Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Marjolijn van Heemstra

SAINT PIECHELMUS

How much ice has to melt, how much carbon
be measured, in what period must there be drilling for the amber
worm, for the bog body that becomes the father
who attributes to us our indifferent mess, our glossy teeth,
our haphazard heart?
Do we limit ourselves to our own lands or do we follow
the waft from Asia in an eyelid, an African-shaped
lip? Which beginning is the beginning?
(Take the sailor who, in 1804, sat shivering
in a whale, up to his neck in acid,
he washed up bleached, brittle as rice paper,
began again, having forgotten himself, his name became
'Albino', Spanish for albino and honest and blonde).
In Oldenzaal they are searching for the descendants of
exhumed corpses in Saint Piechelmus Square,
in the town hall a selected group is exchanging
oral fluid for the past. On the site there is a photo
of a man with a cotton bud in his mouth, fishing
for origins. Next to him, as proud as punch,
his daughter. Our father, she says, is older
than we know. For those unable to attend
samples are taken, a minibus runs
through the town, from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, filled with
moist scrapings, we'll soon see who
turns out to be a land-locked German, who Turkish after all,
who will have to hoist the Mongolian flag
in their front garden

SINT PIECHELMUS

SINT PIECHELMUS

Hoeveel ijs moet er ontdooid, hoeveel koolstof
gemeten, in welk tijdvak geboord naar de barnstenen
worm, naar het veenlijk dat de vader wordt
die onze losgezongen zooi, onze glimmende gebitten,
ons lukraak hart doet toebehoren?
Beperken we ons tot eigen akkers of volgen we
de zweem van Azië in een ooglid, een Afrikaans
gevormde lip? Welk begin is het begin?
(Neem de zeeman die in 1804 trillend
in een walvis zat, tot aan zijn nek in het zuur,
hij spoelde witgeblakerd aan, broos als rijstpapier,
begon opnieuw, zichzelf vergeten, zijn naam werd
‘Albino’, Spaans voor albino, en eerlijk en blond.)
In Oldenzaal zoeken ze naar nageslacht van
opgegraven lijken op het Sint Piechelmusplein,
een groep geselecteerden ruilt in het gemeentehuis
mondvocht voor verleden. Op de site staat de foto
van een man met een wattenstaafje in zijn mond, vissend
naar oorsprong. Ernaast, trots als een aap,
zijn dochter. Onze vader, zegt ze, is ouder
dan wij weten. Bij wie niet langs kan komen
worden monsters afgehaald, er rijdt een bus
door de stad, van wijk naar wijk, gevuld met
vochtig schraapsel, we zullen zien wie straks
een honkvaste Germaan blijkt, wie toch een Turk,
wie in zijn voortuin de Mongoolse vlag
zal moeten hijsen.

Close

SAINT PIECHELMUS

How much ice has to melt, how much carbon
be measured, in what period must there be drilling for the amber
worm, for the bog body that becomes the father
who attributes to us our indifferent mess, our glossy teeth,
our haphazard heart?
Do we limit ourselves to our own lands or do we follow
the waft from Asia in an eyelid, an African-shaped
lip? Which beginning is the beginning?
(Take the sailor who, in 1804, sat shivering
in a whale, up to his neck in acid,
he washed up bleached, brittle as rice paper,
began again, having forgotten himself, his name became
'Albino', Spanish for albino and honest and blonde).
In Oldenzaal they are searching for the descendants of
exhumed corpses in Saint Piechelmus Square,
in the town hall a selected group is exchanging
oral fluid for the past. On the site there is a photo
of a man with a cotton bud in his mouth, fishing
for origins. Next to him, as proud as punch,
his daughter. Our father, she says, is older
than we know. For those unable to attend
samples are taken, a minibus runs
through the town, from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, filled with
moist scrapings, we'll soon see who
turns out to be a land-locked German, who Turkish after all,
who will have to hoist the Mongolian flag
in their front garden

SAINT PIECHELMUS

How much ice has to melt, how much carbon
be measured, in what period must there be drilling for the amber
worm, for the bog body that becomes the father
who attributes to us our indifferent mess, our glossy teeth,
our haphazard heart?
Do we limit ourselves to our own lands or do we follow
the waft from Asia in an eyelid, an African-shaped
lip? Which beginning is the beginning?
(Take the sailor who, in 1804, sat shivering
in a whale, up to his neck in acid,
he washed up bleached, brittle as rice paper,
began again, having forgotten himself, his name became
'Albino', Spanish for albino and honest and blonde).
In Oldenzaal they are searching for the descendants of
exhumed corpses in Saint Piechelmus Square,
in the town hall a selected group is exchanging
oral fluid for the past. On the site there is a photo
of a man with a cotton bud in his mouth, fishing
for origins. Next to him, as proud as punch,
his daughter. Our father, she says, is older
than we know. For those unable to attend
samples are taken, a minibus runs
through the town, from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, filled with
moist scrapings, we'll soon see who
turns out to be a land-locked German, who Turkish after all,
who will have to hoist the Mongolian flag
in their front garden

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