Thursday 18 August 2011

Another poem by the Dutch poet Hendrik Marsman

Nun [Toledo]

Between the cathedral and abbey hall
was a double-latticed fence
and behind that fence sat this nun.
almost all of her teeth were now gone,
her gaze was sickly, her skin was wan,
she was neither wise nor dense.
Spanish seemed to make no sense at all,
for whatever one asked her she’d always
half-weeping reply barely through that fence:
‘I’ve been here five and thirty odd years,
and never will gain a reprieve.’
when though I said: ‘Come on, let’s leave,
this woman’s quite dense,’
she suddenly pierced us with such a clear gaze
as if God in heaven was merely a pun
and she’d gladly have traded salvation
for one hour on this side of that fence
sampling life’s hell at its most intense.

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