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 around the winding corridors
of hardened sandbags, the bowels of death.

The butter of this region
has a taste of poppies.

By Hugo Claus
Translated by Theo Hermans (in Dutch Interior: Postwar Poetry of the Netherlands and Flanders, New York, 1984)

First published in The Low Countries, 1998