And then there’s silence

translated by 

A photograph of a corrugated tin roof, partially peeled back

The children see trees bending bending and then they are broken coconutless frondless. The children see roofs in various states of disarray metal sheets lifting eaves pulled away. There’s Takaro’s house squatting hatless in gunmetal rain. There’s Nipo’s house mute and blind. There

lies Adam’s jeep Eveless crushed under the weight of fallen debris. Boats and outriggers lifted and tossed draped over trees. A mighty banyan planted upside down in the middle of Pango road pokes a root toe in the eye of the cyclone.

Here are the maps the children drew: see all the mamas daddies dogs children chickens houses fires dogs coconut palms mango trees vege gardens a forgotten laplap and the village water pump. A shoal of helicopters camouflage-patterned menacing friendly hauling goods picking up people hovering above the fray tiny stickpeople waving below while the trees are bending bending. Schoolbooks spread their white wings and crash

rainsoaked in the mud. And there’s our house with its butchered roof. And there’s the girl who bit her tongue when she was shoved off the rock helpless. And there’s the pregnant bitch that ate the tip of the tongue while it was still warm and homeless.

Translation from the Swedish

Mikaela Nyman is a New Zealand writer of Finnish heritage from the Åland Islands and the Swedish linguistic minority. Her first collection of poetry, När vändkrets läggs mot vändkrets, from which this poem was translated, was published by Ellips in Finland in 2019 and nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2020. Her first novel, Sado, is set in Vanuatu and was published in 2020 by Victoria University Press.

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