River

Very often I have looked in places near rivers
for proof it was possible: so I sometimes find
myself coupling in long grass, hear water, wind —
swans flying overhead beat out unborn time
with wooden wings; copulation’s rhythm says
black-white, yes-no, so does your heart and that’s
all, on your lap please, and for ever

In bad times I, faithless, half-heartedly sought
the opposite: then I could have let myself
slip, breasts and cunt and all, into that lapping
black mother, rocked in poisonous embrace to be
soothingly finished off. How then I’d end
up blue and bloated in among the reeds,
frightening the moorhens, no

A strange compromise presented itself
on that clear winter night when I,
towards ten o’clock, put on my skates
near Ouderkerk and glided forward, away
over black ice with here and there a silver
fish caught in it, pushed quickly on
to never again, to nowhere

From Soldiers’ Songs (Soldatenliederen, 1991)
By Anna Enquist
Translated by Tanis Guest

First published in The Low Countries, 1996