:: Article

Four Poems

By Maarja Kangro.


In a small bookstore
under the roof of a shopping mall,
looking for a gift,
I resorted to the silly habit
of tearing off the cuticles
around my fingernails with my teeth.
When I took down an anthology
of Hungarian poetry from the shelf
my right thumb started bleeding.
I didn’t expect such a heavy flow:
over the photo of Sandor Weöres
a rich red mark was left.
Startled, I put the book back
and quickly took down another. A Hawk’s Winter Cry
by Mikhail Lotman. On a volume by Joseph Brodsky
I left a grateful plump stain.
I had some books at home:
Bourdieu, Geertz, Huizinga.
But I wanted to leave a souvenir on each of them.
Black, white and red. Red, white and black.
Like the flags of some Asian countries.
Then I thought, why not mark the romances,
crime stories, fantasy fiction, too? I had
plenty of blood to give and didn’t feel stingy.
All those intense faces with blood on them.
At one point the saleswoman seemed to mumble.
I remembered I still had to buy a gift,
and I left without asking for any recompense for my blood.
This is the bit of blood I’ve shed for culture.
Perhaps I would have shed more, though, if I had been asked.

Translated by Richard Berengarten and the author


I heard it on the radio:
in ancient times, the pig strolled freely
around the house,
eating man’s shit.
It grew fat, had a litter.
The man then killed the pig and ate it.
After dinner, he went to a bush
somewhere behind the house.
The pig´s offspring knew the smell,
went to the bush to eat.
And so on.

Then it turned out that history was a spiral.
Returning to the roots,
the pig took along
many finer tools
and more articulate attitudes.

Translated by Mike Horwood and the author


In Pláka, around the Acropolis,
not to mention elsewhere,
multitudes stroll and sleep.
Big dogs. Gentle, polite.

With the enthusiasm of puppies
we translate the deepest language,
I take pictures of the dogs:
yellow, white, grey, black.

„There is not a single small one.“
You glow like a scientist:
„All the small ones died!“
Your blue eyes are bright with excitement.

The almond was once poisonous,
all peas tiny as grains of salt,
and man a bloodthirsty midget!
Or what?

We are bigger than our ancestors,
the two of us love courtesy.
“There is some kind of melancholy
in these surviving dogs.”

“The nice ones ate the others?”
We sit and eat our dinner
in memory of the cynics – the right ones –
and to the health of polite dogs.

Translated by the author and Brandon Lussier


He kind of wants it.
He kind of came.
He kind of said it.
He kind of thought
it could kind of do.
It kind of suits the present moment.
One could kind of see something there.
Kind of a miraculous opening.
‘Kind of’, a miraculous opening.

He kind of doesn’t want it.
It kind of doesn’t taste so good.
It kind of smells.
It kind of hurts.
It kind of bleeds.
He’s kind of screaming.
It kind of falls on his head.
And now there’s kind of nothing.
No ‘kind of’, and no miraculous opening.

Translated by Richard Berengarten and the author


Maarja Kangro was born in Tallinn, on December 20, 1973, where she currently lives. She has published four collections of poetry: Kurat õrnal lumel (A Devil on Tender Snow, 2006), Tule mu koopasse, mateeria (Come into My Cave, Matter, 2007), Heureka (Eureka, 2008), Kunstiteadlase jõulupuu (The Christmas Tree of an Art Critic, 2010); and a collection of short stories, Ahvid ja solidaarsus (Monkeys and Solidarity, 2010). In 2011, a collection of her poems, La farfalla dell’irreversibilità (The Butterfly of No Return) was published in Italian by Superstripes Press. She has won the Estonian Cultural Endowment’s Literary Award for poetry and prose. She has received twice the Tallinn University Literary Award.

She also writes literary criticism and essays, and has published a children’s book Puuviljadraakon (Fruit Dragon, 2006), which received the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre’s Best Book of the Year Award. She has written five opera librettos, texts for cantatas and other works of music. She has translated fiction, philosophy (Giorgio Agamben, Umberto Eco, Gianni Vattimo) and poetry by more than 100 poets (e.g. Jacopone da Todi, Giacomo Leopardi, Andrea Zanzotto, Valerio Magrelli, Philip Larkin, Bertolt Brecht, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Ernst Jandl). In 2003 she won the first prize in the Società Dante Alighieri competition for translations of Italian poetry. Her poems and short stories have been translated into English, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Italian, Slovenian, and Udmurt. She is currently a PhD student in cultural theory at Tallinn University.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, January 1st, 2012.