Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Willem Jan Otten

THAT ONE BEAT

When my father came out of the coma
after having died
and being pneumatically pounded back,
his sternum cracked while they were at it,
he told me during a visiting hour
out of the blue, that there
where he now no longer was
but hadn’t arrived either,
he’d heard a choir.

A choir, that’s right.
Mixed. Invisible.
But singing.

Even he, who knew the what and when
of all music
couldn’t say who was singing
or which composer.
But still he knew the piece.

It sounded and he understood
that all he had to do was wait
and listen for that one beat
and then join in.

All eyes, he said,
were fixed on me,
I knew the music

and felt that beat
approach – that rest

in which my entrance was expected,
and yes, if I didn’t –

He looked at me with shoulders raised,
as if apologetically.
I hadn’t asked him ‘And?’

The monitors in ICU all hummed
a one-beat rest.

He smiled and said
I didn’t do it.

Ah, good murderer,
not this evening, no,
yesterday, you already
went into the kingdom,
you waiter for that
always approaching beat.

De ene tel

De ene tel

Toen mijn vader bijkwam uit de coma 
volgend op gestorven zijn
en weer pneumatisch teruggebeukt 
waarbij zijn borstbeen werd gekraakt, 
heeft hij mij tijdens een bezoekuur 
plotseling verteld dat daar, 
waar hij dus niet meer was,
maar aangekomen was hij evenmin, 
dat daar een koor geklonken had.

Een koor, jawel.
Gemengd. Onzichtbaar.
Maar het zong.

Zelfs hij, die alle muziek
bij naam en toenaam kende,
wist niet wie zongen,
noch de componist.
Toch kende hij het stuk.

Het klonk, en hij begreep
dat hij alleen maar op moest letten 
wachtend op de ene tel 
waarop hij in kon vallen.

Aller ogen, zei hij,
waren nu op mij gericht,
ik kende de muziek

en voelde hoe de ene tel
mij naderde – de ene rust

waarin mijn inzet werd verwacht, 
en ja, deed ik het niet –

Hij keek me met opgetrokken schouders aan, 
verontschuldigend.
Ik had niet ‘en?’ gezegd.

De apparaten van Intensive Care
zoemden een tel rust.
Toen zei hij glimlachend
ik heb het niet gedaan.

Ach, goede moordenaar,
niet hedenavond, nee,
al gisteren ben jij
in het koninkrijk gegaan,
jij wachtende op de voorgoed
jou naderende tel.
Close

THAT ONE BEAT

When my father came out of the coma
after having died
and being pneumatically pounded back,
his sternum cracked while they were at it,
he told me during a visiting hour
out of the blue, that there
where he now no longer was
but hadn’t arrived either,
he’d heard a choir.

A choir, that’s right.
Mixed. Invisible.
But singing.

Even he, who knew the what and when
of all music
couldn’t say who was singing
or which composer.
But still he knew the piece.

It sounded and he understood
that all he had to do was wait
and listen for that one beat
and then join in.

All eyes, he said,
were fixed on me,
I knew the music

and felt that beat
approach – that rest

in which my entrance was expected,
and yes, if I didn’t –

He looked at me with shoulders raised,
as if apologetically.
I hadn’t asked him ‘And?’

The monitors in ICU all hummed
a one-beat rest.

He smiled and said
I didn’t do it.

Ah, good murderer,
not this evening, no,
yesterday, you already
went into the kingdom,
you waiter for that
always approaching beat.

THAT ONE BEAT

When my father came out of the coma
after having died
and being pneumatically pounded back,
his sternum cracked while they were at it,
he told me during a visiting hour
out of the blue, that there
where he now no longer was
but hadn’t arrived either,
he’d heard a choir.

A choir, that’s right.
Mixed. Invisible.
But singing.

Even he, who knew the what and when
of all music
couldn’t say who was singing
or which composer.
But still he knew the piece.

It sounded and he understood
that all he had to do was wait
and listen for that one beat
and then join in.

All eyes, he said,
were fixed on me,
I knew the music

and felt that beat
approach – that rest

in which my entrance was expected,
and yes, if I didn’t –

He looked at me with shoulders raised,
as if apologetically.
I hadn’t asked him ‘And?’

The monitors in ICU all hummed
a one-beat rest.

He smiled and said
I didn’t do it.

Ah, good murderer,
not this evening, no,
yesterday, you already
went into the kingdom,
you waiter for that
always approaching beat.
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Prins Bernhard cultuurfonds
Lira fonds
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère