Friday 8 June 2012

Poem by the Dutch writer
Victor Vroomkoning


In the mirror of the busy current
he spies flights of birds, he lets his boots
swirl on behind them, soon blood-red the day
will end in his latest delusion.
Bridges incorporate villages into
the town, a host of lighters pass beneath,
one by one they disappear round
the farther bend, he finds a butterfly upon
his sleeve that’s still alive, mad midges dance
eternal figures. Barefoot he wanders
round the quay, points upwards,
at the land, what’s happened to him?

You hear him mumbling like a monk,
he seems to talk of a ‘close shave’ 
or maybe says ‘most brave’ – he finally
emerges as a soldier – hard though
to discern for like a garden fence
the collar of his tunic frames his mouth. 

What’s he up to now? He climbs into steel
girders of a bridge, puts writings on
a wall, then gestures to the clouds and ships
with something that resembles a salute.

Soon the distant ceiling gleams above him.
Dodemont – thus is the name his sword-
belt bears – regains the gentle ground but now
without camouflage jacket, which flutters
like a banner on a pier and without helmet
that sticks in the pit of an arch
like a monocle in an eye-socket. Where
is he bound, he has a house? His hair
hangs long, his hollow cheeks show
signs of beard. His paltry back he frees
from his knapsack, digs out a chocolate bar,
from his canteen drips slowly tea or
rum, you grant him nectar, so
low is his supply of milk and honey.
The shadow that the light had sent him
as companion has vanished; the path
he follows takes him past the town
that cranes its neck above the river.

Dodemont reaches a small harbour,
a lady standing there exposed to his
gaze, her arms open wide, avows: ‘I am,
sir, always here like war the whore’.

His body covered with sand and grass,
he finds a sunken road in which he now
takes cover. He now performs the leopard crawl,
his gleaming barrel like a jewel against his jowl,
who will he fight against and for what reason,
for what power does he fix his bayonet?

New light peers through the seams of the night.
Dodemont awakes in a kind of watchman’s
house or is it a café, he sips
at sour wine and chews at cake, fishes
up leftovers of pork and cheese from a fold
of a worn-out bag. His heart gets dope
by what his stomach is supplied with,
he belches a dead language, once spoken
hereabouts at this centuries-old water.
He’s sandal-shod, shows dagger and sword,
wears armour like the comrades in arms
in the muses’ temple round the corner.
Where is his garrison, his legion,
what brings him here, what has he come to do?

He lands up - it must be said - amongst
foot-soldiers, well-received, is surprised
that he is known by people from so far away
in this present now. From double rows
gush gladioli, wreaths,
he only needs to follow his
vocation, waving at palms
of hands. At the tribunes he lingers,
above him a plane traces in the sky
‘Gods greet Dodemont’ as it flies by.
From homage or duty, he raises
an eagle to the light amongst soldier-
talk and signs. The sea of flowers
that’s swamped him he humbly lays at the
feet of the emperors on their square,
hangs wreaths round the necks of the four
maidens at the retaining wall, who stand
like vestal virgins before the native
seasons and places laurels on the man
with the flag recalling the last battle.

People are in festive mood, and from the tower
comes the sound of bells, basses and tenors.
The horizon dims, before night conquers
it Dodemont stares at the hunting-
fields beyond the river on the other side,
what is he thinking of, of what then, just now or here?

Fireworks are let off into the firmament.
Dodemont, who’s up in arms at once, dreams
evidently of a new front: H-Hour.
Believing it too, he has a déjà-vu
of Ultima Thule where he can
possibly have been, that is before his
mind’s eye every time he marches towards
bridges, fields, hills, expanses of water.

You see him marching once more with himself
in boots and sandals as before to points
of the compass where he has already been, bound
for new honours, wreaths, graves.

O Dodemont, where have you not already been,
are you not yet sufficiently laid to rest?

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