Five poems by Luuk Gruwez

Fat People

Fat people know everything about love,
up to the remotest corners of their body,
the catacombs of their own flesh.

Their belly is the foreign country where they live,
continuously yearning for the slimmest waists
that make their mouths water like pastry.

Nobody is more sincerely sad,
so cheerfully mournful in those distant guts,
those far toes and bulbous buttocks.

As if they just consist of remnants:
less than a hundred kilos nothing
that nobody will ever want.

From Fat People (Dikke mensen. Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1990)
By Luuk Gruwez

Translated by Ria Loohuizen


Miss Pipi

Please protect this pale Cinderella,
who has been made for the splashing
from rapid and from languid bladders,
who has been made for the sport
of each client who toys with her.

She nods above her bowl
and dozes. It’s her way of ageing slower.
So she lays all her wrinkles almost coyly
to rest on a formica top.

A sweetie that calls her Miss:
the heavenly drudge of stench
that longs for money and sentiment,
warming herself on a coffee pot.
Never beautiful, but unearthly. Spotless dragon.
— Only the flushing gives rapturous applause.

From Bad Manners (Vuile manieren. Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1994)
By Luuk Gruwez

Translated by Paul Vincent


On Picking Things Up

All over the world children pick things up:
a pebble, a marble or a cast-off sock,
the leg of a dismembered doll.
Whatever would happen to them
if they were once not to bother?
Then children and things
would cease to be themselves,
Only later will they lie still, the things.
Finally dead.

All over the world children beg,
from Marrakech to Wimbledon,
not just to be given things,
but also to stop them falling,
They absolutely disagree
with the earth’s gravitational pull,

Only later, unbending giants,
do they really want those things.
But they lie low and far away,
too far away from their heads,
far too close to their toes.

It is at that moment that some
(strange, sad, endless children,
who completely on the sly
still wish to bend humbly down),
it is at that moment that some
start wobbling alarmingly.
They slump helplessly down from their heads.

One sees them — everywhere and nowhere —
sometimes lying about. Usually nowhere.
Still twitching like shot game.
They’re the ones who’ve picked things up.
Have pity, bend and pick them up.

From Thieves and Loved Ones (Dieven en geliefden. Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 2000)
By Luuk Gruwez
Translated by Paul Vincent



You died simply to kill the time.
Dying suited you, in fact so well
that, turned to a thing with other lifeless things,
you scarcely seemed deceased.

And when it got that far and you so far away,
a gentleman came by with strings of prayers
who, intoxicated by his offered blessing,
wanted to bore you with eternal life,

But nothing could harm you in that
silent rapture, in which you lay and dreamed,
paid court to and fingered
by smoothly handsome, idiotic death.

And together at last and never so together,
the lightest fairy, who once bore me.
The first gentleman first loved –
the last lady.

From Unrestrained Poems (Bandeloze gedichten. Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 2000)
By Luuk Gruwez
Translated by Paul Vincent



And if there is no longer any tenderness,
let us then pretend this tenderness
with blindfold hands and eyes half closed,
lying against each other like a frontier.

A word may then no longer be called a word,
but a mouthful of comforting silence;
and longing no longer the length of an arm,
but further, and more distant than a panoramic view

full of summer birds, music by Mendelssohn, a sfumato
derived from Da Vinci. You will swop your most beautiful pity
for my favourite sorrow; I, carefully taking time
to explore more deeply the fading of your body.

O, if there is then still tenderness,
this tenderness should be dreaded
like a very old wound. So much tenderness
no man could ever stand.

From Unrestrained Poems (Bandeloze gedichten. Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1996)
By Luuk Gruwez
Translated by Greta Kilburn

First published in The Low Countries, 2002