Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Albertina Soepboer

ROOTS

Rookland

His long white neck will be your prize;
If I may peck his bright blue eyes.
We’ll steal a golden lock or two,
And decorate our nest anew.

On an idle afternoon the clouds charged across
the sky. I leaned against a low church wall, hands
in my pocket, blue with cold, and I sang. Listen,
autumn is in the air, windwhips lash the trees.

The rook stared at me from atop the wall. Rain
buried my hurried breaths in blankets of gray.
Sweat beneath my raincoat. The black eye blew
closer, my shadow propped itself against old stone.

The wind drove trotting feet through the town.
Underneath the tree there was a place to squat,
to pee. My head sank toward the ground. Listen,
the wild storm has come, the rumbles fill the air.

A sweet smell drifted through the doorway,
impossible to place. I lay my finger in the slit,
still warm. A moment of seeing. The head
severed from the neck, a pool of blood, a dead eye.

How many times was it five o’clock, did the bell chime
again? Later I found the alley, the slaughterhouse,
the children singing in the silence of the rooks. Listen,
the long rain has come, the wind howls at the window.


Elderland

Witch, witch! Old witch!
Come away from your caldron!
Away from the woods in which you dwell!
Toothless old hag with a horrid smell,
Waiting to snatch our children!

Spring sea-misted over the distant meadows.
In the shed our rabbit smiled. I sought grass,
fresh grass shooting up out of the soil.

Behind me they stood sullenly and silently
in the wind. Their dull white elder blossoms
drooped with rain. I tapped the ancient bark.

It was her face that came thrusting out of
the furrowed depths. I turned quickly,
but she had already muttered witch, witch.

In late summer I picked the ripened clusters,
dropping them in my bucket till my hands hung
blood-red by the sides of my girlish frame.

Was it she who said that I would grow older,
that it was dark, shameful. I ran to the dank
and brackish meadow so as not to hear.

But time tumbled, the elderberries were boiled
over a fire. A strange tea with honey that made
my swollen red tummy turn upside-down.

That night the witch whispered in the tree, her
shadow flitted across the moon. Until I threw up
in surrender, and my body developed curves.


Farawayland

Poppet, moppet, doll,
Into the water they fall.
Mother is too far away,
To hear the child call.

On a bicycle in green rubber boots.
Dark is the land beneath my feet,
a wordless sign of all I cannot
name. We both know that I am
a stranger. Our languages fall still.

Whatever language I have left to give
comes in the night. My mouth full
of lemon custard. Grandpa plays
checkers, Grandma hangs laundry
on lines. Horses gallop in the pasture.

It begins in lingering fumes of potato
pesticide. The words no longer at my
beck and call. In the flickering light
a man fights his windmills. Land
that disappears beneath cobwebs.

The blue statue of a man roams
the fields. I call his name, root around
in the ground with him for a carrot.
Pus that oozes out of a sore. We
no longer talk in the now-world.

In the darkness he lies diaphanously
at my side, howling like a gray wolf.
Wounds I bandage with another language.
Land that can be given a name. Later
we turn into strangers once again.

WOARTELS

WOARTELS

Roekelân

Syn wite hals is dy ta bút;
Ik pik syn blauwe eagen út.
In lokke fan syn gouden hier
Is foar ús nest in tek en sier!

Yn ’e lege, lette middei kamen wolken foarby
riden. Ik hong tsjin it tsjerkestek oan. De hannen
blau fan ’e kjeld yn ’e bûse en ik song. Hark,
de hjerst komt, de wynswipe giet troch de beammen.

De roek op it stek gluorke al nei my. De rein
bedobbe it hastige sykheljen yn grize tekkens.
Swit ûnder myn reinjas. It swarte each waaide
tichterby. Myn skaad line tsjin in âlde muorre.

Op ’e wyn draafden fuotten troch de buorren.
It plak ûnder de beam om op ’e hurken te sitten,
te pisjen. Myn holle sakke nei de grûn ta. Hark,
de wylde stoarm is kaam, bolderet yn ’e loft.

Dan de swiete rook dy’t troch de doar dreau,
net teplak te bringen. Ik sette de finger yn ’t kier
fol waarmte. De sekonde dat ik seach. De kop
al los fan ’e hals, in plasse bloed, it deade each.

Hoe faak wie it noch fiif oere, sloech de klok.
Letter fûn ik de stege, de slachterij en de bern
dy’t yn stilte fan nachtroeken sjonge. Hark,
de lange rein is kaam, de wyn gûlt wer yn it rút.


Flearlân

Heks, heks! âlde heks!
Kom ris út dyn herntsje!
Ut dyn herntsje yn ’e bosk!
Alde heks mei oardel tosk,
Pak de lytse berntsjes!

De maitiid seedampte oer de greiden.
Yn it hok lake ús knyn. Ik socht om gers,
farsk gers dat oeral de ierde útwoeks.

Achter my stienen se noartsk op ’e wyn
te swijen. Har flearbloesems hongen goar
wyt yn ’e rein. Ik tikke op ’e âlde bast.

It wie har gesicht dat yn ’e djippe nerven
nei foaren skode. Ik draaide my gau om,
mar se hie de wurden heks, heks al lispele.

Yn ’e neisimmer plukte ik de flearstrusen,
liet se yn ’e amer rûgelje oant myn hannen
bloedread foar myn famkesliif hongen.

Wie sy it dy’t sei dat ik âlder wurde soe,
dat it tsjuster wie, beskamsum. Ik draafde
de soelsâlte greiden yn om neat te hearren.

Mar de tiid foel om, de flear waard útsean
op it fjoer. In frjemde tee mei huning
dy’t myn swierreade búk op ’e kop sette.

Dy nacht flústere de heks yn ’e beam, liet
har skaad foar de moanne hingje. Oant ik
koarjend belies joech, myn liif rûn woeks.


Fierlân

Suze nane poppe
Berntsje leit yn ’e groppe
Heit en mem sa fier fan hûs
Kin se net beroppe

Op ’e fyts mei griene learzens.
Donker ferskynt it lân ûnder my,
in wurdleas teken fan wat ik net
beneame kin. Beide witte wy dat
ik frjemdling bin. Us talen swije.

Wat ik myn taal noch jaan kin,
komt nachts foarby. De mûle fol
mei sitroenfla. Us pake dammet,
ús beppe hinget wask oan linen.
Yn ’e greiden rinne happes om.

It begjint yn ’e rook fan rjappel-
gif. De wurden net mear te finen.
Yn it blikkerjende ljocht fjochtet
in man tsjin syn wynmûnen. Lân
dat weiwurdt ûnder spinreach.

De blauwe stânbyldman swalket
yn ’e fjilden. Ik rop syn namme,
dol mei him de woartel út ’e grûn.
Otter dy’t nei bûten ta streamt. Wy
sprekke net mear yn ’e nowrâld.

Yn it tsjuster leit er trochsichtich
tsjin my oan, jankt as in grize wolf.
Wûne dêr’t ik in oare taal op plak.
Lân dat beneamber wurdt. Letter
is dat wy wer frjemdlingen wurde.
Close

ROOTS

Rookland

His long white neck will be your prize;
If I may peck his bright blue eyes.
We’ll steal a golden lock or two,
And decorate our nest anew.

On an idle afternoon the clouds charged across
the sky. I leaned against a low church wall, hands
in my pocket, blue with cold, and I sang. Listen,
autumn is in the air, windwhips lash the trees.

The rook stared at me from atop the wall. Rain
buried my hurried breaths in blankets of gray.
Sweat beneath my raincoat. The black eye blew
closer, my shadow propped itself against old stone.

The wind drove trotting feet through the town.
Underneath the tree there was a place to squat,
to pee. My head sank toward the ground. Listen,
the wild storm has come, the rumbles fill the air.

A sweet smell drifted through the doorway,
impossible to place. I lay my finger in the slit,
still warm. A moment of seeing. The head
severed from the neck, a pool of blood, a dead eye.

How many times was it five o’clock, did the bell chime
again? Later I found the alley, the slaughterhouse,
the children singing in the silence of the rooks. Listen,
the long rain has come, the wind howls at the window.


Elderland

Witch, witch! Old witch!
Come away from your caldron!
Away from the woods in which you dwell!
Toothless old hag with a horrid smell,
Waiting to snatch our children!

Spring sea-misted over the distant meadows.
In the shed our rabbit smiled. I sought grass,
fresh grass shooting up out of the soil.

Behind me they stood sullenly and silently
in the wind. Their dull white elder blossoms
drooped with rain. I tapped the ancient bark.

It was her face that came thrusting out of
the furrowed depths. I turned quickly,
but she had already muttered witch, witch.

In late summer I picked the ripened clusters,
dropping them in my bucket till my hands hung
blood-red by the sides of my girlish frame.

Was it she who said that I would grow older,
that it was dark, shameful. I ran to the dank
and brackish meadow so as not to hear.

But time tumbled, the elderberries were boiled
over a fire. A strange tea with honey that made
my swollen red tummy turn upside-down.

That night the witch whispered in the tree, her
shadow flitted across the moon. Until I threw up
in surrender, and my body developed curves.


Farawayland

Poppet, moppet, doll,
Into the water they fall.
Mother is too far away,
To hear the child call.

On a bicycle in green rubber boots.
Dark is the land beneath my feet,
a wordless sign of all I cannot
name. We both know that I am
a stranger. Our languages fall still.

Whatever language I have left to give
comes in the night. My mouth full
of lemon custard. Grandpa plays
checkers, Grandma hangs laundry
on lines. Horses gallop in the pasture.

It begins in lingering fumes of potato
pesticide. The words no longer at my
beck and call. In the flickering light
a man fights his windmills. Land
that disappears beneath cobwebs.

The blue statue of a man roams
the fields. I call his name, root around
in the ground with him for a carrot.
Pus that oozes out of a sore. We
no longer talk in the now-world.

In the darkness he lies diaphanously
at my side, howling like a gray wolf.
Wounds I bandage with another language.
Land that can be given a name. Later
we turn into strangers once again.

ROOTS

Rookland

His long white neck will be your prize;
If I may peck his bright blue eyes.
We’ll steal a golden lock or two,
And decorate our nest anew.

On an idle afternoon the clouds charged across
the sky. I leaned against a low church wall, hands
in my pocket, blue with cold, and I sang. Listen,
autumn is in the air, windwhips lash the trees.

The rook stared at me from atop the wall. Rain
buried my hurried breaths in blankets of gray.
Sweat beneath my raincoat. The black eye blew
closer, my shadow propped itself against old stone.

The wind drove trotting feet through the town.
Underneath the tree there was a place to squat,
to pee. My head sank toward the ground. Listen,
the wild storm has come, the rumbles fill the air.

A sweet smell drifted through the doorway,
impossible to place. I lay my finger in the slit,
still warm. A moment of seeing. The head
severed from the neck, a pool of blood, a dead eye.

How many times was it five o’clock, did the bell chime
again? Later I found the alley, the slaughterhouse,
the children singing in the silence of the rooks. Listen,
the long rain has come, the wind howls at the window.


Elderland

Witch, witch! Old witch!
Come away from your caldron!
Away from the woods in which you dwell!
Toothless old hag with a horrid smell,
Waiting to snatch our children!

Spring sea-misted over the distant meadows.
In the shed our rabbit smiled. I sought grass,
fresh grass shooting up out of the soil.

Behind me they stood sullenly and silently
in the wind. Their dull white elder blossoms
drooped with rain. I tapped the ancient bark.

It was her face that came thrusting out of
the furrowed depths. I turned quickly,
but she had already muttered witch, witch.

In late summer I picked the ripened clusters,
dropping them in my bucket till my hands hung
blood-red by the sides of my girlish frame.

Was it she who said that I would grow older,
that it was dark, shameful. I ran to the dank
and brackish meadow so as not to hear.

But time tumbled, the elderberries were boiled
over a fire. A strange tea with honey that made
my swollen red tummy turn upside-down.

That night the witch whispered in the tree, her
shadow flitted across the moon. Until I threw up
in surrender, and my body developed curves.


Farawayland

Poppet, moppet, doll,
Into the water they fall.
Mother is too far away,
To hear the child call.

On a bicycle in green rubber boots.
Dark is the land beneath my feet,
a wordless sign of all I cannot
name. We both know that I am
a stranger. Our languages fall still.

Whatever language I have left to give
comes in the night. My mouth full
of lemon custard. Grandpa plays
checkers, Grandma hangs laundry
on lines. Horses gallop in the pasture.

It begins in lingering fumes of potato
pesticide. The words no longer at my
beck and call. In the flickering light
a man fights his windmills. Land
that disappears beneath cobwebs.

The blue statue of a man roams
the fields. I call his name, root around
in the ground with him for a carrot.
Pus that oozes out of a sore. We
no longer talk in the now-world.

In the darkness he lies diaphanously
at my side, howling like a gray wolf.
Wounds I bandage with another language.
Land that can be given a name. Later
we turn into strangers once again.
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