Five Poems

Semper eadem There are whores in your head when you turn thirty. An hour of keen delight outweighs each word you say. But sinking ever deeper into your unwashed grave you think of who she was and who has slept here since. What happened to the wide-eyed awe of mornings after new delight? There are…

All Said Before

Menno Wigman’s Ennui Innovation is impossible. The Earth revolves around the sun, summer gives way to winter, people are born and try to leave a few copies of their DNA behind before they die, and every generation does its best to put the essence of existence into words as if it hasn’t all been said…

From Africa to Africa

The Return of a Dead Traveller An Extract from Frank Westerman’s El Negro and Me December 1983. In a Spanish museum of natural history, nineteen-year-old Frank Westerman finds himself standing face to face with a stuffed African — El Negro. Who is this man? Who stuffed his body? Twenty years later, the author follows El…

Two Poems

Four Ways of Waiting for Someone 1 Sitting. Thinking of lying. Hands smoothing the tablecloth around a dish that’s difficult and much too much for two and not like the picture, but smells fantastic, out through the windows, doing its best not to collapse, like a sucked-in tummy trying not to bulge – inversion too…

‘Awater’ in the UK

Martinus Nijhoff’s First English Volume Two gentlemen in a restaurant in Nijmegen. During dinner one of them says with a sigh what a shame it is to write poetry in a language that reaches so few people as Dutch does. This means that his readership remains somewhat limited, and that weighs on his heart. Eventually…

Crab

The border of sand and water is vague with no clear lines. By a clump of seaweed a white gull nabs a green crab. Impatiently it pecks, pecks, pecks the belly open and gorges on the soft and flaky innards. Flat-footed it knocks on the rest of the crab, which has long since stopped moving:…