Thursday 8 September 2011

Four poems by the Dutch poet Anna Enquist

I Between fires
II Between banks
III Between languages
IV Between times


I Between fires

Of the two faces the night-edge;
I drove off with her past blazing Easter bonfire,

twilight deepened, we bathed in my impatience,
her rotten temper, making for tasks, lists,

for longings and the wall against which they
smash to pieces. For home. Her elbow

bolted the door. No word from her. We blew
blue smoke into the car. She looked aside, saw

two swans flatten down the grass
before settling to sleep together.

We stood still at express train speed, I heard
her slowly sigh, air left her

and we floated past the fires in the evening,
smoking, there was no escaping.

II Between banks

January says forward, at night, and the car lisps
over asphalt past bends as of a young river.

Next to you the empty seat with the child with no driving licence
older than she ever was, serious profile, this out of the corner of your eye.

Look ahead, a view of black, on the motorway
a meander round an armpit of mystery; rain

quiveringly catches the headlights. Tree trunks glisten
on both sides, between them the glittering teeth of the wolf

that greedily gobbles up the wormwood and honey
of her middle years, without tasting. You will never see

her wrinkles, you have to make do without her sniffing and singing,
revulsion and bliss. Without. You steer through the night,

stretch your hand out to the right and grope in familiar,
in bitter emptiness. Forward, it is January.

III Between languages

How can you translate that life full of pace and tumult,
those cries and sighs into a standstill?

Irrefutable, a work of art, a flaming
goldfish caught in glass. It begins with the photos,

hardened in their frames. Then: what she no longer
takes up, crockery, the dresses

small debris in her bag. After six years even the
language of loss must be transposed, you reach

for the dictionary, search
for the stationary image. A table,

anywhere in the world, three places laid
and one empty chair. That pitiful emblem

of longing is, after translation, merely
present, the dream of occupation over.

IV Between times

In the present she cannot breathe, not stay among
the faces. We write what is called future.

In the car the daughter’s DNA crumbles
in hairs and flakes of skin. The mother steers

with stiff hands from pillar to post. Violence
goes without saying. Coat dry-cleaned and straight back.

She cannot long, not even for a jaw-line,
a strand of hair. She lives in the speed of the vehicle,

an orchestra whimpers. Then silence. A four-part
choir clears a path to her ear, destroys

her face, wrenches her hand from the wheel
to the radio knob, but it lasts and lasts;

she is a sculpture, she does not reach or touch but
can finally yearn and dream of fire.

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