Monday, 24 September 2012

Five poems by the Flemish writer
Stefan Hertmans

Fireworks she said

On five etchings by Karel Dierickx


Fireworks she said,
I see black fireworks in the night.

We have to wait for a hand’s
light touch.

We looked inside through the window.
Saw the unwritten tablet,
Borne by Moses from the mountain.

Scratch the glass with your finger,
You taste the acid that
was in my eyes.

Haze can now condense into a graze.
Writing was once: drawing from nature.

How bright the night becomes –

You see that distant dawning?
Who’s brought along those eyes so


That arm she said,
You saw that sweeping gesture in the night?

A face seemed suddenly
To loom up in the sky,

Nostrils, formed and shaped
By this great sweep.

Forehead, borne by this
Unthought-of light.

Your hair barbed wire, my love,
So strange to us the night becomes –

You see those lightning darts
Of gravers in the distance?


A bouquet she said,
I see a bouquet without flowers
In the night.

Who is it scatters all those things
Above our heads just like
A form abandoned
By its contours?

Do we not have to pass by
The spray that awaits us?

And who is it firmly holds our hands
Whenever expectantly resigned

We search for you,
Small god, Morandi,

And scrape upon night’s copperplate?


Calvary, she said,
I see the Hill of Suffering
In the night.

I took her in my arms.
But hush, it is the morning
that awaits us.

Do you know for sure?
We kissed.

The world is a hollow skull
she said.

I want the dream that waits
For us in that cavity.

Golgotha, Goya’s head,
Countless are the memories

Of what the night snuffs in due time.

Can you hear how proximity
Has promised us the skyline?


Oh, tiny heads she said,
Just look there, small heads rocking in the night.

I thought that we were inside now;
Didn’t a vase stand here with something red?

The twilight came.
Shadow trickled, like a puddle,
from its place.

Wasn’t there a hand lie next to
Those small objects in the studio?

It seemed as if we’d passed by
Here some time before.

The maker with his hands
Still full of ink awoke, he saw us
standing there in great confusion.

He seized a rag
And drove us deep, deep
Through the inking in his head.

For more poems in English by Hertmans, go to here 

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