Under a Famous Overcast Sky

Along the dike
beside the restless river
someone lumbers along for the sake of his health
in a well-known brand of running shoes

someone else on a bicycle
is on the way to a village
(to a self-service shop?)
(to the sub-post-office there?)

the two persons
having met and stopped each other
(one asking the other the way)
(and after that the time)
peer together into the distance

the gestures they make
do not exactly adhere to any fixed pattern
but nor are they totally lacking in orderliness

in this their gestures accord
with the leaves and the branches and twigs
and everything that is part of the botanical potpourri
in the water-meadows and with the course of the old river.

In another room
someone sits at the window writing

he ponders
the words he has drawn from his pen
and strikes them out
and then carries on thinking

shall I hang the view of the river here on the wall,
with the overcast to end all overcasts
and those two contemporaries on the dike in
the distance
having reached the point of an exchange
of thoughts?

shall I get the bowl of battered apples and insects
out of the kitchen and put it on the table?

and who or what is it
makes me ask myself these things?

a newspaper slides through the letter-box
and lands on the mat by the door

then the man writes:
we are bargemen sailing on sluggish rivers
whose boats are like very old toys.

From Body and Soul (Lichaam en ziel, 1992)
By Martin Reints
Translated by Tanis Guest

First published in The Low Countries, 1999