Winter Landscape

In vain I raise eyes that are closed to see;
I find the landscape now enclosing me
that before the dawn loomed cold in my mind’s eye:

a man’s last bike-ride into fenland snow
in search of silence like an embryo,
breath-clouds condensed around his mouth as he went by.

Winter, resembling Dutch School scenery.
Where were the people, though? At home, maybe,
by the stove, or else in the background, mist-diffused.

This winter vision that I saw
moved me just like before the war,
as if, now fogs were closing in, I’d got the time confused.

Why did I need people? Thoughts from aloft
fell like a shapeless pack into soft
snow — a blank patch meant a cyclist getting off.

In vain I raise eyes that are closed to see;
the man’s enclosed within my memory
till that has vanished in fine snow. Landscape’s left, enough.

From Memory for Landscape (Geheugen voor landschap, 1979)
By Ad Zuiderent
Translated by Paul Vincent

First published in The Low Countries, 1999