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from the October 2015 issue

Four Prose Poems


We have no dipping moon over a metropolis’s hills. We have no breeze caressing the parchment of an aging poetess that would cause her to say: “It comes from the desert! It comes from the desert!” We have wind against the wall of a wooden house like a throbbing ovation. We have a view from the window onto ruins that will be concealed in a few years by forgotten rowan trees. There is the transition of land into sea, there is the unsettled sea that spits foam and kelp. We have fireworks in achromatic tones. October, which seemingly comes to visit from the world beyond ours. In the old days, deceased ancestors went to sauna at that time.


On the veranda of this house dries a lone hogweed. In the yard scuttle more ticks than the average body would accommodate. Around this house is a forest that is at once dense and spacious, a forest like in a good horror film. Opening beyond the forest is the frameless door of the sea. Ever since the former Pioneer camp was used for prison guards’ summer outings, plastic cups started sprouting on the beach. They did not affect the feeling that voluntary solitude is still possible for a while longer.


A Fleming once mentioned how Estonia’s lack of views irritated him. The trees grow too close. Here, on the rim of a miniature primeval valley, some of them fall every year, as if craving to drink from the trickling stream at the foot of the valley. In winter, I like the firs most of all. I stand in my living room, listening to the President’s address. I realize the glass of champagne in my hand is just as quiet as the darkness beyond the window. Fireworks do not reach these parts. The firs stand in the way. If I were to believe in a god, then I’d rather it be one with a back, from behind which stretches a well-kept asphalt road.

In Front of the Estonia

It happened just recently. The weather was pretty vile, as it often is in these parts—although he could not recall his parents having cursed the weather so frequently, but he supposed the Mediterranean was farther away than the Laptev Sea in those days. He was waiting for a taxi. It was the pre-Christmas season and decorations were already twinkling. Cameras were flashing in front of the Estonia Theater, and he noticed that the building was especially festive somehow. Colorful lights shone through the windows; obviously something special was going on. He saw ladies in fur coats and gentlemen in patent leather shoes hurrying towards the theater, their eyes on the ground so as not to end up in a snowbank or slip on the ice. A number of the ladies and gentlemen were already bobbing in the gleam of the light behind the windows. Later, he found out that a political party had held its Christmas celebration in the theater, but at that moment it seemed as if the rest of the city was oddly dim beside it. As if some people were taking cover in the theater from the darkening world. Suddenly, he got the impression that a cold and stormy sea extended right behind the building. There was no Old Town nor Toompea Hill—only the bare sea, restless, almost icy. The asphalt is just about to rupture, the wavy-edged paving stones about to split, and the theater to drift away from the city; invisible currents will carry along all those people in tuxedos and gowns, although they won’t even notice that the solitary lights behind the windows are replaced by lurching darkness. People glide on the parquet, the ship glides along the water. It all ended with the taxi arriving and the Estonia Theater standing on in its place. Or standing back, rather.

“Förby,” “Matsiranna,”  “Tusti,” and “’Estonia’ Ees” © Jan Kaus. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by Adam Cullen. All rights reserved.  

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