Hannu Salakka, “Any Hilltop of Yours”

On mikä tahansa mäenharjanne tai kukkula,
vuori tai niin pieni kumpare
että mahtuu kokonaan kämmenen alle,
niin heti haluan kiivetä sille katselemaan
ja painaa mieleen kaiken
minkä matkalla olen nähnyt.
Any hilltop of yours or hillock whatsoever,
a mountain or a knoll so small
it fits completely under the palm,
so I immediately want to climb it and have a look,
and commit to memory everything
I have seen en route.
—Hannu Salakka, Ennen kapaisin tähän (Otava, 1983), p. 21. Translated by Living in FIN. View of Ukko-Koli (Koli National Park, North Karelia) courtesy of Yekaterina Andreyeva and reprinted with her permission.

Eeva Kilpi, “Regards”

Eeva Kilpi

Rakas Eeva, he kirjoittavat,
tee meille uusi laulu rakkaudesta
kun entinen on jo kulutettu loppuun.

Tämä on vanha laulu ja
pelkään pahoin
Sinä olet minun sairauteni,
vammani ja vajavuuteni,
sokeuteni, kuurouteni ja sortunut ääni,
kramppini ja stigmani,
mato suolissani, neula veressäni,
haavani ja varjostumani.
Minä kaipaan sinussa elämääni:
tautia joka on kuolemaksi;
tuttua närästystä,
ikiomaa kutkaa,
vanhaa kolotusta,
joka on turvallisempi kuin uudet oudot vaivat;
kainalosauvojani ja kipsiäni,
näärännäppyäni ja japykimääni,
vinoa hammasta ja väärää purentaa
joka on minulle ainoa mahdollinen.
Olet kieliopillinen omistusliitteitä minussa.
Minun rakkauteni Korkea Veisu on paksu kuin lääkärikirja
ja yhtä täynnä anatomiaa ja kipua.

Mutta on toinenkin laulu: levollinen
joka vain soi ja soi
suostumatta paljastumaan sanoiksi.
Ehkä se ei antaudu koskaan.
Mutta se on ja.


•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

Dear Eeva, they write,
make us a new song about love
as the previous song has worn out.*

This is an old song and,
I’m afraid, terribly

You are my ailments,
my injuries, and my shortcomings,
my blindnesses, my deafnesses and broken voice,
my cramps and my stigmata,
the worm in my gut, the needle in my blood,
my wounds and my shadow.
I miss my life in you:
a disease that is fatal,
a familiar heartburn,
my very own itch,
an old ache
that is safer than odd new complaints,
my crutches and my cast,
my stye and my chapped skin,
crooked tooth and bad overbite.
You are my possessive suffixes.
My love the Song of Songs is as thick as a medical book
and as full of anatomy and pain.

But there is another song: restful,
it just plays and plays
without agreeing to reveal its words.
Maybe it will never give up.
But there you have it.


—Eeva Kilpi, Terveisin (WSOY, 1976), pp. 93–94. Translated by Living in FIN. Photo of Eeva Kilpi courtesy of Karjalan Liitto

* An allusion to Eeva Kilpi’s first collection of poems, Laulu rakkaudesta ja muita runoja (WSOY, 1972)—A Song about Love and Other Poems. It was followed by Terveisin (Regards), from which this poem has been drawn.

Hannu Salakka, “My Life Is Called Dismal”


Elämääni sanotaan ankeaksi,
itseäni alakuloiseksi,
vaikka olen vain ajatuksissani.
Mielin kielin.
Jos näyttäisin miltä minusta tuntuu todella
heidän keskellään olla,
ei olisi sellaista sanaa.


My life is called dismal,
I am said to be gloomy,
although I am only lost in my thoughts.
In my moods.
If I looked how I really feel,
being amidst them,
there would be no word for it.

—Hannu Salakka, Niin joudun kauas tulevaisuuteen (Otava, 1989), p. 82. Photo and translation by Living in FIN


Odotus vaeltaa maisemaa
kuin muistot läpi koko entisen elämän.

Waiting to wander the landscape
like memories through a whole former life.

—Hannu Salakka, Kesä kesältä syvemmin (Otava, 1977), p. 41. Translated by Living in FIN


The shameful thing about Finland’s deporting legitimate asylum seekers back to clearly dangerous countries like Afghanistan and Iraq is that there is so much empty commercial and residential space in many Finnish cities and towns that all the asylum seekers Finland temporarily granted refuge during the peak “crisis” year of 2015—approximately 33,000 people, according the Finnish Migration Service’s own statistics—could easily be spread around the country and housed in all that empty space, which is either ready for habitation or could be easily and quickly adapted as living quarters, especially given the Finnish construction sector’s otherwise dangerous eagerness to generate new work for themselves.

Adapting these people to life in a new, very different country is another matter, but it’s not as if Finland hasn’t done it before. After the war, the country took in way more refugees from the parts of Finland ceded to the Soviet Union than it would have to take now (granted, they were already Finnish-speaking Finns), and in much later times, people from Somalia, the Sudan, and other war-torn countries found refuge in Finland in fairly large numbers. A whole generation of these refugees’ kids have already grown up who speak Finnish perfectly and are mostly doing well in life.

One of them was recently elected to the Jyväskylä city council from the Greens: she got the second highest vote tally in the entire city. What a sad irony that the latest deportation of the new asylum seekers, on the run from the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, should take place in Jyväskylä. (See Yle’s article, below.)

So what’s the real problem? The real problem is the current “bourgeois” government, which I predict will go down in flames at the next elections in 2019. Unfortunately, before that happens, they will have managed to wreck much of Finland’s social democracy—all in the name of a mythical “competitiveness”—and blacken the country’s reputation with this wholly unnecessary asylum seeker farce.

In reality, Finland’s population is aging rapidly, so why not take a chunk of refugees, only too happy to live in a peaceful country after the hell they have been through in their homeland, and put some of them to work looking after the country’s elders, while the rest can be employed elsewhere (including building houses for themselves as needed) or start their own businesses. What could be more “competitive” and “innovative” than that?

But no, Finland’s ruling coalition has a weak link in the shape of the so-called Finns Party, which over the summer was taken over by its far-right wing in the person of the certified racist Jussi Halla-aho, causing the party’s previous chair, Timo Soini, and the party’s entire parliamentary delegation of twenty MPs, including all its government ministers, to bail and form a new party called New Alternative.

The other two parties in the coalition, the Center Party (which won the most votes in the last elections and controls the prime minister’s office) and the National Coalition Party are not exactly known for their racist policies, but I can easily imagine they are so lacking in backbone and imagination that they promised the Finns Party not to accept “too many” asylum seeker claims in order to keep them onside voting for their other so-called reforms.

Ironically, it was just this that had caused the ratings of the Finns Party to sink precipitously, because their supporters are all for Finnish social democracy, just Finnish social democracy for ethnic Finns and Finnish Swedes. Suddenly, their party’s leadership blindsided them by going into government (something they said they would never do if it was not on their own terms; that is, if they had not won a plurarity of votes and were the party forming the new government) with the country’s two major “bourgeois” parties, who were hellbent on a program of heavy austerity to alleviate Finland’s very real economic woes.

So, basically nobody is getting what they want, and the country is making itself look cruel and foolish to boot, when in reality, given the gains in the ratings made by the Social Democrats, the Left Alliance, and the Greens, who are now the second most popular party in the country, this crackdown on asylum seekers probably does not reflect the popular will at all.

It reflects two things: a) a tiny racist minority that weaseled its way into government even as its popularity was falling (it did much better in the elections before last, when absolutely all the other parties were still determined never to allow the Finns Party into government), and whose popularity has now tanked altogether, but which is still somehow managing to set the tone in the government’s approach to asylum seekers, and b) a migration service that has been poorly equipped to deal with so many asylum seekers, especially in terms of decent interpreters, so it has been making asylum decisons, or so I have read on activist websites, based on partial or false information.

The people in Finnish (or EU?) officialdom who made up the fairy tale that Afghanistan and Iraq are “safe” countries again are the real culprits, however, not the wacko racists like Jussi Halla-aho, who have always been fairly easy to neutralize in one way or another.

I have no idea who these people were. They should be outed, at very least. LIF


Despite Jyväskylä protests, police start deportation of Afghan family
September 5, 2017

Dozens of demonstrators outside an asylum reception centre in Jyväskylä, in central Finland, attempted to prevent police from removing an Afghan family ordered to be deported on Monday afternoon. But several hours later after the arrival of several backup units, police announced that they had carried out the family’s removal from the centre at around 6 pm.


Police had originally planned to begin the deportation of an Afghan family at about noon on Monday when they were surrounded by a human chain of people who temporarily foiled their attempt to remove them.

Police had reportedly used pepper spray after being attacked by some demonstrators, according to police.

More officers outfitted in riot gear arrived to the scene at about 16:45 pm and in a tweet about a half-hour later, police reported that the reinforcements would enable them to carry out the deportation operation.

According to Detective Chief Inspector Jari Kinnunen a few dozen protestors had taken part in the incident.

“It was a few dozen protestors. The police are trying to solve the situation peacefully, by negotiating as long as required,” Kinnunen said at about 3 pm.

“If we go back, we’ll be killed”
The family being deported—a father, mother and their eight month-old baby—are originally from Ghazni, Afghanistan.

Before leaving Afghanistan some two years ago the father worked as a taxi driver.

The father said that the family could not return to Afghanistan because they were Shia Muslims, saying that they faced persecution there.

“If we go back we’ll be killed,” the father told the newspaper Keskisuomalainen.

Roughly 80 percent of Afghanistan’s population, including the Taliban,are Sunni Muslims.

Photo courtesy of Lehtikuva/Juha Sorri

Pentti Saarikoski, Two Poems

Pentti Saarikoski

En valinnut asiaa,
valitsi minut.
En etsinyt taistelua, taistelu
tuli kohdalleni,
ja nyt olen mukana.

I did not choose the cause,
the cause
chose me.
I was not looking for a fight, the fight
came to me,
and now I am part of it.


Vakavasti kehotan harkitsemaan, onko järkevää, ja mikä on sitä,
vakavasti kehotan kuuntelemaan
ääniä: maailmaa.
Taistelen, en etsinyt taistelua,
mukana ollen
vakavasti kehotan harkitseman
äänet, maailman:
se mitä kuunnellessanne kuulette,
se mitä tarkkaan katsoessanne näette,
se on Teoria, Aate ja
ainoa jolla on kantavat siivet.

I seriously urge you to consider whether it is reasonable and what it is,
I seriously urge you to listen
to voices: to the world.
I am fighting, I was not looking for a fight,
as part of it
I seriously urge you to consider
the voices, the world’s voices:
what you hear when listening,
what exactly you see when looking.
It is Theory, Ideology, and
the Guardian Angel,
the only one bearing wings.

—Pentti Saarikoski, Runot (Otava, 2004), p. 204; originally published in Ääneen (Piccolo, 1966). Photo courtesy of Yle. Translated by Living in FIN.

Hannu Salakka, “It Cools Slowly”

imatra-destroyed sculpture

Viilenee hitaasti,
miedot tuoksut kohoavat aaltoina.
Valvoa myöhään, herätä varhain,
olla jouten koko pitkän päivän.
Mutta jokin huolestuttaa.
Ehkä kadonnut taito päästä irti asioista,
jotka eivät tapahdu täällä.

* * * * * * * * * *

It cools slowly,
the mild smells rising like waves.
Staying up late, waking up early,
being idle the livelong day.
But something is unsettling.
Perhaps the lost art of getting loose of things
that did not happen here.

—Hannu Salakka, Kesä kesältä syvemmin (Otava, 1977), p. 36. Translation and photo by Living in FIN.

A few years ago, citing “numerous” complaints from the “general public,” the Imatra municipal parks and maintenance department summarily loaded the lovely brutalist modernist sculpture in the middle of the picture, above, onto a flatbed truck, took it to the local rolled steel plant, and melted it down in the plant’s blast furnace.

It was left to the Imatra municipal culture department, which had not been warned by the parks and maintenace department it was planning to commit this act of iconoclasm, to telephone the sculptor, who is quite famous in Finland and alive and well in Helsinki, to explain what had been done to his artwork by the yahoos in Karelia. It was reported that he took the strange news quite well, all things considered. LIF

Hannu Salakka, “There Has Been Nothing Special”


Ei ole mitään erikoista.
Talosta ei kuollut ketään,
pois matkustaneista ei ole kuulunut.
Aivan tavallinen syksy.

Nämä silmät vain
niin monta kymmentä kuvaa syksyistä nähneet
eivät luota ainoaan käsilläolevaan.

Selailevat ennakkotapausten arkistoja.

* * * * * * * * * *

There has been nothing special.
No one from the house died,
nothing has been heard of those who journeyed away.
Quite a normal autumn.

These eyes alone,
which have seen so many dozen pictures of autumns,
do not trust the only thing ready to hand.

They browse the archives for precedents.

—Hannu Salakka, Niin joudun kauas tulevaisuuteen (Otava, 1989), p. 120. Translation and photo by Living in FIN