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Feature: The Low Countries
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Paul Bogaert


Translated by John Irons

This piece is about 4 printed pages long.

I will speak to you within the framework of the night
where no sleep is possible.
I will not deny
that I need you for this and that for this,
to start with at any rate, I will look you in the eyes.

My voice will cover you
like ten blankets or so.
I will then in your presence talk
about the plans and actions
that cannot be squared.

Afterwards I will procure you the text
of a ballad, the lyrics of a song,
and in it – as a catch –
the dipping of your eyes and all
you can ask of the pituitary gland.

I will not deny
that it is an address, on the contrary.
I will speak about the pond of ruses
including among other things:
the ruse of repetition and the terror of refrain.

That that is the pond where I fish.
I will keep things short about the plans and actions
that cannot be squared.
I will spellbind you by means of paraphrases
of the crux of the argument.

I will not exaggerate with examples,
but where necessary provide you with the example
and the images that I find apt:
a worn plastic folder,
inward-looking animals, a sheet of carbon paper.

I will naturally only start after a few seconds,
so that the least quiver of the voice
is quelled in advance.
Only then will I begin,
firm of voice, suddenly, abruptly, with

an outline of the problem,
an outline that immediately strikes the substance,
illuminates the core and in a flash
reveals the basis: here where we are
together, sleeping is inappropriate.

I will look at your limbs
growing stiff and feverish both at once.
I will not pass on what I see
let alone what I read in your eyes.
I will count to ten.

I will not conceal from you the fact
I wish to influence you
and that a bullet has been made
of materials that the body
has no need of.

That I wish to see you
living in a different age.
Details of the song?
I will myself not sing it.
I will accompany you.

I will speak so monotonously to you
that you will fade and fall away
and no longer be yourself.
I will not spare you.
Then I will let you be: the star!

I will let you be the star who wields the microphone
as an inseparable part of the body,
the star who closes her heavily dressed-up eyes
and obeys the slightest finger-snap.
I will have an abiding memory of you.

I will tell you
how hard it is
and that it can always get harder.
I will defend rest being good
if one has something to lie down on.

I will possibly imagine for you
a bed,
an anecdote,
a dead-end street.
I will let you be: the prototype.

I will let you be the prototype of a woman beggar
with worn-out shoes, that like a prototype
shuffles from here to there and back again,
stiff and feverish both at once.
I will also locate it all, naked, within the framework of later.

I will capture your attention with images
and let you hear what can be done
with carbon paper, a wound and a fizzy pill.
I will broach the future
and summarise the pond.

Something can always happen:
the tickling cough, a glass that falls, a fart,
a microphone that whistles, someone who enters
or exits from a lack of air
as in an overheated caravan.

I will also let you be:
1. an ascetic goat;
2. a tombola;
(if the mike whistles, put your hands to your ears)
3. stiff and feverish both at once.

I will have a short break for all kinds of suggestions.
Then I will pick up the thread once more, carry on
from where I was, shade in each outline, gnaw
the matter to the bone. I will not desist from
feverishly finding formulations.

I will describe each detail of the goat, who like a human
starts searching her own small house – and is as such annoying –
for what she has lost, and constantly is much amazed
and says: ‘that’s just not possible’
and goes on searching in yet other corners.

I will place the text in a plastic folder
for the future.
In doing so I will imagine you: lying down.
An interruption, always possible.
I will drink regularly from a glass.

The images will be most apt.
And all the questions welcome.
And I will make a list of all possessions
and keep the difference just to myself
between valuable and valueless.

The sum of all the stanzas will be for you
and when you are no longer there, for your near ones,
or, if there are none, for your near ones’ near ones,
or, if there are none, for your near ones’ near ones’ near ones,
and if there are none, that will be typical of the state that you are in then.

I will confront you with facts,
hard objects, comparisons and figures
about entrances and territories,
and with the cursing goat that in her caravan
is trashing everything.

I will stop
at the moment that you hang upon my lips,
that I hang upon your lips
after yet another paraphrase of the crux and an overview
and a summary of the basic images fished from the bed.

I will not expect
anyone to thank me.
When I finally stop,
when I move and you fall begging out of sight,
when I count to ten,
when you wake up,
when the day immediately leaps up,
when the animals talk,
everything will be forgotten,
first what’s most stupid.

Thanks to the Flemish Literature Fund for supporting this translation.

Paul Bogaert was born in Brussels in 1968. His first collection, ‘WELCOME HYGIENE’ was published in 1996. His most recent collection, ‘AUB’, was published by Meulenhoff, 2006. An earlier version of ‘TOESPRAAK’ (‘ADDRESS’) was published by the Ghent-based small press Druksel in 1998. He lives in Leuven, Belgium.

You can read English translations of more of Paul Bogaert’s poems here: