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Paavo and Helmi, on Love


Paavo in the furred wood strode

where canted trees leaned to slipping shore

and hung sadly in the mirror of his current days.

His Helmi globed in him a grief

and now he stood

and could not tell her all his heart


which broke above the black river,

his hands and thoughts

deep in it.


Helmi held a plate

and washed in right hand circle,

dried in left hand circle,

all the times their meals made them stronger.

Once, but once she asked at night

within the murmurs of the tight house,

what curtains sigh to glass, caressed;

what branches feel in leaf

and, very, very low,

what word he’d make of them

if there would be a word…


and then the river came in him,

rushed and rough,

and he was out,

his silence with him


and she never heard him say it,

not even once.





Sky, glass, stream

the higher in the world

the tighter.

A hard art rolls pebbles under fish.


Sun rounds low, crisp as glass,

spare, dear, as hard to say

as hear


and then the moon,

a vagrant want,

waits until it is just too cold

and hides its sought-after parts.


Anything goes dark,






rivers sorrowing,



all the time water.


Iced sons




small plenties.



Some People Say

(for M.A.)

a lake has no tides like a sea

that it is placid

and by this they mean serene.


In Finland there are thousands of lakes

those that are deep

those that are wide

those that rise and fall unmeasured

but go down darker

and farther

and wider


and this is where the parted heart streams,

absent the edge-of-the-world rhythms,

and breaks columned wood

and plumbs hard pasture

and grows, lifts, rises, sinks

and fills contested space


then blues so it can show you

it is not calm at all


but deep

tireless, full, estranged

and sometimes deeper



The Coast

After awhile, we arrived at the coast.


We went back and forth on the beach,

bringing, taking little things.


The sun, weary of explaining itself,

became a sea;

a moment our eyes had strained waiting for.


There were intervals of fire,

a gritty breeze,

a voice closing in a door

and then the dark.


Something more

might have been offered,

but this is customary.




A man fishing, without fish,

the wet connecting line that links him

where he cannot sink.

Tied silently in dark.


And now he thinks.

Water circles where he meets,

remembering it.


He does not move,

though cold and healthier than he has ever been.

He lets real water make him,

take him one on one

to sea of smallest possible scale.

Equal, hard and fine.

He does not apologize,

or sign.


And eventually reflected light.

It warms, rewards and ends.

It cools intention.

A man in a boat without fish

reminded in an obvious sense

to go home.



Don’t Say If I Love You

Behind brown greatcoats,


when walking

clasp our own hands,

uneasy where we surface in our skin,


by the pardons on the bridge.


Fish dance

on spreading splash tails


with their vertical joys.


Hands behind,


please refuse me

though I carry what I can of lamp

in clean, red palms,

pieces slipping through

to light the magic forests.


How is love a sequence;

the piercing through, bliss?

We cannot, do not, arch, thump, whumpf, bleed,


please refuse me deeper now.


The trees, ferns and greens

dance on spray

and fish darken.


This mossy antlered life,

the sharp young bolting things in coats,

held back,

the arrowed hearts within,


the wild wounded wood

that sings us sad without.


©2003 Kathryn Rantala



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