova’s weekend poem includes two parts that describe Saturday and Sunday on a hot summer day. Saturday morning is revealing itself in the motionlessness of the body and the consciousness that is eager to dissolve in the lightness of existence. Sunday morning brings in the feeling of nostalgia and decadence when the awareness of brevity of life begins to overshadow the delight of physicality in its happy ignorance.

The visibility of poetic language that compares regaining the individual freedom to pumping oil communicates so well the hardship of preserving our personhood in the uncertainties of the precarious post-COVID world. This poem beautifully encapsulates that semi-conscious awareness in the morning of bed as sanctuary, the sweetest kind of nonbeing in a space uninhibited by burden or necessity. Stepanova’s images and associations stream across her mind, untethered, and remind us of something we too once imagined, caught up in a war between movement and idleness.

Prepared by Natalia Vygovskaia and Alexander Dumanis