Triin Paja

Wordless on the Shore

seashells break into broken nails
on the shore
where a village drunk sits
by the water’s
salt-crocheted edge.
there was a time when
I played with his daughter.
she liked the sweet taste of beer.
we had lived for a decade.
the father read and read until
his pain grew tender
like a boy’s nettle-blistered ankles
running in a field.
then the village library was closed
and he drank until his house
was an empty jam jar,
until his window
was only the wide mouth
of water, until his daughter grew thin
like tea sediment
then disappeared entirely.
he drinks. shadows, arboreal and human,
run towards him like horses.
he is more horse than horseman
but once, his palms curved into psalms
humming safety.
he was a boy once, nothing wormed
in the polished fruit
of his flesh.
a crow lifts from the shore.
the crow’s cawing chars
the air, rousing him.
neither knows beauty that is not violent.

Triin Paja is the author of three collections of poetry in Estonian and a recipient of the Betti Alver Literary Award, the Juhan Liiv Poetry Prize, and the Värske Rõhk Poetry Award. Her English poetry has received a Pushcart Prize and has appeared or is appearing in Black Warrior Review, TriQuarterly, The Cincinnati Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, and elsewhere.