Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Paul Demets

BETTER IF THERE’S LIGHT

1.
We are blinded by the light. The north wind wafts
over the fields. Not a cloud in the sky. The blue 
has a chewing gum breath. Something is blowing

that refreshes everything: the dust is gone, old habits. Time
for a sacrifice. Who still dares to burn potato leaves 
on the field? Not the leaves on the field, but your hands.

Someone casts a line. We see how it
grows. The wind tugs at the duckweed
on the water. The willow has taken off her dress

and just stands there with pollarded shoulders.
Hide a branch in the ground, tamp it down
and change nothing. Everything screams

at the wind, but holds its breath.

2.
Better if there’s light in the field chapel bloodied by
votive candles. The ladies’ choir does not 
give itself away. Falling in, taking one’s place, moving

to the right. Knowing one’s place and keeping time.
Appearing on time and vanishing in the twilight.
Becoming one body, one voice that climbs

and climbs, bubbles of air that well up
out of pure water. Washing his hands in it,
then showing them to each other, open, without fear.

Feeling no shame when we don’t know the fine detail
of what goes on outside. Genuinely forget 
what is better forgotten. Most important is our cohesion.

Let’s sing it out, oh sing it out, all of us together.

3.
The ash of the palm branches blessed and purified
with holy water, fruitfully applied to the forehead.
You should cast your eyes downward, because the churchgoing.

It’s been so empty here for years now. That someone
neat in his suit finally starts speaking and says
what it’s all about. His voice may ring out. Strange people on the street.

They are not afraid. They never resign. It has an effect.
We still make a difference always. The mist puts up a smoke screen
over the fields. Anyone from here, like us,

can always find the way back. The streets 
hold their breath, the houses have bottled us up. We sing 
our souls out of our bodies, but know that this is not tenable.

We are outlived. Not even the sun can pass the day here.

4.
We keep silent and chomp. We come from somewhere
after all? Speaking forcefully 
with one voice with one voice with one voice.

Ideas can ripen meanwhile. Plastic: dull,
the edges cut off straight. Our faces smooth.
Everything here could fall off the table. The flowers

are made of skin. They swell, they absorb to the full
against their withering. Full of splendour they fade. We should
dare to call the exotics among them by their names.

A fist that clenches is a vase that has smashed
to smithereens. Everywhere the flowers of the bouquet 
that is recomposed, melds to one colour

and becomes a fist of flesh in the darkness.

5.
We have the wind behind us and head off with the caravan 
down the streets. The confetti cannon is filled up. 
And transit yes and yes a refugee centre ablaze. But are we

our brother’s keeper? Is our smell surprising, our colour?
Long live Prince Carnival who dares to say what we think.
The drum majorettes spin round and pull the wool

over your eyes. Pints and polkas. You look great, a man tells us,
clad in sansevieria. When does the paint start to peel? We don’t need
to take off our masks. Believe us: we deal

transparently. Nobody is our enemy. But nobody 
realizes that. We know nothing and not even that.
We touch our left cheek with the fingers

of our right hand. And say hello. Hello.

6.
We shrug our shoulders, shake off the cold.
The road we’ve covered vanishes while we
wander off into the mist. Everything as if

covered with cotton wool. Mitigating circumstances. It’s more wading
than walking. It’s not talking, but almost hearing words
that rustle on exhaling. They stay shut in beneath our

vocal cords. We wonder how long we will have to
tack around each other. We don’t fall silent, refuse to budge,
we move on in front. We dance on as shadows

on the concrete of the street. The anomaly of maple seeds, runes
imprinted in us. No Gutmensch looks askance at the thumbs-up sign,
the approving nod, the flash of the knife, another light

on our deeds. The morning sun is bleeding through the mist.

7.
We have contacted someone, thrown good advice
to the wind. We can’t settle our debts. The wind
rises and rattles against the library of experiences.

Now we are inside, who decides whether we can walk around here?
Hello to the warders of good taste. They take our jackets 
and hand out their promises. It’s a party. Not having read is

no reason for panic. There is a story, because we are moving behind glass.
They approve of us. Animals passionately possessed. No pages
turned so far. At party tables they tell how comforting

it is to roam among the books. How can we deal with it?
Is there an overarching plan? Something with a prospect? So eager
to let our fingers glide, to stroke bellies and backs.

But hands off and debts and savings to pay fines.

8.
This soil, it can certainly crack. In all events, they stand there
on top of it. It feels like carpeting unrolled before us. Why
those stains, this rampant growth? How long will the left survive,

the fist that unfolds? It is about those whom everyone is 
Talking of. But they remain absent from the speech. 
We have concentrated everything in our shoulders.

We put on our identity. And another and another 
against the wind from elsewhere. We love order and discipline.
We use a dog whistle for anyone who wants to hear.

Our skin breathes, but we get no air. Our voices echo 
against invisible walls. We have blood
on our hands and see others congratulating themselves.

Endlessly. We want our soil to be a fresh sheet to write on.

9.
The crows tidy up. The graves consume the calyxes.
We feel the pressure increase beneath our sternum. Bitter 
is the water that helps the flowers to wither. The winter is tough

meat, frost chews with long teeth. Let us demolish 
our memories before they pen us in. Rubbing our hips
together, knowing that we’ve nothing to tell each other,

not knowing who we are. So beautiful the futility of sweat.
The morning is glowing down on us who are at each other’s throats.
We kindle each other, navel fluff in the belly of the earth that nobody

dares touch any more. The crows show up out of nowhere. They turn circles
and fly straight through our reflection. In a flash we see
the dark in each other’s gaze, a cloud of feathers. It is so transparent

what we want. It is not something we easily forget.

10.
We are being sedated. How happy it makes them that we fall asleep.
We swallow more than our sounds, while the structures 
are being destroyed. A stain spreads out over the floor taking the shape

of a bouquet. It is the idea that we belong,
that we pretend to be tolerant, that this stain when it dries
becomes a rose in our fist. We feel the false softness

of the thorns. There is hope. All the knives pointing the right way 
at the festive table. The splinters join up to form glass.
They are set to the lips by everyone. Sedated

we are and drunk. And everyone listening to the one with the head
concealed by a crown of thorns. His handkerchief that points 
in the right direction: upwards. His pockets bulge with sorrow

over those who have nothing and to whom he promises everything.

13.
Measuring the neck. The nonchalant fold into which 
everything must fall. They measure us. Something hangs there motionless,
it was pinned on us. So well that it would suit us.

We are expected to wear it with dignity.
We breathe out and in. As soon as we take a step,
a drop falls. More drops rolling over

our manly backs, serially sparkling. A crawling worm.
We recall how we should acquire freedom
of movement, how our measurements were taken

when they took the scissors, their hands sketched
the pattern, the pieces laid out, the proportions 
calculated. The seams ironed promptly.

Our shape fits no shape.

14.
Who was it who invented this feast? We copy everything
as is proper, greet ghosts. Tears of.
We shoot images. They will explain it better

next time, so they promised. Virtue
is their currency. We will never be able to become like them,
because we still drink with plastic straws. They take sips

of their matcha latte and in the light of the marble lamp
their gaze betrays total incomprehension. They hate 
the sight of us. Someone has just discovered that the feta

in the quinoa salad isn’t vegan. Nobody here
can flee on a delivery bike and fit in and search 
for his real self. This is a party that puts things on edge.

This is a party of unprecedented violence.

BETER IS ER LICHT

BETER IS ER LICHT

1.
We zijn door het licht verblind. De noordenwind blaast
over de velden. Geen wolkje aan de lucht. Het blauw
heeft een kauwgomadem. Er waait iets dat alles

ververst: het stof weg, oude gewoontes. Tijd
voor een offer. Wie durft nog loof op het veld
te verbranden? Niet het loof op het veld, maar je handen.

Iemand gooit een lijn uit. We zien hoe ze
groeit. De wind rukt aan het kroos
op het water. De wilg heeft haar jurk uitgetrokken

en staat daar maar met geknotte schouders.
Een tak in de grond stoppen, aanstampen
en niets veranderen. Alles schreeuwt tegen

de wind, maar houdt zijn adem in.

2.
Beter is er licht in de door noveenkaarsen
bebloede veldkapel. Het dameskoor geeft zich
niet bloot. Het aantreden, plaats innemen, opschuiven

naar rechts. Zijn plaats kennen en de maat houden.
Op tijd invallen en in de schemer verdwijnen.
Eén lichaam worden, één stem die opklimt

en opklimt, luchtbellen die opborrelen
uit zuiver water. Zijn handen daarin wassen,
zich dan toch tonen aan elkaar, open, niet bang.

Zich niet schamen als we van wat er buiten gebeurt
het fijne niet weten. Wat liever vergeten wordt,
daadwerkelijk vergeten. Het belangrijkste is onze samenhang.

Zingen we dan, o zingen we dan, allen tezamen.

3.
De as van de palmtakjes met wijwater gezegend
reinigend, vruchtbaar op het voorhoofd aangebracht.
Je hoorde de ogen neer te slaan, want de kerkgang.

Zo leeg dat het hier al jaren is. Dat iemand strak
in het pak eens het woord neemt en zegt waarop
het staat. Zijn stem mag galmen. Vreemd volk op straat.

Het is niet bang. Het stapt nooit op. Dan valt er maar wat.
Wij maken nog altijd het verschil. Over de velden trekt
de mist een rookgordijn op. Wie van hier is, zoals wij,

weet altijd de weg terug te vinden. De straten houden
hun adem in, de huizen hebben ons opgekropt. We zingen
de ziel uit ons lijf, maar weten dat dit niet houdbaar is.

We zijn uitgewoond. Zelfs de zon vindt hier geen dagverblijf.

4.
We zwijgen en malen. We komen
toch ergens vandaan? Krachtig spreken
uit één mond uit één mond uit één mond.

Intussen kunnen de ideeën rijpen. Het plastic: mat,
de randen recht afgesneden. Onze gezichten glad.
Er dreigt hier van alles van tafel te vallen. De bloemen

zijn van huid. Ze zwellen op, zuigen zich vol
tegen hun verval. Ze vervellen vol luister. We moeten 
de exoten onder hen bij de naam durven noemen.

Een vuist die zich balt is een vaas aan diggelen
gevallen. Overal de bloemen van de ruiker
die zich weer samenstelt, tot een kleur versmelt

en een vuist van vlees wordt in het duister.

5.
We hebben de wind in de rug en trekken met de karavaan
door de straten. Het confettikanon wordt gevoederd. 
En ja transit en ja een centrum in brand. Maar zijn we

onze broeders hoeder? Verrast onze geur, onze kleur?
Leve Prins Carnaval die durft te zeggen wat we denken.
De dansmariekes wervelen en draaien voor jullie ogen

een rad. Pinten en polonaise. Ge ziet er goed uit, zegt een man
in sanseveria. Wanneer bladdert de verf? We hoeven
onze maskers niet af te nemen. Geloof ons: er wordt

transparant gehandeld. Niemand is onze vijand. Maar niemand
die dat ziet. We weten van niets en zelfs dat niet.
We houden de vingertoppen van onze rechterhand

tegen onze linkerslaap. En groeten. En groeten.

6.
We halen onze schouders op, schudden de kou af.
De weg die we hebben afgelegd, verdwijnt terwijl we
de mist in wandelen. Als bedekt met watten

alles. Verzachtende omstandigheden. Het is geen wandelen,
maar waden. Het is geen praten, maar bijna woorden horen
ritselen bij het uitademen. Ze blijven achter onze stembanden

opgesloten. We vragen ons af hoe lang we nog om elkaar heen
moeten laveren. We vallen niet stil, laten ons niet verwijderen,
bewegen voorlangs. We dansen verder als schaduwen

op het straatbeton. De anomalie van esdoornzaden, runentekens
ons ingeprent. Geen Gutmensch kijkt op van het OK-gebaar,
het instemmend knikken, de flits van het mes, een ander licht

op onze daden. Door de mist heen bloedt de ochtendzon.

7.
We hebben iemand aangepakt, hebben goede raad
in de wind geslagen. We kunnen onze schuld niet
delgen. De wind wakkert aan en beukt tegen de belevingsbibliotheek.

Wie bepaalt, nu we toch binnen zijn, of we hier mogen rondlopen?
Gegroet de bewakers van de smaak. Ze nemen onze jassen aan
en gaan rond met beloftes. Het is een feest. Niet gelezen is geen reden

tot paniek. Er is een verhaal, want we zijn in beweging achter glas.
Ze zien ons wel zitten. Beesten verwoed bezeten. Nog geen blad
aangeraakt. Aan partytafels vertellen ze hoe geruststellend

het is om tussen de boeken rond te dwalen. Hoe pakken we het aan?
Is er een overkoepelend plan? Iets dat uitzicht biedt? Zoveel zin
om er met onze vingers langs te gaan, buiken en ruggen te strelen.

Maar handen af en schuld en sparen om boete te betalen.

8.
Dat hij kan barsten, deze grond. Zij staan er in elk geval
boven. Hij voelt als vast tapijt voor ons uitgerold. Vanwaar
die vlekken, deze woekering? Hoelang houdt links nog stand,

de vuist die openvalt? Het gaat over degenen over wie iedereen
het heeft. Maar ze blijven in de toespraak afwezig. 
We hebben alles in onze schouders samengebald.

We trekken onze identiteit aan. En nog een en nog een
tegen de wind van elders. We houden van orde en tucht.
We gebruiken het hondenfluitje voor iedereen die het wil horen.

Onze huid ademt, maar we krijgen geen lucht. Onze stemmen
weerkaatsen tegen onzichtbare wanden. We hebben bloed
aan onze handen en zien anderen zich in de handen wrijven.

Onophoudelijk. We willen onze grond als een vers vel waarop we schrijven.

9.
De kraaien ruimen op. De graven verteren de bloemkelken.
We voelen de druk onder ons borstbeen toenemen. Brak
is het water dat de bloemen helpt verwelken. De winter is taai

vlees, de vorst kauwt met lange tanden. Laten we de herinneringen
slopen voor ze ons kooien. Onze heupen tegen elkaar aan
wrijvend, wetend dat we elkaar niets te zeggen hebben,

niet wetend van elkaar wie we zijn. Zo mooi de zinloosheid van zweet.
De ochtend krijgt glans op ons die elkaar naar het leven staan.
We steken elkaar aan, het navelpluis in de buik van de aarde die niemand

meer durft aan te raken. Uit het niets duiken de kraaien op. Ze draaien
cirkels en vliegen door ons spiegelbeeld heen. In een flits zien we
het duister in elkaars blik, een wolk van veren. Zo doorzichtig

is het wat we willen. Het zit niet in onze koude kleren.

10.
We worden verdoofd. Hoe graag hebben ze dat we in slaap vallen.
We slikken meer in dan onze klanken, terwijl de structuren
worden vernietigd. Er vloeit een vlek uit op de vloer die de vorm

aanneemt van een ruiker. Het is de bedoeling dat we samenhoren,
dat we verdraagzaamheid veinzen, dat deze vlek opdroogt
tot een roos in onze vuist. We voelen de valse zachtheid

van de doornen. Er is hoop. Alle messen in de juiste richting
aan de feesttafel. De scherven verzamelen zich tot glas.
Ze worden door ieder aan de lippen gezet. Verdoofd

zijn we en dronken. En luisteren allen naar wiens hoofd
een kroon van doornen verbergt. Zijn pochet die in de juiste
richting wijst: naar boven. Zijn zakken puilen uit van verdriet

om wie niets heeft en wie hij alles blijft beloven.

13.
Het meten van de hals. De nonchalante plooi waarin
alles moet vallen. Ze doen ons passen. Er hangt iets roerloos, 
het werd ons opgespeld. Zo goed dat het ons zou staan.

We horen het met waardigheid te dragen.
We ademen uit en in. Zodra we een stap verzetten,
begint een druppel. Rollen over onze mannelijke ruggen

meer druppels, serieel parelend. Een kruipende worm.
We herinneren ons hoe we bewegingsvrijheid zouden
krijgen, hoe ons de maat werd genomen

toen ze de schaar namen, hun handen het patroon
uittekenden, de vlakken verdeelden, de verhoudingen
berekenden. De plooien spontaan gladgestreken.

In geen vorm past onze vorm.

14.
Wie heeft dit feest verzonnen? We doen alles na
zoals het hoort, groeten schimmen. Tranen van.
We schieten beelden. Ze zullen het ons de volgende

keer beter uitleggen, hebben ze beloofd. Verdienste
is hun pasmunt. Nooit kunnen we worden zoals zij,
want we drinken nog met plastic rietjes. Ze nippen

van hun matcha latte en kijken vol onbegrip
in het schijnsel van de marmeren lamp. Ze kunnen
ons niet luchten. Iemand heeft net ontdekt dat de feta

in de quinoasalade niet vegan is. Niemand kan hier
op een bakfiets vluchten en aarden en zoeken
naar zijn echte ik. Dit is een feest dat op scherp stelt.

Dit is een feest van ongezien geweld.



Close

BETTER IF THERE’S LIGHT

1.
We are blinded by the light. The north wind wafts
over the fields. Not a cloud in the sky. The blue 
has a chewing gum breath. Something is blowing

that refreshes everything: the dust is gone, old habits. Time
for a sacrifice. Who still dares to burn potato leaves 
on the field? Not the leaves on the field, but your hands.

Someone casts a line. We see how it
grows. The wind tugs at the duckweed
on the water. The willow has taken off her dress

and just stands there with pollarded shoulders.
Hide a branch in the ground, tamp it down
and change nothing. Everything screams

at the wind, but holds its breath.

2.
Better if there’s light in the field chapel bloodied by
votive candles. The ladies’ choir does not 
give itself away. Falling in, taking one’s place, moving

to the right. Knowing one’s place and keeping time.
Appearing on time and vanishing in the twilight.
Becoming one body, one voice that climbs

and climbs, bubbles of air that well up
out of pure water. Washing his hands in it,
then showing them to each other, open, without fear.

Feeling no shame when we don’t know the fine detail
of what goes on outside. Genuinely forget 
what is better forgotten. Most important is our cohesion.

Let’s sing it out, oh sing it out, all of us together.

3.
The ash of the palm branches blessed and purified
with holy water, fruitfully applied to the forehead.
You should cast your eyes downward, because the churchgoing.

It’s been so empty here for years now. That someone
neat in his suit finally starts speaking and says
what it’s all about. His voice may ring out. Strange people on the street.

They are not afraid. They never resign. It has an effect.
We still make a difference always. The mist puts up a smoke screen
over the fields. Anyone from here, like us,

can always find the way back. The streets 
hold their breath, the houses have bottled us up. We sing 
our souls out of our bodies, but know that this is not tenable.

We are outlived. Not even the sun can pass the day here.

4.
We keep silent and chomp. We come from somewhere
after all? Speaking forcefully 
with one voice with one voice with one voice.

Ideas can ripen meanwhile. Plastic: dull,
the edges cut off straight. Our faces smooth.
Everything here could fall off the table. The flowers

are made of skin. They swell, they absorb to the full
against their withering. Full of splendour they fade. We should
dare to call the exotics among them by their names.

A fist that clenches is a vase that has smashed
to smithereens. Everywhere the flowers of the bouquet 
that is recomposed, melds to one colour

and becomes a fist of flesh in the darkness.

5.
We have the wind behind us and head off with the caravan 
down the streets. The confetti cannon is filled up. 
And transit yes and yes a refugee centre ablaze. But are we

our brother’s keeper? Is our smell surprising, our colour?
Long live Prince Carnival who dares to say what we think.
The drum majorettes spin round and pull the wool

over your eyes. Pints and polkas. You look great, a man tells us,
clad in sansevieria. When does the paint start to peel? We don’t need
to take off our masks. Believe us: we deal

transparently. Nobody is our enemy. But nobody 
realizes that. We know nothing and not even that.
We touch our left cheek with the fingers

of our right hand. And say hello. Hello.

6.
We shrug our shoulders, shake off the cold.
The road we’ve covered vanishes while we
wander off into the mist. Everything as if

covered with cotton wool. Mitigating circumstances. It’s more wading
than walking. It’s not talking, but almost hearing words
that rustle on exhaling. They stay shut in beneath our

vocal cords. We wonder how long we will have to
tack around each other. We don’t fall silent, refuse to budge,
we move on in front. We dance on as shadows

on the concrete of the street. The anomaly of maple seeds, runes
imprinted in us. No Gutmensch looks askance at the thumbs-up sign,
the approving nod, the flash of the knife, another light

on our deeds. The morning sun is bleeding through the mist.

7.
We have contacted someone, thrown good advice
to the wind. We can’t settle our debts. The wind
rises and rattles against the library of experiences.

Now we are inside, who decides whether we can walk around here?
Hello to the warders of good taste. They take our jackets 
and hand out their promises. It’s a party. Not having read is

no reason for panic. There is a story, because we are moving behind glass.
They approve of us. Animals passionately possessed. No pages
turned so far. At party tables they tell how comforting

it is to roam among the books. How can we deal with it?
Is there an overarching plan? Something with a prospect? So eager
to let our fingers glide, to stroke bellies and backs.

But hands off and debts and savings to pay fines.

8.
This soil, it can certainly crack. In all events, they stand there
on top of it. It feels like carpeting unrolled before us. Why
those stains, this rampant growth? How long will the left survive,

the fist that unfolds? It is about those whom everyone is 
Talking of. But they remain absent from the speech. 
We have concentrated everything in our shoulders.

We put on our identity. And another and another 
against the wind from elsewhere. We love order and discipline.
We use a dog whistle for anyone who wants to hear.

Our skin breathes, but we get no air. Our voices echo 
against invisible walls. We have blood
on our hands and see others congratulating themselves.

Endlessly. We want our soil to be a fresh sheet to write on.

9.
The crows tidy up. The graves consume the calyxes.
We feel the pressure increase beneath our sternum. Bitter 
is the water that helps the flowers to wither. The winter is tough

meat, frost chews with long teeth. Let us demolish 
our memories before they pen us in. Rubbing our hips
together, knowing that we’ve nothing to tell each other,

not knowing who we are. So beautiful the futility of sweat.
The morning is glowing down on us who are at each other’s throats.
We kindle each other, navel fluff in the belly of the earth that nobody

dares touch any more. The crows show up out of nowhere. They turn circles
and fly straight through our reflection. In a flash we see
the dark in each other’s gaze, a cloud of feathers. It is so transparent

what we want. It is not something we easily forget.

10.
We are being sedated. How happy it makes them that we fall asleep.
We swallow more than our sounds, while the structures 
are being destroyed. A stain spreads out over the floor taking the shape

of a bouquet. It is the idea that we belong,
that we pretend to be tolerant, that this stain when it dries
becomes a rose in our fist. We feel the false softness

of the thorns. There is hope. All the knives pointing the right way 
at the festive table. The splinters join up to form glass.
They are set to the lips by everyone. Sedated

we are and drunk. And everyone listening to the one with the head
concealed by a crown of thorns. His handkerchief that points 
in the right direction: upwards. His pockets bulge with sorrow

over those who have nothing and to whom he promises everything.

13.
Measuring the neck. The nonchalant fold into which 
everything must fall. They measure us. Something hangs there motionless,
it was pinned on us. So well that it would suit us.

We are expected to wear it with dignity.
We breathe out and in. As soon as we take a step,
a drop falls. More drops rolling over

our manly backs, serially sparkling. A crawling worm.
We recall how we should acquire freedom
of movement, how our measurements were taken

when they took the scissors, their hands sketched
the pattern, the pieces laid out, the proportions 
calculated. The seams ironed promptly.

Our shape fits no shape.

14.
Who was it who invented this feast? We copy everything
as is proper, greet ghosts. Tears of.
We shoot images. They will explain it better

next time, so they promised. Virtue
is their currency. We will never be able to become like them,
because we still drink with plastic straws. They take sips

of their matcha latte and in the light of the marble lamp
their gaze betrays total incomprehension. They hate 
the sight of us. Someone has just discovered that the feta

in the quinoa salad isn’t vegan. Nobody here
can flee on a delivery bike and fit in and search 
for his real self. This is a party that puts things on edge.

This is a party of unprecedented violence.

BETTER IF THERE’S LIGHT

1.
We are blinded by the light. The north wind wafts
over the fields. Not a cloud in the sky. The blue 
has a chewing gum breath. Something is blowing

that refreshes everything: the dust is gone, old habits. Time
for a sacrifice. Who still dares to burn potato leaves 
on the field? Not the leaves on the field, but your hands.

Someone casts a line. We see how it
grows. The wind tugs at the duckweed
on the water. The willow has taken off her dress

and just stands there with pollarded shoulders.
Hide a branch in the ground, tamp it down
and change nothing. Everything screams

at the wind, but holds its breath.

2.
Better if there’s light in the field chapel bloodied by
votive candles. The ladies’ choir does not 
give itself away. Falling in, taking one’s place, moving

to the right. Knowing one’s place and keeping time.
Appearing on time and vanishing in the twilight.
Becoming one body, one voice that climbs

and climbs, bubbles of air that well up
out of pure water. Washing his hands in it,
then showing them to each other, open, without fear.

Feeling no shame when we don’t know the fine detail
of what goes on outside. Genuinely forget 
what is better forgotten. Most important is our cohesion.

Let’s sing it out, oh sing it out, all of us together.

3.
The ash of the palm branches blessed and purified
with holy water, fruitfully applied to the forehead.
You should cast your eyes downward, because the churchgoing.

It’s been so empty here for years now. That someone
neat in his suit finally starts speaking and says
what it’s all about. His voice may ring out. Strange people on the street.

They are not afraid. They never resign. It has an effect.
We still make a difference always. The mist puts up a smoke screen
over the fields. Anyone from here, like us,

can always find the way back. The streets 
hold their breath, the houses have bottled us up. We sing 
our souls out of our bodies, but know that this is not tenable.

We are outlived. Not even the sun can pass the day here.

4.
We keep silent and chomp. We come from somewhere
after all? Speaking forcefully 
with one voice with one voice with one voice.

Ideas can ripen meanwhile. Plastic: dull,
the edges cut off straight. Our faces smooth.
Everything here could fall off the table. The flowers

are made of skin. They swell, they absorb to the full
against their withering. Full of splendour they fade. We should
dare to call the exotics among them by their names.

A fist that clenches is a vase that has smashed
to smithereens. Everywhere the flowers of the bouquet 
that is recomposed, melds to one colour

and becomes a fist of flesh in the darkness.

5.
We have the wind behind us and head off with the caravan 
down the streets. The confetti cannon is filled up. 
And transit yes and yes a refugee centre ablaze. But are we

our brother’s keeper? Is our smell surprising, our colour?
Long live Prince Carnival who dares to say what we think.
The drum majorettes spin round and pull the wool

over your eyes. Pints and polkas. You look great, a man tells us,
clad in sansevieria. When does the paint start to peel? We don’t need
to take off our masks. Believe us: we deal

transparently. Nobody is our enemy. But nobody 
realizes that. We know nothing and not even that.
We touch our left cheek with the fingers

of our right hand. And say hello. Hello.

6.
We shrug our shoulders, shake off the cold.
The road we’ve covered vanishes while we
wander off into the mist. Everything as if

covered with cotton wool. Mitigating circumstances. It’s more wading
than walking. It’s not talking, but almost hearing words
that rustle on exhaling. They stay shut in beneath our

vocal cords. We wonder how long we will have to
tack around each other. We don’t fall silent, refuse to budge,
we move on in front. We dance on as shadows

on the concrete of the street. The anomaly of maple seeds, runes
imprinted in us. No Gutmensch looks askance at the thumbs-up sign,
the approving nod, the flash of the knife, another light

on our deeds. The morning sun is bleeding through the mist.

7.
We have contacted someone, thrown good advice
to the wind. We can’t settle our debts. The wind
rises and rattles against the library of experiences.

Now we are inside, who decides whether we can walk around here?
Hello to the warders of good taste. They take our jackets 
and hand out their promises. It’s a party. Not having read is

no reason for panic. There is a story, because we are moving behind glass.
They approve of us. Animals passionately possessed. No pages
turned so far. At party tables they tell how comforting

it is to roam among the books. How can we deal with it?
Is there an overarching plan? Something with a prospect? So eager
to let our fingers glide, to stroke bellies and backs.

But hands off and debts and savings to pay fines.

8.
This soil, it can certainly crack. In all events, they stand there
on top of it. It feels like carpeting unrolled before us. Why
those stains, this rampant growth? How long will the left survive,

the fist that unfolds? It is about those whom everyone is 
Talking of. But they remain absent from the speech. 
We have concentrated everything in our shoulders.

We put on our identity. And another and another 
against the wind from elsewhere. We love order and discipline.
We use a dog whistle for anyone who wants to hear.

Our skin breathes, but we get no air. Our voices echo 
against invisible walls. We have blood
on our hands and see others congratulating themselves.

Endlessly. We want our soil to be a fresh sheet to write on.

9.
The crows tidy up. The graves consume the calyxes.
We feel the pressure increase beneath our sternum. Bitter 
is the water that helps the flowers to wither. The winter is tough

meat, frost chews with long teeth. Let us demolish 
our memories before they pen us in. Rubbing our hips
together, knowing that we’ve nothing to tell each other,

not knowing who we are. So beautiful the futility of sweat.
The morning is glowing down on us who are at each other’s throats.
We kindle each other, navel fluff in the belly of the earth that nobody

dares touch any more. The crows show up out of nowhere. They turn circles
and fly straight through our reflection. In a flash we see
the dark in each other’s gaze, a cloud of feathers. It is so transparent

what we want. It is not something we easily forget.

10.
We are being sedated. How happy it makes them that we fall asleep.
We swallow more than our sounds, while the structures 
are being destroyed. A stain spreads out over the floor taking the shape

of a bouquet. It is the idea that we belong,
that we pretend to be tolerant, that this stain when it dries
becomes a rose in our fist. We feel the false softness

of the thorns. There is hope. All the knives pointing the right way 
at the festive table. The splinters join up to form glass.
They are set to the lips by everyone. Sedated

we are and drunk. And everyone listening to the one with the head
concealed by a crown of thorns. His handkerchief that points 
in the right direction: upwards. His pockets bulge with sorrow

over those who have nothing and to whom he promises everything.

13.
Measuring the neck. The nonchalant fold into which 
everything must fall. They measure us. Something hangs there motionless,
it was pinned on us. So well that it would suit us.

We are expected to wear it with dignity.
We breathe out and in. As soon as we take a step,
a drop falls. More drops rolling over

our manly backs, serially sparkling. A crawling worm.
We recall how we should acquire freedom
of movement, how our measurements were taken

when they took the scissors, their hands sketched
the pattern, the pieces laid out, the proportions 
calculated. The seams ironed promptly.

Our shape fits no shape.

14.
Who was it who invented this feast? We copy everything
as is proper, greet ghosts. Tears of.
We shoot images. They will explain it better

next time, so they promised. Virtue
is their currency. We will never be able to become like them,
because we still drink with plastic straws. They take sips

of their matcha latte and in the light of the marble lamp
their gaze betrays total incomprehension. They hate 
the sight of us. Someone has just discovered that the feta

in the quinoa salad isn’t vegan. Nobody here
can flee on a delivery bike and fit in and search 
for his real self. This is a party that puts things on edge.

This is a party of unprecedented violence.

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