Jan Baeke - four poems
translated from the Dutch by the author, with Rod Mengham
At certain hours of the night
the horses are nothing if not landscape
and the landscape in nocturnal Paris
lifting from the warm flanks
through a black skin.
Still Paris is never different
He lights a cigarette.
He lights the fire
to warm a woman.
Her breath fuses with the air
in which fire prospers.
Whether the fire will overtake the night
and such fires will fall to the cigarettes.
Whether voices will hunt through the fires
and the smouldering rooms
in which the air breaks up and disappears.
How the secret of the world expands
and stays the same.
He takes his head in his hands
the air, the air etcetera
and what escapes every fire
horses, women, ordinary things
all added up.
Exercise Against Time
He turns on the light in the kitchen
and sits down.
What I have thought up, exists.
On the table the bottles are good company
which is the best thing, this evening, and
that he wakes her up, her name
not to forget
that he practices the evening cadence
She lets down her breath upon him.
Time is too much, he thinks.
If everything must begin, let it.
He wipes the shards from his hair.
He counts the joints in the floor.
The kitchen just stretches out in front of him.
The Helpful Ones
They are ready.
They hide him from the blazing sun
when he falls.
Over there, in adoration
and to convince him
that in their hands enough warmth can be trapped.
They are friends who call him by his first name.
That is something else they hang on to.
They don’t let him fall.
They help him to stay upright
until his recovery.
We are All Waiting for Him
We are waiting for him
but the assumption is unbearable
that he doesn’t know where we are
that others are saying
why bestow light on the wretched?
But there is also the tantalizing assumption
that we are the ones, that it is one of us
often not the most heretical who thinks
that some-one who knows him
slaps him on the shoulders
and invites him to dinner.
We cannot do it.