‘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.


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




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



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   





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.




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.




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.



 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



i praise the libido webs

that I had spun

under the branches

of my adolescence 


with no religion

or relation shipwrecked

or chairman shipwrecked 



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




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




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



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?



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



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




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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