Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Miriam Van hee

AT THE ROWING COURSE, GHENT

see how my father sets out on the water in a small boat
he rows with steady strokes and in between

is silence, he stirs the water with his oars
making waves that reach the banks later

there where I’ve left already, I’m cycling along the waterside
I call out that his speed is seven and a half knots per hour

he’s got his back to my view, he sees
where we were, I see what’s ahead, he’s wearing

a kyrgyz hat, not a real one but something made of
faded cotton, for the wind is too strong, he says

too strong for a hat, and on his feet he’s wearing
galoshes that belonged to his father-in-law

they stay in place, he says, in case he ends up
in the deep-end after all, he loved the water, the way he

loved my mother for in the middle of the sea
she was the only thing missing, he let slip

one day, and what about us, I thought and waved
goodbye, he couldn’t wave back, I called

but he couldn’t hear me, he was rowing and it looked
so effortless for him, slowly he fulfilled

his earthly duties while looking at me, on the shore,
now and then, he was moved, perhaps, but from here

I couldn’t tell, it may just as well have been
a game whose rules I didn’t know

and I thought I could leave him there, the water
understood him and carried him back to front

back to the shore

op de watersportbaan

op de watersportbaan

daar gaat in een bootje mijn vader te water
hij roeit met langzame halen waartussen

het stil is, hij roert met een spaan in het water
hij maakt golven die later de oever bereiken

waar ik niet meer ben, ik fiets op het land
ik roep dat hij zeven en half gaat per uur

hij zit met zijn rug naar mijn uitzicht, hij ziet
waar we waren, ik zie wat er komt, hij draagt

een kirgizische hoed, geen echte maar een
van verschoten katoen want er is te veel wind

zegt hij, voor een pet en hij heeft aan zijn voeten
galochen die nog van zijn schoonvader waren

en goed blijven zitten, zegt hij, mocht hij dan
toch in het diepe belanden, hij hield van het

water, zoals van mijn moeder want midden
op zee ontbrak alleen zij, zo liet hij zich vroeger

ontvallen en wij dan, zo dacht ik en wuifde
ten afscheid, hij kon niet terugwuiven, ik riep

maar hij kon mij niet horen, hij roeide, het leek
hem geen moeite te kosten, langzaam vervulde

hij zijn aardse plicht af en toe kijkend naar mij
op de oever, bewogen misschien maar dat was

van hier niet te zien, het kon evengoed nog
een spelletje zijn waarvan ik de regels niet kende

en ik dacht dat ik hem daar kon laten, het water
verstond hem en droeg hem achterstevoren

terug naar het land
Close

AT THE ROWING COURSE, GHENT

see how my father sets out on the water in a small boat
he rows with steady strokes and in between

is silence, he stirs the water with his oars
making waves that reach the banks later

there where I’ve left already, I’m cycling along the waterside
I call out that his speed is seven and a half knots per hour

he’s got his back to my view, he sees
where we were, I see what’s ahead, he’s wearing

a kyrgyz hat, not a real one but something made of
faded cotton, for the wind is too strong, he says

too strong for a hat, and on his feet he’s wearing
galoshes that belonged to his father-in-law

they stay in place, he says, in case he ends up
in the deep-end after all, he loved the water, the way he

loved my mother for in the middle of the sea
she was the only thing missing, he let slip

one day, and what about us, I thought and waved
goodbye, he couldn’t wave back, I called

but he couldn’t hear me, he was rowing and it looked
so effortless for him, slowly he fulfilled

his earthly duties while looking at me, on the shore,
now and then, he was moved, perhaps, but from here

I couldn’t tell, it may just as well have been
a game whose rules I didn’t know

and I thought I could leave him there, the water
understood him and carried him back to front

back to the shore

AT THE ROWING COURSE, GHENT

see how my father sets out on the water in a small boat
he rows with steady strokes and in between

is silence, he stirs the water with his oars
making waves that reach the banks later

there where I’ve left already, I’m cycling along the waterside
I call out that his speed is seven and a half knots per hour

he’s got his back to my view, he sees
where we were, I see what’s ahead, he’s wearing

a kyrgyz hat, not a real one but something made of
faded cotton, for the wind is too strong, he says

too strong for a hat, and on his feet he’s wearing
galoshes that belonged to his father-in-law

they stay in place, he says, in case he ends up
in the deep-end after all, he loved the water, the way he

loved my mother for in the middle of the sea
she was the only thing missing, he let slip

one day, and what about us, I thought and waved
goodbye, he couldn’t wave back, I called

but he couldn’t hear me, he was rowing and it looked
so effortless for him, slowly he fulfilled

his earthly duties while looking at me, on the shore,
now and then, he was moved, perhaps, but from here

I couldn’t tell, it may just as well have been
a game whose rules I didn’t know

and I thought I could leave him there, the water
understood him and carried him back to front

back to the shore
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
Partners
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