keskiviikko 17. joulukuuta 2014

Prose Time: Yellow Christmas, The First Day

This Christmas I will be writing a grotesque, steampunkish horror story of four young boys who spend their Christmas near a remote cemetery during a cholera epidemy. It will also be some good material for the writing competition Spekulatiivinen Turku.

17th December AD 1831

I, Laurentius Frosterus (sixteen years, son to Professor C.G. Frosterus), am writing this two miles southeast from the town of Turku, near the road to Littois, in a wagon that is standing at a pine-growing cliff in the middle of withered fields. It is so dark, cold and bleak that I could as well be in the Purgatory – and I am, kind of. A thin layer of wet snow is covering the earth and the fog is rising from the Sea, making us all invisible for anyone who is passing by.

I am with Martin Rechberger, officer’s son, seventeen years; Alexander Knauser, merchant’s son, same age; and Mikael Öfvertygius, minister’s son, nineteen. We are schoolmates in the Gymnasium. We are also the private pupils of the most learned Teacher Gustaf Simelius (The Highest Entity bless him), the only Living Creatures that got to know his true Genius in Music and Science as well as the Fruit of it. I mean the Object that is sitting behind me, but to which I dare not lean against.

Today Teacher G. did not appear to his own lecture in time – and this alone worried me, for G. has always deemed that Punctuality is the key for all physical as well as spiritual Well-Being, since the Human Body naturally lives by regular Rhythms. Like a modern Clockwork, it may break if this natural Ticking is disturbed. And then Headmaster Edman stepped in and declared the terrible News.

Teacher G. had suddenly begun to uncontrollably vomit when preparing to the Lecture and the other teachers had to realise that the feared Disease, the C H O L E R A, had finally reached the Respectable People. The unhealthy Fog had made it grow so strong that it no more was a threat merely to the poor and wretched.

That is what Headmaster said. But that was nothing but superstition, tales for children which he took us all for. I knew it because I knew the Cholera had by no means “reached” for G. from far away. And immediately I felt like my heart was being torn apart.

I dashed to the corridor and found my friends at the door of their own class, and all I had to say was what I had just heard. We ran out, where men were lifting G. to a carriage. We smelled the stench of excrement but, of course, had no disgust for a smell so Natural. Our beloved Teacher smiled at us and quickly shoved a large silver key to Martin’s hand. And then he threw up, and the yellow gall spilled onto our trousers and shoes. Immediately we were chased away, away from “the infectious Disease”. Little they knew…

When the clock of the Cathedral had struck five and it was already dark as at night, the four of us crept to the Gallows Hill where we had promised to meet. We all had stolen ham, sausages, bread, cakes, and other Delicacies as well as useful things from our Homes; this Christmas we are spending away from our dear Families. May them forgive us, for we are doing this primarily for their sake, their protection. We are (almost) grown men, we shall do what we have to.

Alexander was the last to arrive, since he was driving the wagon which he had taken from his father’s storehouse. Then we scraped the soil off under a twisted juniper tree and found the chest, which we lifted to the wagon. We knew the key Martin had would fit to its lock – in the night before we had seen G. open it.

Off we went, and no one at the Town’s Gate asked anything too intruding. A cart came towards us and a piece of sheet stained by excrement had twisted around one of its coarse boards. The Yellow Flag hung wet and limp, miserably.

To be continued... Although the next two weeks I'll be on vacation and not put anything here. Happy holidays, everybody.

keskiviikko 10. joulukuuta 2014

Poetry Time: Some Tasteless Visions

As Yuletide goes on and almost every place is filled with colourful, sparkling, glittering objects (including my own apartment - everyone knows I'm related to magpies), I guess it's time to put here some poems that belong to the same world. Especially now that I'll be seen next weekend in two different places reading my poems: first, at the Open Mic of the Lumooja Club, then in the Anti-Xmas Party of the QFemZine.


So you craved for a kiss
You wanted the sweaty lips to meet,
the pieces of raw meat to touch one another
But there is no glimmer on the bare flesh
It is dim, the colour of nothing

My golden bed is still covered
By red velvet curtains made of fake silk
Mind not to look closer that window – it is painted
For there is nothing worth seeing outside
Better watch the facades of Venetian palaces

That is to say – welcome back to my masquerade
Play the mechanical violin and the harpsichord built yesterday
Choose your own of these lurid masks
With love I bought them from the quaintest boutiques
My dear, I will give you roses if you can play
Your role properly, and keep the costume as you should
You have read my manuscript and you know you are here
Only for wearing the mask as I want you to

You craved for a kiss, and even more you wanted
To know what there really is behind all my masks
You are wrong, for you do not want to know
You ask if the best eyes of the city
Look handsome or revolting – but why are you so sure
That there must be something under this glittering mask?

Arsenic Green

I want to paint my bedchamber
With the colour of the fresh-cut emerald
Shiny green like a twisted laughter; I want to breathe
That colour and eat it with each of my senses

Could I be one of the gluttonous gourmets
Who chose the greatest taste in their lives?
The one that was also the last in their lives
Before the poison creeps into the lungs

For death visits in every green children’s room
While the children are been warned about
The bright-red berries. And three nights before Christmas
An innocent disappeared and was found at spring.

Could I be one of the hungry peasants
Who wanted the only meal of the day?
The one that was also the last in their lives
Before the poison crept into their lungs

So should I waste all into that sparkling green,
Search the jewels behind the walls and the trifle under the trash,
Should I turn everything more pleasing with it?
Yes, should I die in the lime, or live in it?

 My Elixir of Life

 I gather the first blood of catamites
And tears of haughty warriors
To the velvet pouch I take the fern-flowers
For which I stayed awake for the whole Midsummer night

I gather fool’s gold, for it is not worthless
Even though it glitters and is not gold
To the velvet pouch I take locks of abandoned dolls
And some dandelion seeds

I gather feathers of the Phoenix
And some hair from the tail of the Sphinx
To the velvet pouch I take the screams
Of the hawkmoth cut by the curious.

I gather the lava stone of Gomorrah
And water from the lakes of Sahara
To the velvet pouch I take leaves of the flytrap
And the petals of the deadly nightshade.

I gather my lover’s kisses
I need them more than my body does
Instead of taking the purr of the cat
To the velvet pouch I take my singing voice.

lauantai 6. joulukuuta 2014

The Most Hated Fictional Man in Finland

You know what the Finnish masses (and definitely many educated young people too) detest more than anything? The answer is simply anything beautiful, refined, or sublime – or anything that hints that there could be something else or deeper than the raw naturalistic reality. You know, the one where we are all “nothing but animals” or “all the same s*it” with mechanical, blank-minded, simple urges. Nothing’s sacred – except, of course, this very view of the world itself.

One example of this comes to my mind on every damn Independence Day of Finland (the sixth of December), when “the second national epic” of our country is cited more than anytime else and the ‘50s film based on it is broadcasted from TV. Tuntematon sotilas (“The Unknown Soldier”), a most lively, intense, and bloody novel about a Finnish platoon in WWII – and a portrait of edgy men of the people who have a healthy down-to-earth attitude towards life and the horrors of war. Their free spirits may be tried to be controlled by their evil company chief, but in the end the rough red-blooded man is in the right compared to the decadent upper classes.

Or at least that is how the popular paraphrase of the novel goes.

The said company chief, an officer named Lammio, could well be the most hated man in Finland (the characters of Tuntematon have pretty much become actual people in the minds of many Finns). His name has become synonymous with militarism, coldness, bad leadership and, of course, arrogance. He isn’t even allowed to tell his own point of view in the book; so much he annoyed even his own creator, who was himself a common working-class man. But what was the actual crime of this skinny, shrill-voiced young man who was braver than any of his men?

Anything that I mention happening in the war – yes, it does happen in the original novel.

If I have ever cared about something in my life, that something would be sublimity. It is the ultimate reason why I entered the military academy – I, who had always dreamed about becoming a scholar, a scientist, a mathematician or something else that can stay alone in his own cell and focus into pure intellectual work, pure spirit, without any distraction. In military service, though, I understood it would not be enough for me. For is there anything else more sublime than an officer? A hero respected by his whole nation and remembered even after departing this life? According to the old and noble ideals, strength and beauty meet in his essence – as the ability to force a thing so primitive as killing into a sophisticated form. More than anything, I have always believed in the fundamental imperfectness of Nature and the superiority of human will.

There is some definite symbolism in the fact I was born in the same year than my fatherland became independent, and was baptized with the name that has been carried by our land’s national saint as well as several kings of old European civilizations. And just after I had graduated from the military academy, the World War began… And what a smile from Fortune it was, when I was immediately made the company chief after the former chief, an old captain, was killed in action, due to his own stupidity. He presumably thought he was still in the first Great War. A self-righteous relic was he, and he always despised us, the first generation of cadet officers in the independent Finland.  And he always pretended friendship with the men, though he knew very well that none of those uneducated men would never be able to higher thinking.

Still, for a long time, I tried to make my machine gun company into the most splendid department in the whole army. War is so cruel that it has to be made beautiful, like the noble and brave Finnish warriors in the Thirty Years War already knew. I retained my “vanity”, as my desire to make myself also look sublime has always been called: dress even more formally than expected, keep my boots brushed, comb my hair with water, trim my nails. The officer has to command others, his inferiors. Therefore he has to also be better than them: more courageous, more intelligent, able to bear more. That is how natural hierarchies work.

But apparently I over-estimated those men, no, those senseless brutes. The old captain had already lulled them into believing that the war would be something similar to the fights in childhood. In other words, told them what they wanted to hear. And the leader of the third platoon does exactly the same now; himself a simple countryman, thinking that the most important trait of an officer is whether his men like him. What a spineless sloth, a disgrace for a real man! There are much more important things, especially in a real war that is not waged over the feelings of a single individual, but the fates of whole nations. But no, this descendant of bog-hoers is too afraid of that his men would, some day, have to have the unpleasant time to grow up and get a grip of their own fleeting desires.

That is what I do. I have always cared more about ideas, principles, and visions, than people. I have no difficulties in thinking dead men as numbers. This is war. And that is why I have been promoted more times than any other officer in the whole battalion: because I focus into the pure matter, ignoring all the distractions, just like I have always done. That is not to say I was not able to have fun. Or could someone claim that I had no eye for female beauty, or that I could not drink? Still my thoughts do not rudely stray around those two things, like my men’s.

Actually their banality is most flagrant in relation to the sex that should be particularly protected by us soldiers. Not at all respecting the delicacy of the feminine soul, the men talk about women as if they were some kind of “stuff that has to be equally shared”, by their own words. The most unbelievable case for now, however, has been what happened yesterday, when the supply vehicles were retreating. A member of women’s auxiliary services was standing by the road – and from the dozens of men, I was the only one who even treated her like a human being.

Those wretched rogues.