Tuesday 19 April 2016

'Waarover spreken' - a poem by Hugo Claus


What to speak about tonight? And preach
in a land we recognise, tolerate,
seldom forget.
That country with its droll beginnings,
its clammy climate, its sapless stories
about the old days,
its inhabitants, greedy till their final fall
among the cauliflowers.
They keep on multiplying
in a paradise of their own imagining,
hankering for happiness, shivering, mouths full of porridge.
Just as in nature
which depilates our puny hills,
scorches our pastures, poisons our air,
the guileless cows graze on.

Speak about the writings of this land,
printed matter full of question marks
on the patient paper
that time and again is shocked by its history
and so resorts to concealing shorthand.
Speak about the curtains
that people draw around themselves.
But still we hear them, the stinking
primates that stalk each other in rooms.
Just as in nature
the hibiscus gives off no scent,
that the innocent cows do, becoming bogged
in the piss-logged earth.

Speak in that land of glittering grass
in which man,
intemperate worm,.dreaming carcass,
dwells among the corpses which dead as they are
remain obedient to our memory.
Just as our nature expects a single,
simple miracle that one day will finally
explain what we were,
not only this remote spectacle
thrown together by time.

Speak about that time which, they said,
would mark as a brand and palimpsest?
We lived in an aged of using
and being usable.
What defence against such?
What festive arse-feathers?
What cellar song? Perhaps.
Say it. Perhaps.
A few swift scratches in slate
and that’s the outline of your love.
Fingerprints in the clay are her hips.
Phonemes of joy sometimes sounded
if she, when she, called you like a cat.

Speaking about her presence
wakens the blue hour of twilight.
Just as in nature
the merciless, glassy, blue azure
of our planet seen from Apollo..
And though from simply speaking
your festive cap begins to feel heavy
and the lifeline in your palm
starts festering
still, notwithstanding, nevertheless
honour the flowering
of the shadows that inhabit us,
the shadows begging for consolation.
And still stroke her shoulder blade.
Like the back of a hunchback
Still hankering for a ferocious happiness.

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