Blesok no. 24, January-February, 2002

from “Selected Poems (1980-2000)”

Hans van de Waarsenburg

The stillness of ashes

In the open wounds of blossom and
fresh green, the seal calls him.
He sees the water
grow hard as clear glass.

A limping melancholy rainstorm
bobbing on barren ground
no longer saves anything.
The doors banged closed.

Wind rustles overhead.
The vacuum expands.
A dream of warmth and sorrow
shatters against clear glass.

Shrivels and withers to the stillness of ashes.

A butterfly of reflection

While walking through the lanes,
the sea foam of time.

The daily mumblings
that take to the street.
The sun taut on the face.

Firemen are sliding
from eye to eye:

A butterfly of reflection.
A bird in the beak.

The coastline cuts it open,
the tide buries the image.

He becomes his own hands,
the sweat that plays in them.

The negative of time

In this hard land soft stone of seasons,
where autumn is no longer accidental.
The white linen cloth seems to have
been lowered permanently on the face,

mirrors out of the shadow
grows daily colder.
Until she takes her place:

making visible
what has been written,
rubs herself into him with soft lips.

The way you walk through the evening, he says then.
The way you don't give a damn for the day
finishes me.

Awakens the pike in my tongue
and the amoebe of your lips.
Fighting all about me in naked skin against death.

Not keeping a shred of shame,
in this negative of time.


Sometimes at night I dream of Lisbon
Slack diary elapsing in sun

Crumbling in outdoor cafes, white that
Discolors fast, the steps now taken

The mouth sealed, the parchment uvula
A rippling, the disguising that you are.

In vain the ship hauls up the bluntness inside
Saudade dissolves in affectionate tide

But the morning will not steer time
Comfort you think, but it doesn’t

Still inhaling sleep, with the first sun
Sometimes at night I dream of Lisbon.


In the lost huts of memory
Which once were the future, he hides
Under his broad-brimmed hat
Of distrust, the recluse.

His ink stains the
Poor paper which curls at the
Edges and cockles in places when
Touched tenderly, carefully

He doubts in his skin of paint;
For once put down in that place
Time will smoulder in dead leaves
And ceaseless scoffing will not do.


Brush lacking hand. The rooflike
Mountains rest on the children. The car
Is a blot of paint from the past.

There is neither waking nor
Sleeping or slumbering at the piano.
The journeys smoulder in your ashes. Lost

Your paintings, your desk, all
That you were. What seemed unending
Passed. White canvases remained,

A rigid line of snow against
The wall. Nothing, just your voice,
A distant murmur on the

Answering machine. A memory
Of a time when the days did not
Count and your eyes might still

Sparkle like the wine from ronda,
Gran Reserva. Thus you drank
Down life, to the dregs.


We smelled the smoke in the pubs, gazed
At the peat fires, as if everything would
Last and nothing had changed. Words
Unspoken, suppressed, left in the dunes,

On beaches. Perhaps, you said,
There are journeys one goes alone, if we
Lived without time or need. But wherever
The roads went, ships arrived and I

Looked for your face in every port.
Horizons are but a perspective, ever in
A different light. You voice is parched, you said.
Come here and put your lips to glass or verse.


Should you
put out the image
line by line

It shrinks

The ebb dilutes
the image
to distance

The moon stretches
the cloth
to thirst

The fish ticks
the back


Always the message of water
leans on the banister of the voice

Seeks a grip on the ears
of a shifted century

Laughable the dried seaweed
on a head of seafoam

Carrying all findings to
the floodline, laughable

This catafalque of primal sorrow
this open wound scraped by tide after tide:

What you stare in wind, you wear out in time.

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