Sunday 11 October 2020

Victor Vroomkoning: 'Dodemont'



In the mirror of the busy current

he spies flights of birds, he lets his boots

swirl on behind them, soon blood-red the day

will end in his latest delusion.

Bridges incorporate villages into 

the town, a host of lighters pass beneath,

one by one they disappear round 

the farther bend, he finds a butterfly upon 

his sleeve that’s still alive, mad midges dance 

eternal figures. Barefoot he wanders

round the quay, points upwards,

at the land, what’s happened to him?


You hear him mumbling like a monk,

he seems to talk of a ‘close shave’  

or maybe says ‘most brave’ – he finally

emerges as a soldier – hard though

to discern for like a garden fence 

the collar of his tunic frames his mouth.  


What’s he up to now? He climbs into steel

girders of a bridge, puts writings on

a wall, then gestures to the clouds and ships

with something that resembles a salute.


Soon the distant ceiling gleams above him.

Dodemont – thus is the name his sword-

belt bears – regains the gentle ground but now

without camouflage jacket, which flutters

like a banner on a pier and without helmet

that sticks in the pit of an arch

like a monocle in an eye-socket. Where

is he bound, he has a house? His hair

hangs long, his hollow cheeks show

signs of beard. His paltry back he frees

from his knapsack, digs out a chocolate bar,

from his canteen drips slowly tea or

rum, you grant him nectar, so

low is his supply of milk and honey.

The shadow that the light had sent him

as companion has vanished; the path

he follows takes him past the town

that cranes its neck above the river.


Dodemont reaches a small harbour,

a lady standing there exposed to his

gaze, her arms open wide, avows: ‘I am,

sir, always here like war the whore’.



His body covered with sand and grass,

he finds a sunken road in which he now

takes cover. He now performs the leopard crawl,

his gleaming barrel like a jewel against his jowl,

who will he fight against and for what reason,

for what power does he fix his bayonet?


New light peers through the seams of the night.

Dodemont awakes in a kind of watchman’s

house or is it a café, he sips

at sour wine and chews at cake, fishes

up leftovers of pork and cheese from a fold

of a worn-out bag. His heart gets dope

by what his stomach is supplied with,

he belches a dead language, once spoken

hereabouts at this centuries-old water.

He’s sandal-shod, shows dagger and sword, 

wears armour like the comrades in arms

in the muses’ temple round the corner. 

Where is his garrison, his legion,

what brings him here, what has he come to do?



He lands up - it must be said - amongst

foot-soldiers, well-received, is surprised 

that he is known by people from so far away

in this present now. From double rows

gush gladioli, wreaths,

he only needs to follow his

vocation, waving at palms

of hands. At the tribunes he lingers,

above him a plane traces in the sky

‘Gods greet Dodemont’ as it flies by.

From homage or duty, he raises

an eagle to the light amongst soldier-

talk and signs. The sea of flowers

that’s swamped him he humbly lays at the

feet of the emperors on their square,

hangs wreaths round the necks of the four

maidens at the retaining wall, who stand

like vestal virgins before the native

seasons and places laurels on the man

with the flag recalling the last battle.


People are in festive mood, and from the tower 

comes the sound of bells, basses and tenors.

The horizon dims, before night conquers

it Dodemont stares at the hunting-

fields beyond the river on the other side,

what is he thinking of, of what then, just now or here?




Fireworks are let off into the firmament.

Dodemont, who’s up in arms at once, dreams

evidently of a new front: H-Hour.

Believing it too, he has a déjà-vu

of Ultima Thule where he can 

possibly have been, that is before his

mind’s eye every time he marches towards

bridges, fields, hills, expanses of water.


You see him marching once more with himself

in boots and sandals as before to points

of the compass where he has already been, bound

for new honours, wreaths, graves.


O Dodemont, where have you not already been,

are you not yet sufficiently laid to rest?

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