Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Paul Demets

MUTATION

1.
Burning potato leaves on the fields,
the smoke rising slowly 
as if the air had a problem inhaling it.

And you didn’t escape your body.

You looked, but the mirror was misted over
.Are the animals on their guard,
cats that, when something startles them,

prick their ears in their sleep?
You lay on the sofa for ages and on the screen you saw
ice floes turning lethargic and drifting.

Was that why you were bleeding?

2.
Are you still bleeding? And do you let anyone know?

You have discussions with yourself in the room
in which your mother’s shrill voice lingers.
You are sitting and brooding on her in that cage.

Your father acts as though he is your father. You know 
your role and keep quiet. You underestimate yourself.
The fields are ploughed crossways,

rolled out like organ scores. Your girlfriends 
play on you in the school canteen.
Is there such a thing as music for the slaughterhouse?

You choke. You still keep your hands to yourself.

3.
Are you swallowing something? Or are you back in the silence 
of that time when only the tapping of your fingernails 
on the table gave a rhythm to your day? Did

misunderstanding prevail there and did you want rid of it?
Did it start bleeding when you cut yourself in your groin
and were you afraid of the peace that

descended then? Is that why you lash out 
unseen? Your anger is the bleeding 
of the seas and the strata of the earth.

You can’t stanch it on your own.

You pick up some sand for your wound.

4.
Have you got some sand in your hand or are you hiding stones?

Do you spot a gap in the group
and is that why you’re shouting slogans? You see yourself 
and know we are not on our way

to a party. Bush fires were blazing everywhere. 
And now the profuse rainfall, the shallow
puddles where your face disappears

because loss doesn’t only show itself in faces.
You hope for the trees’ unanimity,
their growth rings, the dialogue of their rustling.

5.
November combs the trees.

Do you capture their wind? Do you picture
the cattle in the pastures escaping and 
peacefully grazing among the graves,

trampling on what perished?
You aren’t docile, or tame. 
This is how you appear behind the window.

You go back home, to your skin.
Anger flares up in your face,
the cold carves fissures in your hands.

Our house is on fire and we refuse to believe it.

6.
How deep is the fissure? Cutting, unseen.

Hunting the hunters. Dancing on the edge 
feet stamping against the felling, seeing 
everything bleeding. Knowing how their roots

feel and, led on by the axe, how it is
rammed in. How they are raped.
The saw teeth grind. You take some saliva,

follow an insect as it flies up. Is this the red spot
where it stung or did you do it yourself?
There’s a knife there. Do you see more than us? The air

is polluted. Hands clutch your side.

7.
A thousand hands are raised, a swarm.
People want to prevent mass movements.
Then we will all stay where we are.

Is this region fading, is it visibly 
becoming parched? It’s open season
for the hunt. Somewhere there are people

looking into it. There are reports, documents
hat soon turn yellow. Out of one pile 
an insect is crawling. Your splayed fingers

are a grill it can fly through.
But it stays still. What should it do?
It fits and is imprisoned.

The hand cannot tell a lie about the glove.

MUTATIE

MUTATIE

1.
Het verbranden van loof op de akker,
het traag optrekken van de rook
als had de lucht moeite met inhaleren.

En jij kwam je lichaam niet uit.

Je keek, maar de spiegel was beslagen.
Zijn de dieren op hun hoede,
katten die, wanneer hen iets opschrikt,

in hun slaap de oren spitsen?
Je lag uren op de bank en zag op het scherm
ijsschotsen loom worden en drijven.

Was je daarvoor aan het bloeden?

2.
Bloed je nog? En vertrouw je dat aan iemand toe?

Je voert gesprekken met jezelf in de kamer
waarin je moeders hoge stem blijft hangen.
Je zit op haar te broeden in die kooi.

Je vader acteert dat hij je vader is. Je kent
je rol en verzwijgt ze. Je verkijkt je.
De akkers worden in de breedte geploegd,

uitgerekt als orgelpartituren. Je vriendinnen
bespelen je in het schoolrestaurant.
Bestaat er muziek voor het slachthuis?

Je slikt. Je handen zijn nog thuis.

3.
Slik je iets door? Of zit je terug in de stilte
van toen alleen het tikken van je nagels
op tafel je dag ritmeerde? Heerste daar

het misverstand en wou je het weg?
Begon het bloeden toen je kerfde laag in je lies
en werd je bang voor de rust die dan

neerdaalde? Haal je daarom ongezien
weer uit? Je woede is het bloeden
van de zeeën en de aardlagen.

Je kunt het alleen niet stelpen.

Je raapt wat zand op voor je wonde.

4.
Heb je zand in je hand of verberg je stenen?

Vind je een gat in de groep
en roep je daarom leuzen? Je ziet jezelf
en weet dat we niet op weg zijn

naar een feest. Er woedden vele bosbranden. 
En nu de overdadige regen, de plassen
waarin ondiep je gezicht verdwijnt

omdat verlies niet alleen in gezichten dringt.
Je hoopt op eensgezindheid van de bomen
hun jaarringen, van hun ruisen de samenspraak.

5.
November kamt de bomen.

Vang jij hun wind? Beeld je je in hoe
het vee uit de weiden ontsnapt en rustig
tussen de graven staat te grazen,

trappend op wat verging?
Je bent niet mak, niet tam. 
Zo verschijn je achter het raam.

Je keert naar huis terug, naar je huid.
In je gezicht laait de woede op,
in je handen snijdt de kou kloven.

Ons huis staat in brand en we willen het niet geloven.

6.
Hoe diep is de kloof? Snijden, ongezien.

Jagend op de jagers. Op de rand dansend
stampvoetend tegen de kap alles zien
bloeden. Weten hoe hun wortels

voelen en hoe het er, bijl in de aanslag,
wordt ingeramd. Hoe ze worden aangerand.
De zaagtanden malen. Je neemt speeksel,

volgt een insect dat opvloog. Is dit het rood
waar het stak of heb je het zelf aangebracht? 
Er ligt een mes. Zie je meer dan wij? De lucht

is onzuiver. Er grijpen handen in je zij.

7.
Duizenden handen gaan op, een zwerm.
Men wil grote bewegingen verhinderen.
Dan blijven we met zijn allen staan.

Verkleurt dit gebied, verdroogt het
zienderogen? Het jachtseizoen is
open. Er zijn mensen de zich ergens

over buigen. Er zijn rapporten, documenten
die snel vergelen. Uit een stapel kruipt
een insect. Je gespreide vingers

een rooster waardoor het weg kan vliegen.
Maar het blijft. Wat moet het doen?
Het past en zit gevangen.

Over de handschoen kan de hand niet liegen.

Close

MUTATION

1.
Burning potato leaves on the fields,
the smoke rising slowly 
as if the air had a problem inhaling it.

And you didn’t escape your body.

You looked, but the mirror was misted over
.Are the animals on their guard,
cats that, when something startles them,

prick their ears in their sleep?
You lay on the sofa for ages and on the screen you saw
ice floes turning lethargic and drifting.

Was that why you were bleeding?

2.
Are you still bleeding? And do you let anyone know?

You have discussions with yourself in the room
in which your mother’s shrill voice lingers.
You are sitting and brooding on her in that cage.

Your father acts as though he is your father. You know 
your role and keep quiet. You underestimate yourself.
The fields are ploughed crossways,

rolled out like organ scores. Your girlfriends 
play on you in the school canteen.
Is there such a thing as music for the slaughterhouse?

You choke. You still keep your hands to yourself.

3.
Are you swallowing something? Or are you back in the silence 
of that time when only the tapping of your fingernails 
on the table gave a rhythm to your day? Did

misunderstanding prevail there and did you want rid of it?
Did it start bleeding when you cut yourself in your groin
and were you afraid of the peace that

descended then? Is that why you lash out 
unseen? Your anger is the bleeding 
of the seas and the strata of the earth.

You can’t stanch it on your own.

You pick up some sand for your wound.

4.
Have you got some sand in your hand or are you hiding stones?

Do you spot a gap in the group
and is that why you’re shouting slogans? You see yourself 
and know we are not on our way

to a party. Bush fires were blazing everywhere. 
And now the profuse rainfall, the shallow
puddles where your face disappears

because loss doesn’t only show itself in faces.
You hope for the trees’ unanimity,
their growth rings, the dialogue of their rustling.

5.
November combs the trees.

Do you capture their wind? Do you picture
the cattle in the pastures escaping and 
peacefully grazing among the graves,

trampling on what perished?
You aren’t docile, or tame. 
This is how you appear behind the window.

You go back home, to your skin.
Anger flares up in your face,
the cold carves fissures in your hands.

Our house is on fire and we refuse to believe it.

6.
How deep is the fissure? Cutting, unseen.

Hunting the hunters. Dancing on the edge 
feet stamping against the felling, seeing 
everything bleeding. Knowing how their roots

feel and, led on by the axe, how it is
rammed in. How they are raped.
The saw teeth grind. You take some saliva,

follow an insect as it flies up. Is this the red spot
where it stung or did you do it yourself?
There’s a knife there. Do you see more than us? The air

is polluted. Hands clutch your side.

7.
A thousand hands are raised, a swarm.
People want to prevent mass movements.
Then we will all stay where we are.

Is this region fading, is it visibly 
becoming parched? It’s open season
for the hunt. Somewhere there are people

looking into it. There are reports, documents
hat soon turn yellow. Out of one pile 
an insect is crawling. Your splayed fingers

are a grill it can fly through.
But it stays still. What should it do?
It fits and is imprisoned.

The hand cannot tell a lie about the glove.

MUTATION

1.
Burning potato leaves on the fields,
the smoke rising slowly 
as if the air had a problem inhaling it.

And you didn’t escape your body.

You looked, but the mirror was misted over
.Are the animals on their guard,
cats that, when something startles them,

prick their ears in their sleep?
You lay on the sofa for ages and on the screen you saw
ice floes turning lethargic and drifting.

Was that why you were bleeding?

2.
Are you still bleeding? And do you let anyone know?

You have discussions with yourself in the room
in which your mother’s shrill voice lingers.
You are sitting and brooding on her in that cage.

Your father acts as though he is your father. You know 
your role and keep quiet. You underestimate yourself.
The fields are ploughed crossways,

rolled out like organ scores. Your girlfriends 
play on you in the school canteen.
Is there such a thing as music for the slaughterhouse?

You choke. You still keep your hands to yourself.

3.
Are you swallowing something? Or are you back in the silence 
of that time when only the tapping of your fingernails 
on the table gave a rhythm to your day? Did

misunderstanding prevail there and did you want rid of it?
Did it start bleeding when you cut yourself in your groin
and were you afraid of the peace that

descended then? Is that why you lash out 
unseen? Your anger is the bleeding 
of the seas and the strata of the earth.

You can’t stanch it on your own.

You pick up some sand for your wound.

4.
Have you got some sand in your hand or are you hiding stones?

Do you spot a gap in the group
and is that why you’re shouting slogans? You see yourself 
and know we are not on our way

to a party. Bush fires were blazing everywhere. 
And now the profuse rainfall, the shallow
puddles where your face disappears

because loss doesn’t only show itself in faces.
You hope for the trees’ unanimity,
their growth rings, the dialogue of their rustling.

5.
November combs the trees.

Do you capture their wind? Do you picture
the cattle in the pastures escaping and 
peacefully grazing among the graves,

trampling on what perished?
You aren’t docile, or tame. 
This is how you appear behind the window.

You go back home, to your skin.
Anger flares up in your face,
the cold carves fissures in your hands.

Our house is on fire and we refuse to believe it.

6.
How deep is the fissure? Cutting, unseen.

Hunting the hunters. Dancing on the edge 
feet stamping against the felling, seeing 
everything bleeding. Knowing how their roots

feel and, led on by the axe, how it is
rammed in. How they are raped.
The saw teeth grind. You take some saliva,

follow an insect as it flies up. Is this the red spot
where it stung or did you do it yourself?
There’s a knife there. Do you see more than us? The air

is polluted. Hands clutch your side.

7.
A thousand hands are raised, a swarm.
People want to prevent mass movements.
Then we will all stay where we are.

Is this region fading, is it visibly 
becoming parched? It’s open season
for the hunt. Somewhere there are people

looking into it. There are reports, documents
hat soon turn yellow. Out of one pile 
an insect is crawling. Your splayed fingers

are a grill it can fly through.
But it stays still. What should it do?
It fits and is imprisoned.

The hand cannot tell a lie about the glove.
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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