What to Talk About

What to talk about this evening? Talk, too, in a land that we recognise, bear with, rarely forget. That land with its farcical genesis, its damp climate, its dubious stories about its past, its people, grasping till their last collapse among the cauliflowers, They continue to multiply in a paradise of their inventing, greedy for…

Brother

‘It’s hard’, he said, ‘it’s bloody hard. Unfair too, now at last I’m losing weight’. Still autumn outside, maize reaching to the horizon. The word falls, a horizon Then no word more from him. The plastic tube in his gullet. He hiccups for hours. Can’t swallow. Still some movement in the right hand, which supports…

Bruges

The Venice of the North. Moss-covered stones. Battlements. The quayside in the rain. In the love-water floats a handbook on the writing of letters to your sweetheart, for when it’s going well, and for when it’s fading out. From Poems 1948-1993 (Gedichten 1948-1993, 1994) By Hugo Claus Translated by Tanis Guest First published in The…

In Flanders Fields

The soil here is superbly rich. Even after all those years without manure you could cultivate a dead man’s leek here to beat any market. The shaky English veterans have dwindled. Each year they point out to their dwindling friends: Hill Sixty, Hill Sixty-One, Poelkapelle. The combine harvesters in Flanders Fields describe ever closer circles…