Liisa Immonen’s Faithless Loyalty


It has been a night of passionate love-making. Next morning, the speaker in this short poem thinks teasingly: Sinä olet minulle hiukan uskoton = You are a little unfaithful to me. She/he lies there awake, reading in the lover’s look a hint of doubt about the depths of their feelings for one another. A need for reassurance — in words — appears to be necessary . . .

This is the unspoken question runs through the heart of this poem: Do you really love me? Of course, a simple yes or no is not enough — it’s not just what answer you give but the degree of conviction you are capable of conveying. In this sense, Immonen’s poem is not just about love. It’s also about poetry. In poetry, too, it’s not just a matter of making sense but of indicating heartfeltness. Once again, Immonen demonstrates that she is equal to the task.

Within the poem itself, the speaker provides no satisfactory answer. The body has spoken, and that should be enough. But the lover’s doubts within the situation will be answered “outside” when he/she comes cross a copy of the poem, left casually in a place where it is sure to be noticed, a candid declaration in the guise of a feigned reproach.

The language of the poem is beautifully simple, the only difficulty being the word levänneenä, a part participle derived from the verb levätä, meaning “to rest, to have a rest, to repose”. Finnish past participles have both singular and plural forms (levännyt/levänneet); interestingly, the stem form is based on the plural levännee-, which can then take case endings like any other noun or adjective. Fred Karlsson gives an unforgettable example of the part participle used with case-endings in his Finsk grammatik:

Pommin löytäneelle koiralle anettiin mitali = A medal was given to the dog which found the bomb. (198)

The case in this instance is the essive, expressed by the ending –. The wonderous Arthur H. Whitney outlines three uses of the essive, the most relevant for this instance being “the state or temporary character of something or someone” (Finnish).

A little oddly to non-Finnish speakers, the word ruumis, meaning “body”, can also mean “corpse”, but fortunately not in this particular jewel of a poem.


Sinä olet minulle
hiukan uskoton.
Kun herään unesta, levänneenä,
sinun katseesi kysyy minua,
etkä saa parempaa vastausta
kuin ruumiini sinulle antaa,
ja sinä epäilet,
vaikka minun ruumiini tietää
enemmän kuin luuletkaan

You are being unfaithful to me
just that tiny little bit.
As I lie here awake
and reposed, you question me with your gaze,
wondering whether you could get a better answer
than my body gives you.
Indeed, you believe you might —
even though my body knows
much more than you think.

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