Thursday 15 March 2012

Poem by the Dutch poet
Hagar Peeters

On the backs of elephants

Let me be one of the decadents and drink with the men,
let me follow you, Baudelaire, Whitman, De Campos;
all great victors full of self-assurance,
all those who ride on the backs of dangerous animals
all those who shamelessly raise their voices
let me be one of you with blush
and sophisticated eyeliner look.

You have invented the art of being decadent,
proud degenerates who view their decline as a ticket to heaven.
Let me, complete with put-up hair and tie newly pressed,
with waistcoat and trousers and shirt
and breasts on my chest
and tresses at my neck that are seized by every breeze
drink and drink to being one of you.
Our very good health!

Tip me onto the backs of your elephants and let me ride with you into the wilderness.
Let me put on this pair of dirty shorts and follow you, you bunch of brigands.
I want to set out with the big-timers.
I want to travel with all the big daddies.
Let them show me the world that lies at my tiny feet.
Open up the continents to me, drive my elephants
along the path chopped free with the slaves,
let the workers look up at me and let me
with my red-painted nails scratched grubby underneath
be one of those workers and drive their backs on
and shout with the braying voice of the master.

Let me grow up in your wisdom and have my share.
Let me wave my fans and cast my lassoes in a single movement.
Make me a partner in your card game.
let me share in the spoils of your conquests,
robbers and pirates, and do not let me always sidle on the sidelines
and fear vermin that crawl on the earth and make lairs in my hair.

My wellies will stamp through the rain-puddles
that have fallen alike – for what do the rain-puddles care –
for one and all. I will also write columns for the poisonous press
and erase them forthwith and rewrite them
for I want to weep like a woman for all pain ever suffered
and press children to my tender mother’s breast
during the meetings of your club, clan, regiment, society or assembly

and I will reserve the right to reject your proposals,
yes, to reject you no matter how much this will grieve and offend you
for I do not love out of pity
but will gladly join in the pleasure, the hunt, the revels and tournaments.
Santé! Santé! Santé!

Big daddies, take a lenient look at life just this once
make just this once an exception so as to create,
once and for all a precedent made to be followed
by granting me access to all the world’s realms and domains
that since time immemorial have been taboo for me
since it suited the managers of those estates.

Let me chuck cheques around all signed by you;
all things that carry your stamp,
all inventions where you have the patent,
let me finger them easily, sensually,
casually throw them over my shoulder, strew them to children,
feed them as bread to sparrows,
let me play Santa with them,
let me nonchalantly administer them
make wild purchases with them
but at least entrust me with them.

I want the key to the forbidden room,
the code of the computer, the access to the systems,
the password to the profitable pastures.
Give me my weapons as compensation
for your power and materials so sorely needed.
Give me the right to speak at table and don’t rudely interrupt me.
Dare to speak to me at parties
without banking on a night of pleasure.

I will break off the heels of my stilettoes.
I refuse to go on teetering over the cobbles
unless they are flagstones that lead to my palaces,
and I reject what restricts my freedom of movement,
makes me invisible or eclipses me,
I cast it at the feet of those
who asked for this before trampling it underfoot
and whoever asked me to strip off as much as possible
I will ask to lead the way
and to leave it at that.

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