Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Gerrit Kouwenaar

Third Song

The day before peace our almighty
father major sent me and six others into the dead
silent night to the good
as defeated enemy

seven scouts on the border
of just about all: war peace life, walking
through mist into an ambush: i alone
was as if by a miracle saved

they were buried on the spot
among them my inseparable buddy
through four years of trenches

half a year later, meanwhile spring, i was studying
man in the city, drank ale, gorged
on steaks, ladies, came
his father, said: you
are still alive, you
were his buddy, you
know where he’s buried, so help me
dig him up, of course it’s forbidden, but he belongs
at home, in the garden

well, what do you do, i did it, i dug
him up with his father, read who he was
from his dogtag, he was falling
apart, a soft lukewarm mass, my hand
stuck wrist-deep in his body, shocked
at the stuff senselessly
making a hole real

after the funeral, illegally in his own soil, i
sat in their living room with mother sister father, drinking
a glass of tears, talking
around his boyhood portrait

i told: we walked stooping together, talked
muted of better and later, smoked
a belga together, smelled together
no danger / he was
a brave soldier, obedient
but not without self-respect, he loved
mozart wagner his country, listened
when his trees rustled / i did
little violence to his truth, kept silent
only all that unsayable the lice the whores and how
we went to town like butchers

oh, it was spring, in the garden
where we’d buried him that plane tree
was rustling, the tree that makes hands, something
was perfect, something
completed at last, even the moon
looked new, and his fleshly sister had
me on her lips, was in a tight-fitting body
at the end of april, the flowering currant
stunk of the earth, and my hand touched
her breasts, my hand
touched her breasts and it was
that same soft lukewarm mass, that same
soft lukewarm mass, that same stuff but
the same, and it was
this same hand, this

DERDE ZANG

DERDE ZANG

Daags voor de vrede zond onze almachtige
vader majoor mij en zes anderen de dood
stille nacht in naar de zo goed
als verslagen vijand

zeven verkenners op de grens
van haast alles: oorlog vlees leven, lopend
door mist in een hinderlaag: ik alleen
bleef als door een wonder gespaard

zij werden ter plaatse begraven
onder hen mijn onafscheidelijke maat
van vier jaar loopgraven

een half jaar later, inmiddels voorjaar, ik studeerde
menskunde in de stad, dronk ale, vrat
biefstukken dames, kwam
zijn vader, zei: jij
leeft nog, jij
was zijn maat, jij
weet waar hij ligt begraven, dus help mij
hem opgraven, het is natuurlijk verboden, maar hij hoort
bij ons thuis, in de tuin

nu ja, wat doe je, ik deed het, ik groef
hem op met zijn vader, becijferde hem
aan zijn plaatje, hij hing
uit elkaar, een weke lauwwarme massa, mijn hand
schoot polsdiep in zijn lichaam, schrok
van het materiaal dat onzinnig
een gat waarmaakte

na de begrafenis, illegaal in zijn eigen aarde, zat
ik in hun huiskamer met moeder zuster vader, drinkend
een glaasje tranen, pratend
rond zijn jongensportret

ik vertelde: wij liepen gebukt samen, spraken
gedempt over beter en later, rookten
gezamenlijk een belga, roken te zamen
geen onraad / hij was
een dapper soldaat, gehoorzaam
maar niet zonder eigenwaarde, hij hield
van mozart wagner zijn land, luisterde
als zijn bomen ruisten / ik deed
zijn waarheid weinig geweld aan, verzweeg
alleen al dat onzegbare de luizen de hoeren en hoe
wij huishielden als slagers
ach, het was voorjaar, in de tuin
waar wij hem hadden begraven ruiste
de plataan, die boom die handen maakt, iets
volmaakts was er, iets af
gemaakts eindelijk, ook de maan
leek wel nieuw, en zijn vleselijke zuster hing
aan mijn lippen, zat einde april
in een krap lichaam, de ribes
stonk aards, en mijn hand raakte
haar borsten aan, mijn hand
raakte haar borsten aan en het was
dezelfde weke lauwwarme massa, dezelfde
weke lauwwarme massa, hetzelfde materiaal maar
hetzelfde, en het was
deze zelfde hand, deze
Close

Third Song

The day before peace our almighty
father major sent me and six others into the dead
silent night to the good
as defeated enemy

seven scouts on the border
of just about all: war peace life, walking
through mist into an ambush: i alone
was as if by a miracle saved

they were buried on the spot
among them my inseparable buddy
through four years of trenches

half a year later, meanwhile spring, i was studying
man in the city, drank ale, gorged
on steaks, ladies, came
his father, said: you
are still alive, you
were his buddy, you
know where he’s buried, so help me
dig him up, of course it’s forbidden, but he belongs
at home, in the garden

well, what do you do, i did it, i dug
him up with his father, read who he was
from his dogtag, he was falling
apart, a soft lukewarm mass, my hand
stuck wrist-deep in his body, shocked
at the stuff senselessly
making a hole real

after the funeral, illegally in his own soil, i
sat in their living room with mother sister father, drinking
a glass of tears, talking
around his boyhood portrait

i told: we walked stooping together, talked
muted of better and later, smoked
a belga together, smelled together
no danger / he was
a brave soldier, obedient
but not without self-respect, he loved
mozart wagner his country, listened
when his trees rustled / i did
little violence to his truth, kept silent
only all that unsayable the lice the whores and how
we went to town like butchers

oh, it was spring, in the garden
where we’d buried him that plane tree
was rustling, the tree that makes hands, something
was perfect, something
completed at last, even the moon
looked new, and his fleshly sister had
me on her lips, was in a tight-fitting body
at the end of april, the flowering currant
stunk of the earth, and my hand touched
her breasts, my hand
touched her breasts and it was
that same soft lukewarm mass, that same
soft lukewarm mass, that same stuff but
the same, and it was
this same hand, this

Third Song

The day before peace our almighty
father major sent me and six others into the dead
silent night to the good
as defeated enemy

seven scouts on the border
of just about all: war peace life, walking
through mist into an ambush: i alone
was as if by a miracle saved

they were buried on the spot
among them my inseparable buddy
through four years of trenches

half a year later, meanwhile spring, i was studying
man in the city, drank ale, gorged
on steaks, ladies, came
his father, said: you
are still alive, you
were his buddy, you
know where he’s buried, so help me
dig him up, of course it’s forbidden, but he belongs
at home, in the garden

well, what do you do, i did it, i dug
him up with his father, read who he was
from his dogtag, he was falling
apart, a soft lukewarm mass, my hand
stuck wrist-deep in his body, shocked
at the stuff senselessly
making a hole real

after the funeral, illegally in his own soil, i
sat in their living room with mother sister father, drinking
a glass of tears, talking
around his boyhood portrait

i told: we walked stooping together, talked
muted of better and later, smoked
a belga together, smelled together
no danger / he was
a brave soldier, obedient
but not without self-respect, he loved
mozart wagner his country, listened
when his trees rustled / i did
little violence to his truth, kept silent
only all that unsayable the lice the whores and how
we went to town like butchers

oh, it was spring, in the garden
where we’d buried him that plane tree
was rustling, the tree that makes hands, something
was perfect, something
completed at last, even the moon
looked new, and his fleshly sister had
me on her lips, was in a tight-fitting body
at the end of april, the flowering currant
stunk of the earth, and my hand touched
her breasts, my hand
touched her breasts and it was
that same soft lukewarm mass, that same
soft lukewarm mass, that same stuff but
the same, and it was
this same hand, this
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
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