Maastricht

From sharp-cut corners and rectangles
the eye sweeps around

Like a crater the mouth of the old
city purses itself

On the crack between the lips the river
sucks itself on to the north

The view quivers with bone-dry corn
potato-fields arch ripe and watchful

From the highways point precisely the measures
of over-long rulers

The light, we say, shrouded in heat,
the hamlets between the hills

The banks too all along are built up
the cathedrals fallen away

Time becomes transparent, slipping backward
the craquelure flows over the fissures

Here Van Eyck sat, looking
back down the highway

Changing with the light, we say.

From No Sign of the Assailant (Van de aanvaller geen spoor, 1983)
By Hans van de Waarsenburg
Translated by Tanis Guest

First published in The Low Countries, 1998