person Triin Paja, four poems

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).


October Snow

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
saying nothing.
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


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