So, as a child, you say?
and the pile of Eternit cracked?
Blue sneakers, white chrysotile.
I saw the enlargement
of a 10 micrometre fiber
entering the respiratory system.
A piece of Eternit
was meant to be smoked fish?
You nibbled at it
like original sin?
Like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil:
actually, you don’t feel anything,
don’t understand much,
10μm, a construction worker in filthy trousers,
an agony of an ignorant mind,
20 or 40 years, pleural plaques, mesothelioma,
scar tissue in the lungs.
Yes, every year, it seems, the lilac blooms,
and sometimes a big passion.
The fiber descends very slowly,
invisibly like the future.
A great allegory, asbestos.
Oh, don’t be mad now!
Look, this is my new favourite wine.
I’ll buy. Let’s have a glass tonight.
Translated from Estonian by Brandon Lussier and the author, Maarja Kangro
Ah et juba lapsena?
ja eterniidivirn pragises?
Sinised tennised, valge krüsotiil.
kuidas 10-mikromeetrine kiud
oli mängult suitsukala?
Nagu hea ja kurja tundmise puud:
tegelikult ei tunne ju midagi,
aru ei saa suurt millestki,
10μm, räpastes pükstes ehitaja,
aimuta inimese agoonia,
20 või 40 aastat, pleuranaastud, mesotelioom,
Jah, igal aastal justkui õitseb sirel
ja mõnikord suur kirg.
Kiud laskub väga aeglaselt
ja nähtamatult nagu tulevik:
asbest on vägev allegooria.
Oh, mis sa vihastad!
Näe, siin on mu uus lemmikvein.
Ma ostan. Teeme õhtul klaasikese.
‘Asbest’ by Maarja Kangro was first published in Estonian in the magazine Looming (2009) and was also included in her poetry collection Kunstiteadlase jõulupuu (The Christmas Tree of an Art Scholar) published by Eesti Keele Sihtasutus in 2010. The English translation, ‘Asbestos’ was first published on lyrikline.org. The original poem, ‘Asbest’, alongside the English translation, ‘Asbestos’, have been republished in Rochford Street Review with the author’s permission.
Maarja Kangro is an Estonian poet, author, and translator who has been described as one of the most formidable voices in contemporary Estonia. By the age of forty, she had won many of the important literary awards in Estonia. In 2006, she published her first book of poems, Kurat õrnal lumel (A Devil on Tender Snow), as well as, a children’s book, Puuviljadraakon (Fruit Dragon), illustrated by her sister, Kirke Kangro. Puuviljadraakon also received the Estonian Children’s Literature Centre’s Best Book of the Year Award in 2006. She won the Tallinn University Literary Award for her second and third collections of poems: Tule mu koopasse, mateeria (Come into my Cave, Matter) in 2008 and Heureka (Eureka) in 2009. She received the Estonian Cultural Endowment’s Literary Award for poetry in 2009 for Heureka, as well as, for prose in 2011 for Ahvid ja solidaarsus (Monkeys and Solidarity). She has also written several opera librettos, a cantata, and a multimedia work, To Define Happiness.