Monday, 17 May 2010

Poem by the Dutch writer Toon Tellegen


There are people who cautiously, almost imperceptibly
want to kiss someone
or who just want to let something be known, something tender.
There is no explanation for this.

Others are always on the point of leaving,
already have a hand on the door.

And yet others lie in each other’s arms
thinking of the enemy,
sometimes even keeping an ear to the ground.


They came towards each other.
‘I’m going this way,’ the one said.
‘And I’m going that,’ the other one said.
The one went one way,
the other the other.
A little later they stood still, turned round
and shouted:
‘I’ll think I’ll go your way instead!’

and once again they came towards each other,
embraced each other in passing, fleetingly and fervently,
and pursued their paths –

for no one had told them it was raining
and that the paths were impassable,
that they had to take cover, ‘Take cover!’
take cover in each other.


Sleeping Beauty was asleep.
Next to her lay a letter:
        ‘Don’t wake with a kiss.
        On no account.
        Not even after a hundred years.’

What am I to do? thought the prince. Go away?
Or should I kiss her, assuming she doesn’t really mean it?
I’m so tired, so utterly weary...

Sleeping Beauty peered through her eyelashes.
With the utmost effort she breathed
slowly and regularly.
She saw the door shut,
heard the creak of the stairs –
so tired, so achingly weary, each step –

and her heart was torn to shreds.


Some people are complete.
They tear themselves to shreds to no avail.
They remain whole.

Women take them with them,
carefully wrap their feelings around them,
tie them with a bow,
place a rose in them – a white rose –
and lay them aside. For some other time. When days are hard.

And they get up and tear themselves to shreds,
shriek and tear themselves to shreds,
become great and all-powerful and tear themselves to shreds,
but to no avail.


A man sought his fortune,
could not find it anywhere,
persuaded himself it existed even so
and that he knew it for sure,
beat his two fists on his floor:
‘I know it for sure!’

People stood on tiptoe,
peered through his windows, over his lace curtains,
at him, his floor, with his two fists...
and they ran off, stumbled, fell,
got up again and shouted,
with flags, bloodied hands:
‘It exists! It exists!’


I’ll leave once. After that I’ll stay.
Maybe I’ll leave twice. But then I’ll really stay...

When I’ve left, I’ll stop up once
and hesitate,
maybe twice – I’m not sure.

I’m right, I’ll think.
I’ll take the shortest route, the loveliest route,
and also the quickest route,
the route past chasms and elegant ruins,
the route past poppies, past screeching gulls –

the way home.

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