Oaks are the trees of the dies irae;
when the ground shatters they,
spread through the land, will watch
with old, wooden faces
that remain unmoved:

too many gales have been
frozen in their tough branching crowns;
they are no longer disturbed
by growth, that age-old turmoil,
and their stillness shows not a glimmer
of contempt, of compassion
for the old land,
only patience.

And when the souls of the saved then fly
like glittering noble gases
to their maker; and the damned, afire
with diarrhoea, plunge down
past cold, iron-hard roots
deeper into the earth:

they have seen it before,
they have heard it before,
they don’t get involved.

From Cameo (1993)
By Peter Ghyssaert
Translated by Tanis Guest

First published in The Low Countries, 1999