Saturday 30 December 2017

Another Snijders zkv: 'Grote Lijster' in English

mistle thrush

Earlier I used to think that De Lairessestraat was ten kilometres long. Logical, for I was a drowsy and dreamy child, and I used to walk slowly, look into every doorway, and even – in my own good time – count the number of paving stones. Later its true proportions came to light, though I still see it as a long street, even now. It runs straight as a die from the Amstelveenseweg to the Museumplein. There’s a tramline there, the no. 16. In that tram, as a 13 year-old, I had a major experience. There was a lot of traffic, the tram was travelling slowly, stopping at every stop. I kept looking outside at a man on a bike who was talking to himself. Sometimes we passed him, stopped – he passed us – and we caught up with him again. I was fascinated, he was alone in the world, noticed nothing, rode straight on and talked away incessantly. He was an island, he was self-sufficient. I remember very clearly that I made a decision – that’s the sort of man I want to be. After that, something has probably gone wrong – youngsters ought to have different dreams. At this crossroads, I made the wrong choice. If fate had not placed me in the tram or if I had been sitting on the other side of the aisle, I might possibly now be the managing director of an engineering works, or State Secretary or a general. It’s complicated – you’re able to make decisions, but they also have to accord with your character, your body, your temperament. For that reason I have never dared to talk to myself when in the city, where you are spied on from all sides. I only did this when I had arrived in a wood. Now that I often walk on my own along the edge of fields of maize and woodland paths, I do quite a bit of talking. I don’t control myself, I just go on talking. A kind of écriture automatique. My mind goes off on its own, I myself am absent. Often it comes up with small bits of verse or fragments from longer pieces of poetry. Jan Hanlo is often on the programme.

in the morning

It was half-past four in the morning in April
I was out walking, whistling the St. Louis Blues
But whistling it in my own particular way
While whistling I thought: if only my whistling
sounded like the song of the mistle thrush
And so help me, after a while my whistling
did start to sound like the song of the mistle thrush:
turdus viscivorus.

That’s it: turdus viscivorus. It’s great to mutter it and sometimes even to shout it out loud. As has happened a few times. I thought I was alone and in a simple cadence yelled out: turdus viscivorus. But I hadn’t seen that there some others out walking in the wood too, so that I had to pretend I was calling for my dog that had run off. A man came towards me and asked if he could help me to try and find my dog. What was its name, exactly? The man was fine, naive and self-conscious, independent and, especially, unaffected by the spirit of the age, he was not sarcastic, cynical or conceited – he probably had no TV, was an atheist vegetarian and didn’t think it was all that serious that Marianne Thieme believes in Jesus. I said: ‘The dog’s name is Turdus Viscivorus. If you take the left side, I’ll take the right.’

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