Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Willem Jan Otten

*

I dreamt that the lake
I was swimming in
was sealing off its banks.

I drifted towards it,
that irrevocable rim
of liquid glass,
beyond which everything
becomes Niagara.

Someone was floating in front of me.
Treading water he turned
and I recognised him,
but where from?

He signed language
I understood
but couldn’t comprehend.

I knew: this water is carrying us
to the irrevocable rim.

His gestures were for me,
I saw that clearly,
not to beg,
fetch me, come,
not to call out,
turn back.

He raised his hands –
was I dreaming right,
was that a thumbs-up?

He was where I’d drift,
a stone’s throw from
the irrevocable rim
of liquid glass

giving me a thumbs-up.

I too turned round.
Floating upstream
were Vonne, sons, nieces, my brother Michiel.

And before I knew it
I’d given them a thumbs-up too
and turned again –

and saw, an empty
stone’s throw in front of me,
the rim of liquid glass.

*

*

Ik droomde
dat het meer waarin ik zwom
zijn oevers sloot.

Daar dreef ik heen,
de onherroepelijke rand
van vloeiend glas
waarachter alles
Niagara wordt.

Iemand dreef daar voor mij uit.
Hij draaide trappelend zich om
en ik herkende hem,
maar waar dan van.

Hij gebaarde taal
die ik verstond
maar niet begrijpen kon.

Ik wist: dit water draagt ons
naar de onherroepelijke rand.

Zijn gebaar gold mij,
dat zag ik goed,
niet om te smeken
haal mij, kom,
niet om te roepen
keer je om.

Hij hief zijn handen op - 
droomde ik het goed,
stak hij zijn duimen op?

Hij was waar ik te drijven kom
een steenworp voor
de onherroepelijke rand
van vloeiend glas

en stak zijn duimen op.

Ook ik draaide mij om.
Stroomopwaarts dreven
Vonne, zonen, nichtjes, broer Michiel.

En voor ik wist wat ik deed
stak ook ik mijn duimen op.
En draaide mij weer om - 

en zag, één lege
steenworp van mij af
de rand van vloeiend glas. 
Close

*

I dreamt that the lake
I was swimming in
was sealing off its banks.

I drifted towards it,
that irrevocable rim
of liquid glass,
beyond which everything
becomes Niagara.

Someone was floating in front of me.
Treading water he turned
and I recognised him,
but where from?

He signed language
I understood
but couldn’t comprehend.

I knew: this water is carrying us
to the irrevocable rim.

His gestures were for me,
I saw that clearly,
not to beg,
fetch me, come,
not to call out,
turn back.

He raised his hands –
was I dreaming right,
was that a thumbs-up?

He was where I’d drift,
a stone’s throw from
the irrevocable rim
of liquid glass

giving me a thumbs-up.

I too turned round.
Floating upstream
were Vonne, sons, nieces, my brother Michiel.

And before I knew it
I’d given them a thumbs-up too
and turned again –

and saw, an empty
stone’s throw in front of me,
the rim of liquid glass.

*

I dreamt that the lake
I was swimming in
was sealing off its banks.

I drifted towards it,
that irrevocable rim
of liquid glass,
beyond which everything
becomes Niagara.

Someone was floating in front of me.
Treading water he turned
and I recognised him,
but where from?

He signed language
I understood
but couldn’t comprehend.

I knew: this water is carrying us
to the irrevocable rim.

His gestures were for me,
I saw that clearly,
not to beg,
fetch me, come,
not to call out,
turn back.

He raised his hands –
was I dreaming right,
was that a thumbs-up?

He was where I’d drift,
a stone’s throw from
the irrevocable rim
of liquid glass

giving me a thumbs-up.

I too turned round.
Floating upstream
were Vonne, sons, nieces, my brother Michiel.

And before I knew it
I’d given them a thumbs-up too
and turned again –

and saw, an empty
stone’s throw in front of me,
the rim of liquid glass.
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Nederlands Letterenfonds
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