In 'Reservoir' Bert Bevers compiled 'Absent Vocals', six lipograms
(Sansevieria, Antwerp, D/2004/10.105.1)

 

 

                           

                        PremiŤre
 

                        Vienna. May 1906. Salome by Richard Strauss
                        will soon resound in this old dual monarchy.

                        The hall is packed a chink in the curtains reveals.
                        The German word for a buzzing whirr is Geschwirr.

                        Curious to know what is in store
                        Gustav Mahler opens his programme. Oh, look:

                        Giacomo Puccini is here too. A little further on
                        a pasty youth, paying the city his first visit

                        for its museums, sleeks his hair. Heís just turned
                        seventeen, the name inside his passport: Adolf Hitler.

                        Lights dim, the curtain rises. All but noiselessly,
                        as at a funeral the heavy tread past survivors.

                        translation John Irons

 

                        Diary page (Thursday, 1 September 2005)

                        Saint Catherine watches over her chapel.
                        Around twenty-four degrees. Cloudy.
                        In blossom: Suzanne of the lovely eyes,
                        verbena though at times. In their elders
 
                        the starlings gorge on berries. Pews
                        creak. It smells here of a thirst that scarcely
                        can be quenched. Heavy holders bear candles
                        where flames have yet to grow.
    
                        Open windows divulge no sounds.
                        Colourful flower sprays with ribbons die
                        on polished wood. They slightly stir
                        in this hushed hour, dabbing eyes wet.

                        Fire awaits, no grave. Strange friend,
                        supreme stranger: do not turn aside. Light falls
                        through glass. In the coffin we bear inside
                        lies the body that was once our motherís.

                        translation John Irons

 

                        Exhausted young fox

                        Hah, how easily he once more shook
                        the dumb dogs off his heels. His tongue
                        gleams moistly like this currant bush.

                        How his weak flank quivers from that brisk
                        trot, the chill of fear still in his belly. His family
                        he left quiet in a sleep-filled lair, the cub

                        softly against his vixen. How the fox longs
                        for her warm small body. But in the dusk
                        the distant baying of the hounds holds him in

                        dense shrub yet awhile. This is my wood, these are
                        my trees. Just keep off all my lovely sunken paths
,
                        the fox thinks. Yearning for long russet dreams.

                        translation John Irons

                        Instant

                        On the platform as we pass a boy and girl
                        enact themselves. In slow motion they rush towards
                        each other with outstretched arms as in a film.

                        In front of me in the tram a woman looks at fresh photos.
                        Proud smile at the sight of paper infant in pink of health.
                        There are: clouds above water, farmers in fields,

                        words in heads. But for her, she is after all already
                        approaching the north of life, all that now counts
                        is that first grandchild. Sometimes the world seems to rock.

                        Rain states the rhythm of the afternoon. We travel
                        trustingly through maladjusted times by touch.
                        Her guardian angel escapes her gaze. I give a wink.

                        translation John Irons

 

                        FORTY BOOTS
 
                                                On seeing a newspaper photograph
 
                        Twenty men. Arm in arm. A find on excavating
                        for the building of a factory. Whistling together
                        these lads cheerfully crossed the water. A Great War
                        had to be fought, and they, they were to do their bit.

                        Through bakelite of telephones over the top and
                        dispatched towards bullets, life for them, at Arras in í17,
                        abruptly came to a halt. Patient bones that broken-white
                        in a ground fertile from yet more warfare waited for later.

                        Under fresh clover and flowering nettles their dead gaze
                        ever heavenward in eaten-away boxes.
                        Now the outer skin of the earth has been raked off,
                        they lie elbow to elbow imitating a Holbein
                        with on their feet Ė and still in good repair Ė their boots.

                        

                                Translation John Irons

                        COOKHAM SAVED FROM OBLIVION BY
                        STANLEY SPENCER AND JESUS CHRIST

 

                        Common to Jordan and Thames is water. What else?

                        The presence of Jesus Christ, of course.

                        Because the saviour not only preached in KafarnaŁm,

                        Gadare and Genesaret, but he called at Cookham,

                        Berkshire, too. Just check out Stanley Spencer.

 

                        The painter remembers us. With the king of Jews

                        preaching during regatta's. With punts full of people

                        looking astonished at the antidote for double time.

                        On the banks greedy contemplation. Here and there

                        some unbelievers yet, mostly women. Cold-eyed.

 

                        Even the mass resurrection in this town leaves them immobile,

                        as if they watch a cinema running out. Don't they recognize

                        Matthew Sweeney's granny who rises younger and slimmer

                        than ever from the dead? Are they practised in getting lost?

 

                        The chiming of the cathedral is tattood in my recollection.

                        Three-four time. Fivethousandandforty possible variations.

                        A man ringing the bells for forty years has to part with an arm

 

 

Translation Peter Nijmeijer

 

 

 

 

                        ANCHORGROUND

 

                        From here he looks around, he hears the truth

                        pass by in small thin clouds, whispering in all tongues.

                        The state of affairs: the target list.

 

                        Bouncing images straight across frontiers

                        now and then the poet sees himself stock-still,

                        calculating his breath, gazing at the sight.

 

                        The anchor moves, but holds

 

 

 

                                   Published in Poetry Monthly, Nottingham, UK, issue 42, September 1999

 



                        EXAMINING A PHOTOGRAPH OF MY

                        DECEASED FATHER AS A YOUNG MAN

 

                        A stroll along  Memory Lane:

                        in all sorts of sounds defence against decay.

                        Memories Are Made Of This,

                        My Son, My Son,

                        Itís Almost Tomorrow too.

           

                        Oh, how we sang old songs untill we reached

                        former days, untill they hardly rang.

                        How in daydreams I walk about happily with daddy.

                        Hand in hand, sometimes already freely.

                        Green and passionate, until later unsuitable for youth.

 

                        How the night draws itself up peacockblue

 

 

 

 

 

                        FEVER

 

                        Itís of figureheads and disembarkations heís dreaming,

                        of continent where past is growling under flagstones.

 

                        Nursery rhymes are heaving on that main land,

                        echoing sun and seamanís laughter too.

 

                        Beacons are spinning round everywhere. Swarming is

                        too sweet a word for what it means. It looks like

                        thunder but surly the sailor carries loneliness.

 

                        Rustling and nightwind. Merely curls of sleep,

                        volatile as the brief coolness you feel in summer

 

when you leaf through a book. From the main yard

short prayers slip as smooth as otters.

 

 

                        NEGATIVE OF SALZBURG

 

                        This print of language swaying develops

                        into an adjusted image: itís raining so hard

                        that the trees are bowing through this grey display.

 

                        It seems as if the world is older than she is. Here,

                        in the heart of Europe, the Salzach splashes itself

                        underneath groaning bridges in a congealing tableau vivant.

 

                        I think bells are chiming, but do not hear them

 

 

 

 

PETRARCH TRAVELLING

THROUGH THE ARDENNES, UNARMED

                       

                        Wheels crunching through forests in haze. Horses

                        halting almost before command. They already paced

over a thousand hills and along a thousand brooks.

Rest now, among unfamiliar trees.

 

                        Does the poet recognize the difference in sound of buzzard

                        and sparrow hawk? He scratches his head, struts about a bit

                        because of rigid limbs. Next to him dark ponds

                        gaze up in mute semblance, like geese at thunder.

 

                        He meditates. He thinks existence is yielding

to predictions all the time. Occur to him, oh miracle,

time and time again: even in these unknown slopes

he sees outlines of his love. They sadden him.

 

He doesn't know the frontiers of the world that well.

Whatever happened in regions he never heard of?

There too the sun loomed up every dawn,

the roar of life starting again and again.

 

The fatigued head on rough wool. In his sleep

politicians palavering, warriors throwing daggers at a cloud

and Laura peeling small pears. Then quivering light

hits the heart of his dreams. Departure's drawing near.

 

Francesco strokes some moist noses. He piddles

between purple cow-wheat. And then mounts.