But friends, dear little poets of my native land
and Belgium, words are called for here, as matters stand –
the weather’s changed of late. Soon winter’s here. The nights,
sweat-drenched, expose themselves with thoughts’ fast-whirling flights.
The days are skimped and scamped. For otherwise deserved
and tricky questions might be asked, cold dishes served
by waiters who stand quivering. For one’s most wary
of scary things, for those are what one finds most scary.
No longer can we just get by with photoed kitties
on facebook profiles, sing predictably odd ditties:
of how Moroccans and their pancakes are just grand;
of how in the canals the mirror-cycles stand;
of how first at the Vondelpark, then at your door;
of once, now and some day; some dogshit on the floor
that some posh art collector for a fortune buys;
of massive yearnings that one seeks to exorcise;
of indoor plants that look like Nietzsche to a T;
of suburbs you’ve discovered unsuspectedly;
of shovelboard control, that Biedermeier glow;
small worries, forms of puppet-love too – I say no!
Who dares to write now has the solemn task to write
and turn out something more than poems simply trite
which with amazement at some deep emotion gazing
and greatly moved amazingly looks like the phrasing
of what already and unjustly has been seen
as poetry. We must confront the ugly scene
that our so cosy niche yet cosier affords.
While our frail gate’s besieged by populistic hordes,
our whole debate boils down to how to masturbate.
We still can just live off what’s granted by the state
and crochet-work like girls do. But. There is a but.
What we are doing isn’t true, it’s just a rut.
Negating truth results in untruth straight away.
While we create just how to pass the time of day,
to beat our chests and punch each other on the nose,
artillery resounds far off. And no cock crows,
though more than just three times each other we’ve betrayed.
To wade in pink boots through morasses we have made,
and blow frail bubbles in the ball pool each in turn –
we’re good at this, and that’s precisely my concern.
We can’t lay eggs, that’s not what we are experts at,
Whoever feels he’s called to speak should do just that.
The winter’s coming and will last for year on year.
And poets must sing out at camp-fires full of fear
or give up being poets. We must not let stray
what fingers googling busily forget each day.
So no more deconstructions, cryptogram or quiz.
We have to learn to say exactly how it is.
For years I’ve suffered from that dangerous illusion,
eradicator that I was. The false delusion
that I ought to disrupt yet further all loose screws
and to all heaps of certainties should light the fuse
and then retire, has harmed the cause. One who is good
at questions would himself like to be understood,
for otherwise there’s no one else who latches on.
With too much air I’ve gasped for air and thereupon
from lack of breath and hacking coughing nearly died,
while underrating how folk weigh things up, are tied
to everything and genuinely have a need,
except for what their certainty might just impede.
Romantic views of épater la bourgeoisie
have gathered dust like relics till their own degree
of relevance and urgency has paid the price.
If you don’t know how you should feel, then listen twice.
No prophet in the desert stands up on a rock
to stay unheard there, mangy in his camel frock.
When from all gibberish the world goes up the spout,
he will explain on prime time what it’s all about
and stand there in the mud in his reflective vest,
live on with next of kin, united and well-dressed.
There’s thunder. Or is it the hooves of hordes maybe
that whirl from south to north the dust up suddenly,
and oceans with their wrath can cause to turn away,
dry land become calm seas, towns lakes within a day,
the slot machines to vend ice cream, and money now
like ever-falling dust’s uncounted anyhow?
From far-flung outposts strangest news I have received:
by evolution we from duty are relieved.
The towers fell long ago. The day after tomorrow
will make tomorrow seem a day of little sorrow.
To sound apocalyptic I do not devise.
But winter’s coming. We must learn to read the skies.
So friends, and each great living Dutch and Belgian poet:
where people shout, language is vacant– and you know it.
I nothing ask, want, or decree, or would explain.
Perhaps we just could start to say things once again?