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Syndic Literary Journal

Sorrow Trudges Along Beside Me

Written by Ly Seppel

Translated from the Estonian by Ilmar Lehtpere

Narrated by Kristine Doll


Sorrow trudges along beside me like a skinny desert dog.

With its rough tongue it licks

my calves, the backs of my hands and behind my ears.

This desert dog

is always thirsty.

Tongue hanging out,

it pants along beside me

as we climb up the hill to the fortified village.

The riverbed at the foot of the hill

dried up long ago.

My faithful companion is always thirsty.

With a doggish look it peers through the door

into the back room of my memory:

remember, it says,

how in the heart of one hot day

while picking currants we started wailing for no reason at all.

Remember, it says,

I was the only one to keep you company

when you had no one to play with –

not a single child your own age

and all the older people were outside working.


Remember, it says, farm life in Estonia

after the great war

and before the great expanse of Siberia.


how the lambs frolicked and butted each other

in the sheepfold.



how people were warned off coming home

when the well pole had been left up

and the bucket had been lowered into the well…


Remember. Remember. Remember…

The skinny desert dog is thirsty all the time.

The riverbed is dry.

Only on the back of my hand

is there still

a damp salty trace of tears.


Ly Seppel is an Estonian poet and translator as well as a psychotherapist. Her latest publication in English translation (together with her husband Andres Ehin) is Shortening the Candle’s Wick (Carcanet, 2018).
Ilmar Lehtpere is an Estonian poet and translator. His most recent translations into English are On the Edge of a Sword  by Kristiina Ehin (Arc, 2018),  and Shortening the Candle’s Wick by Andres Ehin and Ly Seppel (Carcanet, 2018).
Kristine Doll is a poet and translator whose work has been published internationally. “My Friends” from her first collection Speak to Me Again was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry. Doll’s translations include poetry and memoir in Catalan, English and Spanish.  She is professor of World Languages and Cultures at Salem State University, Salem, MA, USA.



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