Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Paul Demets

DEGENERATION

1.
Everything is unwelcome here. Your grownup sons 
are consulting in the distance. 
Do you see the shoreline that discolours cyanotic

as the sun rises? They stare fixedly 
behind their specs, lie there comparing
each other’s shoulder lines, they wriggle,

their feet are pallid. The algae grow on the lake.
The ozone is fading. Someone is getting 
an ice cream and a sunbed. Her tongue slides

slowly over her lips. The lake dries up. Animals 
on the beach: the sun dusts their coats.
They lie there, rub each other, lick themselves clean.

They take each other with them into entropy.
Will you track their imprint later
and whatever else they’ve left behind? Do you follow them

when they climb the tower, count how much they have left?
They plunge. Now you’ve gone back to your befouled nest,
do you give them a place in the breakdown?

2.
The day shrinks and shivers in your womb.
You lie there in the hollow beneath the lamp.
Does the room grow then, would you rather

lie listening to your breath and sniffing at your 
clothes buried among the furniture?
Are you naked under the blanket,

is your lethargy a way of letting your fingers
drowsily do their work? 
You are assailed by him.

You dream you’re in a state of permafrost,
how your body melts, is caressed in the
water, licked, taken.

Can you never get away from here, from him,
do you think of the bend in the river?
Did he look for a fissure and is how you are there

abandoned bubbling up sludge? Did you fight back?
Did you still visit him? How does it feel, being gagged, 
do you taste blood, is there a cleft in your lips?

A pig’s head grins on the door.

3.
Does he seize hold of you; does he make you sick? What are you made to swallow?
Do you blush and do you feel how fully you lie
in his hand; does he squeeze you to pulp, claws in an arm?

Do you put up with that or does your skin soon 
revert to its shape? Does he have a knife and does he decide 
not to cut? Does he prefer to keep you warm

and does he heap praise on you when you shadow him 
and inspect him, in full light? Have you become 
soiled, mother, and do you lie there together as if dead,

sweating? Or does he prefer to preserve you 
cool and ripe? Does he want to survive
with stone, bitter and wooden and is this why

he loves to taste the white meat around him,
sipping, biting, slurping?
How he swallows. Does he undo you, because your lustre

and your earth-coloured skin lie gazing at him, crude 
from your skin? Or can you manage him after all? Do you taste 
how he knows that you will not assuage his hunger?

4.
The mist is short of breath. You are there for him 
to drain you to the depths.
Do you see how the dark in his eyes,

in your ears the sounds? How the punches in your skin,
in caressing the hand, in this hand
he has imprinted himself on your thigh? Everything landed

in your lap. But you’ve been sedated, opened up. 
A gaping wound. He has plundered you slowly.
Everything around you starts shifting: scorched grass,

fields swept away, defoliated forests, until they vanish
before your eyes in a mist of blood. Is being beaten 
inherent in bearing and do you try and escape

by running, with outstretched neck your nostrils 
sniffing, slowing down everything that passes
through your speed? Will you bring him outside,

saddle him with what he asks of you? You make him
waver. What do you rid yourself of:
him, his sweat, your skin, your muscles, your punishment?

5.
Is he in hot pursuit of you, does he run you down,
do you lose blood? Do you pretend to be out,
are you whetting iron in your lap? You look

into the flames, but just don’t catch fire.
Does he squeeze you hard with his thumbs? How deep
is the violence he awakens in you?

He snarls at you. The animals look for another 
habitat because it’s so hot. Do you wonder then why
he tolerates you only as someone of impure race?

Can you at most only go from the letterbox
to the door, go and sit in your ascribed spot,
hop up and down, looking dependent and miserable?

He is crazy about you. Is your message false 
when you put your smell on cheeks because your need is great 
and you’ve detected traces of occupation?

Can you only go out now when it’s dark 
and do you have to watch over yourself the whole day 
so you don’t wake any sleeping dogs?

6.
Are your lips cracking, does the cold grip your cheeks?
And are you so heavy on the ice you’re in danger of sinking 
as you bend forward and stretch, without nothing to hold on to

lifting your leg over the slowly melting mirror?
And is it your voice that echoes in air bubbles from the surface, 
or the dissenting voice of the dark, its voice that lures you

into the mud, between the mops of the rushes?
The rubbish doesn’t sink. Is the face you see beneath you

the one you wore when you first saw the light

and you still held your breath, then coughed, fluttered,
your eyes peering through wrinkling wax?
And do you want to return there, is that why you

don’t tire of that turning, of inscribing 
circles in the frost as if round a navel?
Like someone fallen through glass do you want to be whole again

and not broken, but one with the ice
that’s emerged here in shards under an orange-red 
morning sun remaining intact on this pool of blood?

7.
Are you climbing for the last time and thinking up there 
how real is the perspective rising up your sex 
an open mouth out of the ground stone fruit animals

all the guises you’ve ever adopted 
to escape him? It gapes. How do they feel 
the trunk, the branches, why do they push you back

when you go looking for their support?
Do you stay still then till it tears open
and the ground quakes, time stretches

in all your fibres and the recovery, as if 
something in its power will return
out of the trap? Does it scorch your hand,

does it break your arm when you tilt in the desired
direction? Do you spend the time with the dead,
do you smell the decaying, the mould,

the moss? Has the engraver beetle already
done his work subcutaneously and tattooed your name from 
nature? Is this why your trap never lets us go?

Envoi
I will sew you together, mother. Look at you lying there.
Your broken face has sucked up all
the questions. All that comes from your lips
is blood.

We are rampant.
We are all your brutes.









DEGENERATIE

DEGENERATIE

1.
Alles valt hier in slechte aarde. Je grote
zonen houden in de verte ruggenspraak. 
Zie je de rand die blauwzuchtig

groeit als de zon opklimt? Ze staren
zich blind achter hun glazen, liggen elkaars
schouderlijn te vergelijken, ze kronkelen,

hebben gebleekte voeten. Op het meer groeien de algen.
Het ozon verdooft. Iemand gaat om een ijsje
en een ligbed vragen. Haar tong glijdt

langzaam over haar lippen. Het meer droogt op. Dieren
aan het strand: de zon verstoft hun huid.
Ze liggen, wrijven elkaar, likken zich schoon.

Ze nemen elkaar mee in de entropie.
Speur je dan later naar hun afdruk
en wat ze verder nog achterlieten? Volg je hen als

ze de toren beklimmen, tel je hoeveel hen nog rest?
Ze duiken. Geef je hun dan een plaats in deval,
teruggekeerd naar je bevuilde nest?

2.
De dag krimpt en rilt in je moederschoot.
Zo lig je in de holte onder de lamp.
Groeit dan de kamer, lig je liever

naar je adem te luisteren en te ruiken aan je 
kleren tussen het huisraad verzonken?
Geef je je bloot onder de deken,

is je loomheid een manier om
slaapdronken je vingers hun werk te laten doen?
Je bent door hem aangegrepen.

Je droomt je een staat van permafrost,
hoe je lichaam smelt, in het water
gestreeld wordt, gelikt, genomen.

Kan je nooit van hier zijn, van hem,
denk je dan aan de bocht van de rivier?
Zocht hij een scheur en is hoe je daar bent

achtergelaten opwellend slib? Vocht je terug?
Zocht je hem toch op? Hoe voelt monddood, 
proef je bloed, zit er een kloof in je lippen?

Voor de deur grijnst een varkenskop.

3.
Grijpt hij je vast, kots je van hem? Wat kreeg je te slikken?
Krijg je een kleur en voel je dan hoe vol je in zijn hand
ligt, knijpt hij je murw, klauwen in een arm?

Duld je dat of springt je huid snel terug
in haar vorm? Houdt hij een mes klaar en besluit
hij dan om niet te snijden? Houdt hij je liever

warm en hemelt hij je op als je hem schaduwt
en hem bekijkt, vol in het licht? Ben je bevuild
en lig je dan samen voor dood, moeder,

zwetend? Of bewaart hij je liever koel
gerijpt? Wil hij overblijven
met steen, bitter, houtachtig en proeft hij

daarom nippend, bijtend, slurpend
zo graag het witte vlees eromheen?
Hoe hij slikt. Ontdoet hij je, omdat je glans

en je aardekleurige huid naar hem liggen te kijken, ruw
van je schil? Of heb jij hem toch in de hand? Proef je
hoe hij weet dat je zijn honger niet wil stillen?

4.
De mist heeft ademnood. Je bent er voor hem
om je uit te putten tot de bodem.
Merk je hoe in zijn ogen het donker,

in je oren de geluiden? Hoe in je huid het slaan,
in het strelen de hand, in die hand
op je dij hij zich heeft ingeprent? Alles kreeg je

in je schoot geworpen. Maar je bent verdoofd, geopend.
Een gapende wonde. Hij heeft je langzaam leeggeroofd.
Alles om je heen begint te verschuiven: verbrand gras,

weggespoelde akkers, ontbladerde bossen, tot ze in een bloedwaas
voor je ogen verdwijnen. Zit het geslagen worden
in het dragen en wil je je daarom losmaken

in het rennen, met gestrekte nek snuivend
je neusvleugels door je snelheid alles wat voorbijglijdt
doen vertragen? Wil je hem zelf naar buiten leiden,

hem opzadelen met wat hij van je vraagt? Je doet
hem wankelen. Wat werp je dan van je af:
hem, zijn zweet, je huid, je spieren, je straf?

5.
Zit hij dicht op je huid, woont hij je uit,
verlies je bloed? Geef je niet thuis,
slijp je ijzer in je schoot? Je kijkt

in de vlam, maar ontbrandt net niet.
Drukt hij hard met zijn duimen? Hoe diep 
zit het geweld dat hij in je wakker riep?

Hij blaft je af. Door de hitte zoeken de dieren
een andere habitat. Zit je je dan af te vragen waarom
hij jou alleen gedoogt als iemand van een onzuiver ras?

Mag je hoogstens wandelen van de brievenbus
naar de deur, gaan zitten op je vaste plek,
hinken, afhankelijk en mistroostig kijken?

Hij is op jou gebrand. Is je boodschap vals
als je je geur aanbrengt op wangen omdat de nood
hoog is en je sporen van bewoning hebt gemerkt?

Kan je dan alleen nog maar naar buiten in het donker
en moet je de hele dag over jezelf waken om geen
slapende honden wakker te maken?

6.
Barsten je lippen, houden je wangen de kou vast?
En ben je op het ijs zo zwaar dat je dreigt te zinken
zoals je je voorover buigt en je uitrekt, zonder houvast

je been bijhaalt over de al traag kruiende spiegel?
En is het je stem die in luchtbellen opklinkt uit het oppervlak,
of de tegenstem van het donker, zijn stem die je lokt

naar de modder, tussen de weerborstels van het riet?
Het afval zinkt niet. Is het gezicht dat je onder je ziet
het gezicht dat je trok toen je voor het eerst het licht zag

en je je adem nog inhield, dan hoestte, knipperde,
je ogen priemend door rimpelend was?
En wil je daar nu weer naartoe, word je daarom

dat draaien, het cirkels schrijven als rond 
een navel in de vrieskou niet moe? Wil je als
gevallen door glas weer ongeschonden zijn

en niet gebroken, maar een met het ijs
hier opgedoken in scherven onder een oranjerode 
ochtendzon overeind blijven op deze bloedplas?

7.
Klim je dan voor het laatst en bedenk je daar hoog
hoe wezenlijk het perspectief is oprijzend je geslacht
een open mond uit de grond steenvrucht dieren

alle gedaantes die je ooit hebt aangenomen
om aan hem te ontkomen? Het gaapt. Hoe voelen
de stam, de takken, waarom duwen ze je terug

als je op zoek gaat naar hun steun?
Houd je je dan even stil tot het scheurt
en de grond davert, rekt de tijd zich

in al je vezels en het opveren, als wil
iets in zijn kracht terugkeren
uit deval? Schroeit het je hand,

breekt het je arm als je in de gewenste
richting kantelt? Spendeer je de tijd met het dode,
ruik je de verrotting, de vermolming

het mos? Heeft onderhuids de letterzetter
zijn werk al gedaan en je naam naar de natuur
getatoeëerd? Laat daarom jeval ons nooit los?

Envoi
Ik zal je dichtnaaien, moeder. Hoe je erbij ligt.
Je gebroken gezicht heeft alle vragen
opgezogen. Je krijgt alleen nog bloed
ver je lippen.

We woekeren.
Wij allen zijn je loeder.

Close

DEGENERATION

1.
Everything is unwelcome here. Your grownup sons 
are consulting in the distance. 
Do you see the shoreline that discolours cyanotic

as the sun rises? They stare fixedly 
behind their specs, lie there comparing
each other’s shoulder lines, they wriggle,

their feet are pallid. The algae grow on the lake.
The ozone is fading. Someone is getting 
an ice cream and a sunbed. Her tongue slides

slowly over her lips. The lake dries up. Animals 
on the beach: the sun dusts their coats.
They lie there, rub each other, lick themselves clean.

They take each other with them into entropy.
Will you track their imprint later
and whatever else they’ve left behind? Do you follow them

when they climb the tower, count how much they have left?
They plunge. Now you’ve gone back to your befouled nest,
do you give them a place in the breakdown?

2.
The day shrinks and shivers in your womb.
You lie there in the hollow beneath the lamp.
Does the room grow then, would you rather

lie listening to your breath and sniffing at your 
clothes buried among the furniture?
Are you naked under the blanket,

is your lethargy a way of letting your fingers
drowsily do their work? 
You are assailed by him.

You dream you’re in a state of permafrost,
how your body melts, is caressed in the
water, licked, taken.

Can you never get away from here, from him,
do you think of the bend in the river?
Did he look for a fissure and is how you are there

abandoned bubbling up sludge? Did you fight back?
Did you still visit him? How does it feel, being gagged, 
do you taste blood, is there a cleft in your lips?

A pig’s head grins on the door.

3.
Does he seize hold of you; does he make you sick? What are you made to swallow?
Do you blush and do you feel how fully you lie
in his hand; does he squeeze you to pulp, claws in an arm?

Do you put up with that or does your skin soon 
revert to its shape? Does he have a knife and does he decide 
not to cut? Does he prefer to keep you warm

and does he heap praise on you when you shadow him 
and inspect him, in full light? Have you become 
soiled, mother, and do you lie there together as if dead,

sweating? Or does he prefer to preserve you 
cool and ripe? Does he want to survive
with stone, bitter and wooden and is this why

he loves to taste the white meat around him,
sipping, biting, slurping?
How he swallows. Does he undo you, because your lustre

and your earth-coloured skin lie gazing at him, crude 
from your skin? Or can you manage him after all? Do you taste 
how he knows that you will not assuage his hunger?

4.
The mist is short of breath. You are there for him 
to drain you to the depths.
Do you see how the dark in his eyes,

in your ears the sounds? How the punches in your skin,
in caressing the hand, in this hand
he has imprinted himself on your thigh? Everything landed

in your lap. But you’ve been sedated, opened up. 
A gaping wound. He has plundered you slowly.
Everything around you starts shifting: scorched grass,

fields swept away, defoliated forests, until they vanish
before your eyes in a mist of blood. Is being beaten 
inherent in bearing and do you try and escape

by running, with outstretched neck your nostrils 
sniffing, slowing down everything that passes
through your speed? Will you bring him outside,

saddle him with what he asks of you? You make him
waver. What do you rid yourself of:
him, his sweat, your skin, your muscles, your punishment?

5.
Is he in hot pursuit of you, does he run you down,
do you lose blood? Do you pretend to be out,
are you whetting iron in your lap? You look

into the flames, but just don’t catch fire.
Does he squeeze you hard with his thumbs? How deep
is the violence he awakens in you?

He snarls at you. The animals look for another 
habitat because it’s so hot. Do you wonder then why
he tolerates you only as someone of impure race?

Can you at most only go from the letterbox
to the door, go and sit in your ascribed spot,
hop up and down, looking dependent and miserable?

He is crazy about you. Is your message false 
when you put your smell on cheeks because your need is great 
and you’ve detected traces of occupation?

Can you only go out now when it’s dark 
and do you have to watch over yourself the whole day 
so you don’t wake any sleeping dogs?

6.
Are your lips cracking, does the cold grip your cheeks?
And are you so heavy on the ice you’re in danger of sinking 
as you bend forward and stretch, without nothing to hold on to

lifting your leg over the slowly melting mirror?
And is it your voice that echoes in air bubbles from the surface, 
or the dissenting voice of the dark, its voice that lures you

into the mud, between the mops of the rushes?
The rubbish doesn’t sink. Is the face you see beneath you

the one you wore when you first saw the light

and you still held your breath, then coughed, fluttered,
your eyes peering through wrinkling wax?
And do you want to return there, is that why you

don’t tire of that turning, of inscribing 
circles in the frost as if round a navel?
Like someone fallen through glass do you want to be whole again

and not broken, but one with the ice
that’s emerged here in shards under an orange-red 
morning sun remaining intact on this pool of blood?

7.
Are you climbing for the last time and thinking up there 
how real is the perspective rising up your sex 
an open mouth out of the ground stone fruit animals

all the guises you’ve ever adopted 
to escape him? It gapes. How do they feel 
the trunk, the branches, why do they push you back

when you go looking for their support?
Do you stay still then till it tears open
and the ground quakes, time stretches

in all your fibres and the recovery, as if 
something in its power will return
out of the trap? Does it scorch your hand,

does it break your arm when you tilt in the desired
direction? Do you spend the time with the dead,
do you smell the decaying, the mould,

the moss? Has the engraver beetle already
done his work subcutaneously and tattooed your name from 
nature? Is this why your trap never lets us go?

Envoi
I will sew you together, mother. Look at you lying there.
Your broken face has sucked up all
the questions. All that comes from your lips
is blood.

We are rampant.
We are all your brutes.









DEGENERATION

1.
Everything is unwelcome here. Your grownup sons 
are consulting in the distance. 
Do you see the shoreline that discolours cyanotic

as the sun rises? They stare fixedly 
behind their specs, lie there comparing
each other’s shoulder lines, they wriggle,

their feet are pallid. The algae grow on the lake.
The ozone is fading. Someone is getting 
an ice cream and a sunbed. Her tongue slides

slowly over her lips. The lake dries up. Animals 
on the beach: the sun dusts their coats.
They lie there, rub each other, lick themselves clean.

They take each other with them into entropy.
Will you track their imprint later
and whatever else they’ve left behind? Do you follow them

when they climb the tower, count how much they have left?
They plunge. Now you’ve gone back to your befouled nest,
do you give them a place in the breakdown?

2.
The day shrinks and shivers in your womb.
You lie there in the hollow beneath the lamp.
Does the room grow then, would you rather

lie listening to your breath and sniffing at your 
clothes buried among the furniture?
Are you naked under the blanket,

is your lethargy a way of letting your fingers
drowsily do their work? 
You are assailed by him.

You dream you’re in a state of permafrost,
how your body melts, is caressed in the
water, licked, taken.

Can you never get away from here, from him,
do you think of the bend in the river?
Did he look for a fissure and is how you are there

abandoned bubbling up sludge? Did you fight back?
Did you still visit him? How does it feel, being gagged, 
do you taste blood, is there a cleft in your lips?

A pig’s head grins on the door.

3.
Does he seize hold of you; does he make you sick? What are you made to swallow?
Do you blush and do you feel how fully you lie
in his hand; does he squeeze you to pulp, claws in an arm?

Do you put up with that or does your skin soon 
revert to its shape? Does he have a knife and does he decide 
not to cut? Does he prefer to keep you warm

and does he heap praise on you when you shadow him 
and inspect him, in full light? Have you become 
soiled, mother, and do you lie there together as if dead,

sweating? Or does he prefer to preserve you 
cool and ripe? Does he want to survive
with stone, bitter and wooden and is this why

he loves to taste the white meat around him,
sipping, biting, slurping?
How he swallows. Does he undo you, because your lustre

and your earth-coloured skin lie gazing at him, crude 
from your skin? Or can you manage him after all? Do you taste 
how he knows that you will not assuage his hunger?

4.
The mist is short of breath. You are there for him 
to drain you to the depths.
Do you see how the dark in his eyes,

in your ears the sounds? How the punches in your skin,
in caressing the hand, in this hand
he has imprinted himself on your thigh? Everything landed

in your lap. But you’ve been sedated, opened up. 
A gaping wound. He has plundered you slowly.
Everything around you starts shifting: scorched grass,

fields swept away, defoliated forests, until they vanish
before your eyes in a mist of blood. Is being beaten 
inherent in bearing and do you try and escape

by running, with outstretched neck your nostrils 
sniffing, slowing down everything that passes
through your speed? Will you bring him outside,

saddle him with what he asks of you? You make him
waver. What do you rid yourself of:
him, his sweat, your skin, your muscles, your punishment?

5.
Is he in hot pursuit of you, does he run you down,
do you lose blood? Do you pretend to be out,
are you whetting iron in your lap? You look

into the flames, but just don’t catch fire.
Does he squeeze you hard with his thumbs? How deep
is the violence he awakens in you?

He snarls at you. The animals look for another 
habitat because it’s so hot. Do you wonder then why
he tolerates you only as someone of impure race?

Can you at most only go from the letterbox
to the door, go and sit in your ascribed spot,
hop up and down, looking dependent and miserable?

He is crazy about you. Is your message false 
when you put your smell on cheeks because your need is great 
and you’ve detected traces of occupation?

Can you only go out now when it’s dark 
and do you have to watch over yourself the whole day 
so you don’t wake any sleeping dogs?

6.
Are your lips cracking, does the cold grip your cheeks?
And are you so heavy on the ice you’re in danger of sinking 
as you bend forward and stretch, without nothing to hold on to

lifting your leg over the slowly melting mirror?
And is it your voice that echoes in air bubbles from the surface, 
or the dissenting voice of the dark, its voice that lures you

into the mud, between the mops of the rushes?
The rubbish doesn’t sink. Is the face you see beneath you

the one you wore when you first saw the light

and you still held your breath, then coughed, fluttered,
your eyes peering through wrinkling wax?
And do you want to return there, is that why you

don’t tire of that turning, of inscribing 
circles in the frost as if round a navel?
Like someone fallen through glass do you want to be whole again

and not broken, but one with the ice
that’s emerged here in shards under an orange-red 
morning sun remaining intact on this pool of blood?

7.
Are you climbing for the last time and thinking up there 
how real is the perspective rising up your sex 
an open mouth out of the ground stone fruit animals

all the guises you’ve ever adopted 
to escape him? It gapes. How do they feel 
the trunk, the branches, why do they push you back

when you go looking for their support?
Do you stay still then till it tears open
and the ground quakes, time stretches

in all your fibres and the recovery, as if 
something in its power will return
out of the trap? Does it scorch your hand,

does it break your arm when you tilt in the desired
direction? Do you spend the time with the dead,
do you smell the decaying, the mould,

the moss? Has the engraver beetle already
done his work subcutaneously and tattooed your name from 
nature? Is this why your trap never lets us go?

Envoi
I will sew you together, mother. Look at you lying there.
Your broken face has sucked up all
the questions. All that comes from your lips
is blood.

We are rampant.
We are all your brutes.









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