Thursday, 11 February 2010

A cycle of poems by the Dutch poet Frank Koenegracht



FIRST, old-man freshwater guide, first
you stood fairly straight
in your boat with pennies
in post-war light.

Your idiotic brother scratched at night
in vain at the varnish
for no one inside
was allowed to recall

how you could have been.
Well, he’s still alive for
I saw him recently.
Still alive.

Then, old-man freshwater guide, then
a hole was punched
in your stomach as
big as an afternoon’s fishing,

but you rode right through it
on your solex and went on living.
The rest is bread and milk, beef
on Sundays and their collected works.

Now, old-man freshwater guide,
now you’ve got me
but then again not. I’m
not much of an angler

and I snow or rise a bit
and I always see everything small.
As small as you saw things
through your sight-glass of jenever.

Come on, let’s go piking and anyone
seeing us standing there will think:
that son doesn’t fish
far from his father.


LITTLE by little my father’s forgotten
all that he knew just a moment ago.

His brains are birds that go flitting past.
No cows that leave an impression in the earth.

My father was fond of clouds,
but clouds are forgetful mountains

and leave no impression in the sky
and no one will blame them for that.

Blaming won’t help anyway for
clouds do not know what they do.


HE addressed all his colleagues
and all birds alike.
Such is the gentleness of a man.
Starlings, big chickens, sparrows
were all lads.
To a blackbird in the garden he said:
what’s up then me’lad
but it was really to me.


ACROSS the sky sailed sedate mountains.
My father seemed fond of those things
and their strange communications
hanging above the houses, the bridges and the hedges.
And above the stretches of water where the fish were. At times
you had to be on the lookout for it,
just as for managers.


SOMEBODY must have slandered him
otherwise he would not stand so strangely in the room,
so leaden.

The law said that fishing with live bait was prohibited.
My father said: I have always treated
whitefish decently, lad, never a hook
in their back, always in their mouth.

Somebody must have slandered him.


SO THIS is my father.
Slow enough and carelessly protected
wearing trousers of forty-eight guilders
hoisted all the way to his tits
unmessably high and unbearably light.


CLOSE BY two or three feet away hovers
a tiny 14 x 26 cm plane, blue-grey
with red edges round it,
controlled by a helpless little woman
that’s easily put together
out of what’s left from a ball of wool, stockings,
a small necklace.

Although everyone’s asleep and has laid down
their weapons the atmosphere can be cut with a knife.

Against the window trails the yellowed land snail.


I HAVE myself never
wanted to be a doomed poet, but
my father with the gentlest glee would
definitely have forbidden it
He was against any stumbling
into the wrong rented house
but above all against unrecognisedness.

He realised that unrecognisedness
is a way of being mistaken.


AND THE wind took its rest
and the evening fell and the rain
crept gently over the fields.

It’ll be a calm twilight, we said,
a porcelain evening and old-lady night

will soon be here with her big feet
and her small face.

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