Sand martins sea-stone black
gulls sea-foam white
you screech over the harbour
sweep over the churches
circle over the city walls
the breaking waves and me
birds city birds
what tales do you tell of Tallinn
You tell of
how the alarm bells were rung
how mothers ran with their children
when everywhere walls were in the way
and the Russian bombers kept coming and coming
from the east
when it was all burning screaming and crumbling
cracking and bursting
Even now I hear the weeping
this stony medieval beauty’s
this age-old city’s
black dresses rustling
I feel the wind
the soothing soft wind of the present
that makes feathers and sand fly
In the original Estonian:
kiljute sadama kohal
sööstate üle kirikute
tiirlete kohal linnamüüri
murdlainete ja minu
mida te pajatate Tallinnast
kuidas siin hädakelli löödi
kuidas emad lastega jooksid
kui kõikjal olid müürid ees
ja Vene pommilennukid tulid ja tulid
ida poolt peale
kui kõik põles karjus ja varises
pragunes ja lõhkes
Kuulen praegu veel nuttu
selle kivise keskaegse kaunitari
vaigistavat pehmet olevikutuult
mis lennutab sulgi ja liiva
by Kristiina Ehin
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This untitled poem, copyright © Kristiina Ehin, 2010, is taken from The Scent of Your Shadow, translated by Ilmar Lehtpere, and published in a bilingual edition by Arc Publications.
Notes courtesy of Arc:
Kristiina Ehin was born in Rapla, Estonia in 1977. She received an M.A. in Comparative and Estonian Folklore from Tartu University in 2004. She has published five volumes of poetry in her native Estonia and has won a number of prizes there, including Estonia’s most prestigious poetry prize for her fourth volume, written during a year spent as a nature reserve warden on an uninhabited island off Estonia’s north coast. She has also published a book of short stories and written a play. The Drums of Silence (Oleander Press, Cambridge, 2007), a volume of her selected poems in English translation, was awarded the Poetry Society’s Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation in 2007.
The Scent of Your Shadow, from which this poem is taken, was the Poetry Book Society’s Recommended Translation for summer 2010, and features an introduction by the poet Sujata Bhatt. In her introduction, Bhatt describes Ehin as ‘a visionary poet with a discerning and distinctive voice, a voice resonant with genuine passion, close to the primordial world of spirits and myths, but also rooted in history and in contemporary life.’
You can read more selections from the book at this link, and find out more about Kristiina Ehin here.
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