For the Reader

Printed letters I will show You here
but of my warm lips no living speech
and from this text no hand will reappear.
What can I do? I find You out of reach.

Oh, could I comfort You, then I could cry.
Come, give Your hand this page, my skin;
soften the petrifying print that I am in
and speak the words I have tried living by.

I have written poems beyond recall,
am still a stranger where I think I live,
and whom I hurt I’ve nothing left to give
love, that is all.

It was love that often seemed to make
me fall asleep making my pencil write
the words that slept in this book’s night
till now when You read them awake.

Behind this page would be my proper place
where I could be alive again
to look into Your reading
face and ache to see the ebbing of Your pain.

Do not arouse these words for naught;
their nudity would find themselves to blame,
so let Your gaze not reach their shame
unless love is Your driving thought.

Then, read this like a letter nearly
too late, relax, and after these delays
fear not its kisses when it says:
I love you dearly.

From Poems, Early and Late (Gedichten, vroegere en latere, 1949)
By Leo Vroman
Translated by Leo Vroman

First published in The Low Countries, 1995