Two Poems by Teemu Helle

Translated from the Finnish by Niina Pollari.




That spring you met with national mourning, and your capital turned gray.
You looked at your spouse in the coffin and understood

having lost your autonomy. Suddenly you no longer found
the right paths, and the streets filled with foreign

thoughts that spread reckless as leaves
before winter. But what even was autumn!

You opened her eyes just a little to see a sliver of sky.
Right then a small dog in a khaki outfit

and fisherman’s hat ran up to you. The poor dear had lost
its owner, and a short leash dragged behind it, a tail.

The dog dropped the bone of your former life at your feet
right before it began to dig at your ruins

so the wind passing through the chapel door
could kick your dust back to life again.


Midsentence, the psychologist stops listening.
He gives the appearance that he’s lost touch
with reality. His eyes are glassy and no longer react.
From his depths there issues a quiet alarm.
A maintenance man in dirty overalls steps through the door,
apologizing. He opens the psychologist’s back slot.
“I have to add a new battery. This one’s on its last legs.”
He holds in his palm the psychologist’s heart, which
is adjustable to the level of feeling with a small screwdriver.
The maintenance man departs, and we continue as we were,
looking for a human trait in me to which to cling.


Teemu Helle (b. 1982) is a Finnish poet and the author of 6 collections of poetry. The seventh collection will be published in the fall of 2022.  

Photo: Teemu Helle, private


Niina Pollari is the author of the poetry collections Path of Totality (Soft Skull 2022) and Dead Horse(Birds, LLC 2015). She is also the translator, from the Finnish, of Tytti Heikkinen’s collection The Warmth of the Taxidermied Animal(Action Books). 

Photo: Jack Sorokin


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