Triin Paja is an Estonian, living in rural Estonia. Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Portland Review, The Adroit Journal, and Entropy, among others. She also writes and publishes poetry in Estonian, and is the author of a poetry collection in Estonian, “Nõges” (Värske Raamat, 2018).
the women stand for hours and do not
complain. it is the sternness
of a plastic rose, of muted wives
and servants once entombed, alive,
beside husbands and masters, laid down
like silk, gold, a weapon, a language.
it is the way lampposts are valued
as winter fruit that does not rot,
a light that blurs enough
to say shadow, memory, girl.
speech moves in them
like a starling murmuration
before filling a river with
the apple petals of their
photographs. it is a rotting
window-frame barely holding.
it is to believe one’s heart, like a hand,
has furrowed. these women stand,
as horses lash their white manes,
and we say snow, we say austere,
but once I saw a woman collapse
beside nylon stockings, sheaves of dill,
and we hurried, as if she spoke,
as if a bird finally slipped from her,
but only a dog lamented the cold,
snow falling into its opened mouth.
there is a town, a poor room
where my blood turns to dark honey
my bones, the long stemmed lilies
I want to feel hooved words running in my mouth
but I have yet to build the animal
I have yet to leave the river of us
I can cup the apple petals floating there
feel the koi against my thigh
in the morning you brew tea
from the blossoms of your language
we walk the sea marsh the color of faded rope
the wind-knotted sea
I kiss the molasses of your mouth
the light behind the wing-thickened sky
wanes to a child’s pale wrist
oh silver willow, oh Caspian tern
the salt on your wing
we would take everything
boil down the wing to harvest the salt
there is a town, a poor room
where you lift my nightgown and find
river-weeds, find emptiness
like sepia photographs
into which one walks and disappears
I want to feel words, a bird, language
to the birds we harvest we say
every absence grows into a moon
and you loosen the taut braid of my hand
I taste the salt on your tongue, I taste the grave
as a child, I washed my yellow hair in a yellow bowl
cotton shirts, grey wool drying above
thoughts of summer small moons of dandelion heads
ready to spit their seeds cottonwood snow wilted hay
in the awareness of cow bones in moonlight
the hay smelled of suffering
you shepherded the animals when I laid on a shed roof, the cows
bloomed in the dew-bright field
your name meant poetry. your parents, deaf, did not speak
but sang, like cranes:
a river of echoes, a haunted church
your mother’s long hair the color of faded coins
we were braided into it
the poverty of childhood does not become
the poverty of memory memory
spreads as a sea, floods all, clouds all
it is not you who speaks, who dreams
it is the sea pearl-heavy inside you
now, only if my body becomes a scythe, cutting through the weeds,
may I locate the gardens, the fields
I want to believe the sky is still offered to you
the cows are other cows there is no room inside us
to fit the lean limbs we had as children
when you look back
are the fields burning; have they turned to highways, to husbands?
Though Her Knees Touched The Soil
when you find her crying by a radio
tell her about small yellow plums
plucked from small yellow branches.
take her to sleepy kiosks, seagulls,
loose church tiles. brush your hand
against hers, lightly, on a tram.
the radio is a tree rustling
with the leaves of father’s death.
it means her house is burnt down.
she cannot carry the ash.
she is not young but you have touched
her autumnbrown braid
cut off as a schoolgirl.
tell her about the fruit you’ve shared:
the wrinkled winter apples, the orange peels
blossoming among train tracks.
tell her until they begin to ripen
mantling grief’s bitter fruit—
tell her, for your mother tongue
is a mirror
in an abandoned farmhouse
and she will find her body
alight in your voice
you will see the earth
through a stained train window
and that, which no one has called
beautiful, will be loved.
she will walk longer than you.
she is humming a name
as quiet as light