Sunday, March 15, 2009

what on earth are we doing here

anneke brassinga has been one of the stars of the dutch poetry world for many years. her use of language is at once sensual and from the gut. instinctive and insightful. the dance between her inner and outer perceptions is masterfully demonstrated in this lovely piece of writing entitled:

the happy ending

what on earth are we doing here, we do not
ask ourselves as long as the jigging of tunes
keeps coming from the speaker cabinets, hanging
invisible in the trees, and we go on thinking
that it’s birds there twittering away –

what are we doing here? just feel first if
our feet are warm enough and their knobbles
bearably painful, then take a good listen
to the gentle bubbling in the deep recesses of
our gut, old soothsayer that lets us know

if we’re once more dying of hunger if not
thirst, there’s no way of knowing otherwise
and please let it not go awry in the
here, the silting up, the woody sand-drift
where the lemonade stalls one after the other

appear to be mirages, if, panting, you thought
you were there – in the here where you walk and,
since you constantly cannot refrain from once more
looking back to see where you have come from,
keep on stumbling over tree stumps,

getting grazed by the rough bark of oaks
and scratched by rust- or blood-red barbed wire,
remains of civilisation. and the more you turn
your head, slogging on, at the magnificent
sunrise motionless at your back above the distant

trees that rustle inaudibly, the more you
know: that waking with the freshness of tahitian limes,
that paradise-like first bite of tropical
delight in a covering of milk chocolate –
the blindingly pristine does not return.

what are we doing here? what we are not doing
is taking heed. or is the abyss invisible, or
is there no abyss until you fall into it,
shoot along a smooth rock wall? it happens
swiftly. in the grass by the stream at the bottom

God waits, cheerful as a mother who all that
time has stayed at home, with a bowl of peanuts,
sherry in the glass. and from beyond the flowering
trees, at last there they come, the missing ones
for whom you unmissable, whom you could not bear to miss.

© 2006, anneke brassinga
© translation: 2007, john irons

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