‘When my day was drowned in sadness’ (Engelse gedichten)

kerkhIn de loop van 2008 schreef ik Engelse vertalingen van mijn gedichten. Die waren niet altijd even vrolijk, vanwege de dood van mijn vader en het vertrek van mijn toenmalige vriendin. Intussen zijn ze gecorrigeerd door Rachel Stones, een collega-trainster uit Londen. Rachel en ik troffen elkaar in een bijeenkomst van de internationale trainingsgroep Cegos in Frankfurt. We raakten aan de praat over literatuur en ze wilde mijn vertalingen graag corrigeren. Dat is intussen gebeurd. Hieronder het resultaat.

1.

when death came

slowly enough to guarantee

some suffering

 

when death came

to despatch

the retired officer

 

he looked into the spring light

and discovered that

it was crueller than

the bombs he saw

 

no war can be won

when you feel death in your bones

watching boys and girls  making love

in the flowerbeds

 

2.

 

two days before his death

I was visiting my father

he was sitting on the edge

of his bed

 

I was hoping he would say

my son, I have forgotten all  

of the struggle

we had

 

I was hoping we could

hold each other to

diminish the pain and

the loss of each other

 

I was hoping he would say

my son, the struggle was

love, I only wanted to reach you

as I had wanted to reach him

 

but he was too tired

to concentrate on a past

that was blown away

by the time

 

we were smiling, he asked

for the fourth time

if his mother was

still in hospital

 

I said no, your mother is

home, you will see her soon,

she is doing quite well

she is very happy

 

good he said, my mother

is a fine woman, my mother

is the heart of all I did

 

his mother had died

30 years before

in the midst of our struggle

 

3.

the bloom of male innocence

has invaded the brown grasses

of female desire

unaware of the spiders

and scorpions and snakes and snails

 

young and newborn it is

surrounded by the witchcraft

of wrinkled leaves and bending reed 

and it is exposing its beauty

in the midst of the hankering

 

and the grasses speak and judge

and the grasses try to absorb

the bloom

and the grasses give orders

to creepy animals

to swallow the bloom

 

male innocence is covered

with hungry snails

the grasses are hiding

the decay within   

 

4.

i.

 

These were your last days.

Sun and rain were mixing together.

 

The sun is shining while it’s raining, you said.

Thin and pale you were sitting next to your wife.

You have to eat more, she said.

You were shrugging your shoulders.

 ‘I have to throw up if I eat’  

 ‘You cannot know’ my mother said ‘for you aren’t eating’

You only ate soup, yogurt and toast with marmalade.

And you got thinner day by day.

Nature is cruel.

To nibble the fruit of a father in front of his children.

 

ii.

 

You were sitting there only to be colourless in  the summer light.

I couldn’t find a word of consolation.

Like ‘father, one day we shall walk along the boulevard again’

Like ‘father, one day you will dance again’

Like ‘father, one day you will be quarrelling again  

with a neighbour’ 

And you were sitting there and sitting there.

With your hands at the chair.

Every now and then you stood up and laid yourself down.

And every now and then you returned to your seat to sit. 

I felt the bones through your shoulders.

Careful for they were so vulnerable.

 

iii.

 

And I remembered those days.

Long ago.

When you walked through the living room with me on your arm.

You danced with your son. 

Men have children and dance with them as if it will stay like that for ever.

Men have children and sing as if life will be a promise for ever.

You danced with me.

I was your son.

It was a beautiful moment.

A father that is dancing with his son through the living room.

You with me.

And now you are sitting there and sitting there.

With your hands at the chair.

And you looked at me and we were complete strangers in our intimacy.

For a moment.

 

5. 

 she was cycling away from

the dozing dam square

in the lamenting light

 

away from the red district spring dawn

that enclosed the night

 

she was riding away so slowly

that I could see her breathing out

the tourists and the tenants

the adulterers and the stressed

 

and also greedy dragons

who were talking about wars

with self-deceiving positions

to justify the loss of innocence

 

she was riding away from

the performance where her passion

was sharpening many senses

but not her own

 

her passion too fragile but

yet more powerful

than the jagged boasting bin men

in the pestering spring dawn City

 

she was cycling away from

the heartless entertainment addicts

who always arrive in groups

and walk and watch along

heaps of part time lovers

 

she was riding away from

the passion follies she had piled on reality

without one microbe of passion

 

6.

i praise the libido webs

that I had spun

under the branches

of my adolescence 

 

with no religion

or relation shipwrecked

or chairman shipwrecked 

obligations

 

i praise the innocent filth 

of my ambitious love

which was overwhelming

her virginity

 

near amsterdam hilton

the untouched was approached

by the unrestrained

 

and then something was lost

and I knew that she became a mess

and I knew she would lose her name

 

but I was creating my webs

between the branches

nevertheless

 

7.

by bike i floated through   

the young man’s dreams

and adolescent needs-

 

between singing trees to

pink lamp’s seeds

to red lamb’s streets

and killer’s weeds

 

where pain was hidden by

 

seducing dutch flowers

between many

unspoken promises

and restrained greed

 

 

anyway,

i have cycled through

amsterdam when

the squatters revolted

 

with a mind

that was even more foggy

than drunkards may know

 

because my parents

taught me the wrong

names

 

although I was as sober

as fire extinguishing water

 

my parents aspired

to be a protecting shade

for me along kennedy avenue

and the river quarter

 

but they didn’t deliver names

for the things I saw-

so there was no protection

 

what the hell did they know

after world war II?

 

8. 

listen my arms enclose your shoulders

and that’s how I make one shape

from us and that’s how I

bring you closer to me

than skins can touch

 

and on the window panes

the rain is pouring

and that is the despair of things

that have passed

 

and folded in one another

we lay on innocent blankets

in a place that not even death

will recognize

 

listen your hand is cherishing my cheek

and becomes flesh of my flesh

and our eyes float through

each other and hypnotise

each other and turn loveblind

 

the slow ballet we are moving in

the shape that we are

-fertile dancers on dry stages

 

9. 

the days have taken back their muddy routine

rainy days are here again

sunny dream palaces have vanished

transformed in a

memory’s litho

 

i recognize the space

time has drawn its chalk lines again

 

you cannot beat time or space

in this universe

 

the days have found their routine again

and in between

the bloom of love

suffers

 

 10.

when my day was drowned in sadness

when my love went away

when my father died

when november was everywhere

in its manifestation of depression

 

i wished to be a monk

reluctant in his room

in the midst of his ideas

 

when my day was drowned in sadness

i called romantic love

a cruel and ridiculous invention

a psychosis of the worst kind

 

and then you arrived

and you reached your arms to me

and my tears became a river

running drier by the minute

in the radiation of

your love

 

(c) 2008, copyright by Bert Overbeek

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