Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Pieter Boskma

Self-portrait as element

I was smoking on a wooden bridge over a dark ditch.
The birds in the wood were going wild as though any moment
something dramatic might occur, but maybe it just sounded like that
because a bridge like this across the water seemed drearily symbolic.

Nothing special happened so I lit up another
because I’d patience galore now I was living in extra time
since the death of she who had loved me thirty-four years.
I smoked and waited and smoked and waited – nothing.

I walked into the fields and into a deep silence, though
inwardly a luminous carp was stirring, eager
to be released into that blind water,
while in the outwardly sunlit reality

crows strutted stately between grazing horses,
shadows of little clouds pelted past over the grass
which was newly-mown, with an odour that blended
with a mellow smell of dung from the farmer in the distance

riding past the dunes with his muck-spreader, wrapped in a flock of gulls.
Everything like old times then, stalled in endless movement.
Had my life stalled too? Was I frozen too, repeating
the same actions? Timeless component of the elements?

For how old is the wind, the gurgling of water,
the odour of grass and the calmly racing clouds?
How long do you stay a child stuck in yourself on the spot
before you’re lured by hunger or adventure and move on?

My hunger was appeased, my thirst for adventure assuaged,
I had become a bridge between now and today. Since
she had died I had no history, I looked
in a dark eye of water that seemed broken

and saw in it her own eyes streaming once more full of light.

Zelfportret als element

Zelfportret als element

Ik stond te roken op een houten brug over een donker slootje.
De vogels in het bos gingen tekeer alsof er elk moment
iets dramatisch voor kon vallen, maar dat klonk misschien
maar zo omdat zo’n loopbrug over water akelig symbolisch leek.

Er gebeurde niets bijzonders en ik stak er nog een op,
want geduld dat had ik wel nu ik leefde in mijn extra tijd
sinds de dood van wie mij vierendertig jaar had liefgehad.
Ik rookte en ik wachtte en ik rookte en ik wachtte – niets.

Ik liep de weilanden en een diepe stilte in, al roerde zich
inwendig nog een lichtgevende karper, die graag
in dat blinde nat van net wilde worden uitgezet,
maar in de uitwendige, zonbeschenen werkelijkheid

schreden kraaien statig tussen de grazende paarden,
schaduwen van kleine wolken jakkerden over het gras
dat zopas gemaaid was en waarvan de geur zich mengde
met een milde mestlucht van de boer die in de verte

met zijn gierkar langs de duinen reed, gehuld in een vlucht meeuwen.
Alles bij het oude dus, in eeuwige beweging stilgezet.
Stond ook mijn leven stil? Was ook ik bevroren in
herhaalde handeling? Tijdloos onderdeel van de elementen?

Want hoe oud is de wind, het klateren van water,
de geur van gras en het kalme razen van de wolken?
Hoe lang is men kind en blijft in zichzelf ter plekke
voor men uit avontuurlijkheid of honger verder trekt?

Mijn honger was gestild, mijn zucht naar avontuur bevredigd,
ik was zelf een brug geworden tussen nu en heden, ik had
geen geschiedenis sinds zij was overleden, ik keek
in een donker oog van water dat gebroken leek

en zag daarin het hare weer volstromen met licht.
Close

Self-portrait as element

I was smoking on a wooden bridge over a dark ditch.
The birds in the wood were going wild as though any moment
something dramatic might occur, but maybe it just sounded like that
because a bridge like this across the water seemed drearily symbolic.

Nothing special happened so I lit up another
because I’d patience galore now I was living in extra time
since the death of she who had loved me thirty-four years.
I smoked and waited and smoked and waited – nothing.

I walked into the fields and into a deep silence, though
inwardly a luminous carp was stirring, eager
to be released into that blind water,
while in the outwardly sunlit reality

crows strutted stately between grazing horses,
shadows of little clouds pelted past over the grass
which was newly-mown, with an odour that blended
with a mellow smell of dung from the farmer in the distance

riding past the dunes with his muck-spreader, wrapped in a flock of gulls.
Everything like old times then, stalled in endless movement.
Had my life stalled too? Was I frozen too, repeating
the same actions? Timeless component of the elements?

For how old is the wind, the gurgling of water,
the odour of grass and the calmly racing clouds?
How long do you stay a child stuck in yourself on the spot
before you’re lured by hunger or adventure and move on?

My hunger was appeased, my thirst for adventure assuaged,
I had become a bridge between now and today. Since
she had died I had no history, I looked
in a dark eye of water that seemed broken

and saw in it her own eyes streaming once more full of light.

Self-portrait as element

I was smoking on a wooden bridge over a dark ditch.
The birds in the wood were going wild as though any moment
something dramatic might occur, but maybe it just sounded like that
because a bridge like this across the water seemed drearily symbolic.

Nothing special happened so I lit up another
because I’d patience galore now I was living in extra time
since the death of she who had loved me thirty-four years.
I smoked and waited and smoked and waited – nothing.

I walked into the fields and into a deep silence, though
inwardly a luminous carp was stirring, eager
to be released into that blind water,
while in the outwardly sunlit reality

crows strutted stately between grazing horses,
shadows of little clouds pelted past over the grass
which was newly-mown, with an odour that blended
with a mellow smell of dung from the farmer in the distance

riding past the dunes with his muck-spreader, wrapped in a flock of gulls.
Everything like old times then, stalled in endless movement.
Had my life stalled too? Was I frozen too, repeating
the same actions? Timeless component of the elements?

For how old is the wind, the gurgling of water,
the odour of grass and the calmly racing clouds?
How long do you stay a child stuck in yourself on the spot
before you’re lured by hunger or adventure and move on?

My hunger was appeased, my thirst for adventure assuaged,
I had become a bridge between now and today. Since
she had died I had no history, I looked
in a dark eye of water that seemed broken

and saw in it her own eyes streaming once more full of light.
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
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère