Saturday 8 February 2020

Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer: Idyll 5


I stumble through the night in hop-step-jump-like style.
What wrenches on each isle has wrenched there quite a while.
My head is just hand luggage. And the excess weight
is twenty flasks of gin and my own face whose fate
is this great thirst. I’ll now embark for Zanzibar.
Why is it that already all your tight curls are
as wayward as one’s thoughts are in a sleepless night?
This poem, isn’t quite what you’d expected – right?
I’ll start again. For that’s a talent that I’ve got.
I’d planned to have some islands at this very spot.
If that’s not you, a brand-new poem I could spawn,
how you, for instance, raise you head at crack of dawn
amazed that you have landed from far distant lands
in the safe haven and home port of all my hands.
We are an island. Do you think I talk too much?
But dearest, what’s in question’s often not as such.
I once have seen a deer swim in the IJsselmeer.
Sounds black and sticky? Thanks, mate. just two letters: ta!
I’m really smoking less, my dear. My one foot’s white.
The chessboard floats through woods. I’m Lancelot, the knight,
the first to bear that name. You’ll wave your handkerchief,
your high cheeks mirrored like green grapes in fine relief
against my bright red-hot cuirass, where your flower’s flame
has bled. Spurs are dug in. My word to you is fame.
Your dragons I shall slay until your wilted rose,
now broken and quite crushed, my last wounds’ bleeding slows.
Thus will I perish for you in some mythic book
and aeons later possibly for me they’ll look
on channels like Discovery or CNN.
I feel romantic as a person now and then.
That islands do exist, though, this I know full well.
And not so very far away from where you dwell
two fair-haired royal children got lost, failed to show.
It does occur. What freedom tastes like I well know:
it tastes of rust and blood as ochre as coltsfoot,
combined with copper at low voltage and with soot,
that’s squirted from saliva glands after the shot
or when a close shave almost roots one to the spot.
It is the taste of fear. That’s why most shut behind 
themselves the cage for beasts to which they’re self-consigned 
whenever they can feel that night is drawing near. 
Guards are not even needed. In a madhouse fear
seems much less menacing than is the wind outside
where midst the crunching grit of paths that seaward slide
true madness prowls. Despairingly one rings the door
takes straitjackets off hooks to go to bed once more
and try as best one can to cry oneself to sleep.
In duty’s custody from freedom one would creep.
And freedom, what is freedom when the diamond queen
betrays the table and the hearts complete the scene?
It wasn’t for the shooting. Not at first, oh no.
It wasn’t for the flight. The dream of Mexico
became a sudden need, strangely enough, just like
a task, like Africans seek Europe, one great hike.
And freedom, all in all, is merely empty ditties
of oldies on their choppers, photographs of kitties
in diaries kept by girls who have a love of horses
with needles in their arms. Unstoppable as forces
with thirteen breezers stored away. Your flag’s agreed
- and with it I your servant ride off on my steed –
it shows a scarlet field that has two golden hands.
Thus subjugated off I set to distant lands
passing the vast black forests and high northern fjords,
passing the crescent sickles of the southern hordes
to islands when no human’s ever come on land.
Your banner there I’ll plant, kneeling in burning sand.
And freedom, that’s someone who just says something hot
after bedding five lovely queenies on the trot
and pulls out from his ample sleeve his old banjo.
We’ll marry on the run. Should I give that a go,
then Mexico or Zanzibar are certain spots.
Tight curls unravel due to celebration shots
and on the cake your two hands have been done in glaze.
We’ve hired two jet-black horses for the next few days.
My head’s hand luggage. All the excess weight inside
is everything with which I’ve happily complied.

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