Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Marjolijn van Heemstra

BIRTH

For Elza


I was gigantic! What you see now has been reduced
to a package of blood and teeth. I easily embraced
a middle-sized sea; a supersaurus
regularly slept in my rooms. I lived in
the backroom of life where sperm whales
sail through aquariums, where the light of the ant
and the Milky Way shines.

I was akin to creatures of the silver kind
And the mould that makes a branch into an angel, thick
as water pennywort and sure of my business. My feet
were black as past miracles, my head
an old map of the world, water sloshing along the sides
oh, I was the king of all,

of the silence before the very first cricket, I was
the king of kings and of the water beetles inscribing random lines
in the ditch; when I said 'shoot', they shot forward word
for word on their gangly legs. I dictated
what I knew and destroyed it with pebbles, made
circles of the sentences, chased the beetles back
into their shields. 

I knew that time is a sound for anxious
people, of the kind that waits dead still,
a stag in the headlight, and, sixty years later,
is surprised by the collision. I knew it was not for nothing
that cars shine like scarabs, and lamp posts
are fingers pointing to the sun,
we worship what we always worshipped. 

I knew who I was and vice versa; wakened from afar
by another's desires, I nipped nimbly as a baby
along the narrow passageways, singing as I went pom-pom-pom
my chest out to the grass and the houses and
the people and their pom-pom – I fell shrieking into
a name and the associated affairs that pass
for life pom –

I knew who I was and vice versa
and I haven't forgotten

but I don't –
remember it any more.

GEBOORTE

GEBOORTE

Voor Elza


Ik was reusachtig! Wat je nu ziet is verkleind
tot een pak van bloed en tanden. Ik omarmde
met gemak een middelgrote zee, er sliep regelmatig
een supersaurus in mijn kamers. Ik leefde in
de achterzaal van leven waar potvissen in
aquaria zweven, waar het licht van de mier
en de melkweg schijnt.

Ik was verwant aan dieren van het zilveren soort
en de schimmel die een tak een engel maakt, dik
als waternavel en zeker van mijn zaak. Mijn voeten
waren zwart als wonderen van vroeger, mijn hoofd
een oude wereldkaart, water klotsend langs de randen
oh, ik was de koning van van alles, 

van de stilte van vóór de allereerste krekel, van de
koningen was ik de koning en van de schrijvers
op de sloot; als ik zei ‘schiet’ schoten ze woord
voor woord op hun wankele poten. Ik dicteerde
wat ik wist en vernielde het met kiezels, maakte
kringen van de zinnen, joeg de schrijvers terug
hun schild in. 

Ik wist dat tijd een geluid is voor angstvallige
mensen, van het soort dat doodstil wacht, als
een hert in de lamp, en zich zestig jaar later
verbaasd over de klap. Ik wist dat auto’s niet
voor niets als scarabeeën glimmen, en lantaarnpalen
vingers zijn wijzend naar de zon,
dat we aanbidden wat we steeds aanbaden. 

Ik wist wie ik was en andersom; van ver gewekt
door andermans verlangen, schoot ik lenig als een baby
door de smalle gangen, zingend ging ik pompompom
mijn borst vooruit naar het gras en de huizen en
de mensen en hun pompom – viel ik krijsend in
een naam en de aanverwante zaken die doorgaan
voor het leven pom – 

Ik wist wie ik was en andersom
en ik ben het niet vergeten 

maar weten –
dat niet meer.

Close

BIRTH

For Elza


I was gigantic! What you see now has been reduced
to a package of blood and teeth. I easily embraced
a middle-sized sea; a supersaurus
regularly slept in my rooms. I lived in
the backroom of life where sperm whales
sail through aquariums, where the light of the ant
and the Milky Way shines.

I was akin to creatures of the silver kind
And the mould that makes a branch into an angel, thick
as water pennywort and sure of my business. My feet
were black as past miracles, my head
an old map of the world, water sloshing along the sides
oh, I was the king of all,

of the silence before the very first cricket, I was
the king of kings and of the water beetles inscribing random lines
in the ditch; when I said 'shoot', they shot forward word
for word on their gangly legs. I dictated
what I knew and destroyed it with pebbles, made
circles of the sentences, chased the beetles back
into their shields. 

I knew that time is a sound for anxious
people, of the kind that waits dead still,
a stag in the headlight, and, sixty years later,
is surprised by the collision. I knew it was not for nothing
that cars shine like scarabs, and lamp posts
are fingers pointing to the sun,
we worship what we always worshipped. 

I knew who I was and vice versa; wakened from afar
by another's desires, I nipped nimbly as a baby
along the narrow passageways, singing as I went pom-pom-pom
my chest out to the grass and the houses and
the people and their pom-pom – I fell shrieking into
a name and the associated affairs that pass
for life pom –

I knew who I was and vice versa
and I haven't forgotten

but I don't –
remember it any more.

BIRTH

For Elza


I was gigantic! What you see now has been reduced
to a package of blood and teeth. I easily embraced
a middle-sized sea; a supersaurus
regularly slept in my rooms. I lived in
the backroom of life where sperm whales
sail through aquariums, where the light of the ant
and the Milky Way shines.

I was akin to creatures of the silver kind
And the mould that makes a branch into an angel, thick
as water pennywort and sure of my business. My feet
were black as past miracles, my head
an old map of the world, water sloshing along the sides
oh, I was the king of all,

of the silence before the very first cricket, I was
the king of kings and of the water beetles inscribing random lines
in the ditch; when I said 'shoot', they shot forward word
for word on their gangly legs. I dictated
what I knew and destroyed it with pebbles, made
circles of the sentences, chased the beetles back
into their shields. 

I knew that time is a sound for anxious
people, of the kind that waits dead still,
a stag in the headlight, and, sixty years later,
is surprised by the collision. I knew it was not for nothing
that cars shine like scarabs, and lamp posts
are fingers pointing to the sun,
we worship what we always worshipped. 

I knew who I was and vice versa; wakened from afar
by another's desires, I nipped nimbly as a baby
along the narrow passageways, singing as I went pom-pom-pom
my chest out to the grass and the houses and
the people and their pom-pom – I fell shrieking into
a name and the associated affairs that pass
for life pom –

I knew who I was and vice versa
and I haven't forgotten

but I don't –
remember it any more.

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