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:
Kaldapääsukesed merekivimustad röövkajakad rannavahuvalged kiljute sadama kohal sööstate üle kirikute tiirlete kohal linnamüüri murdlainete ja minu linnud linnalinnud mida te pajatate Tallinnast
Räägite ju 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 iidvana linna leinakleitide kahinat tunnen tuult 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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