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Feature: The Low Countries
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Arjen Duinker

Senses and Desires

Translated by Jeltje Fanoy

This piece is about 7 printed pages long.

‘One wants, by the sea, the most beautiful things,
One wants, by the sea, the funniest things.

For the will, by the sea, is comparable
To nothing and completely naked.

Hahahah! The will is exactly
The same, by the sea, as the sea!

Perhaps I see a boat,
Perhaps a boat without a thing,

Perhaps a boat without a sound,
Perhaps… I’d love to see that boat

For a boat is comparable to one’s will,
Look, the sea is coming closer, closer,

Even though water stays where it is.
A boat sails through ever changing water.

In search of romance, without a doubt,
In search of the beginnings of understanding,

In search of… I also see, over there in the distance,
Something resembling a bird, over there,

For the rest, the sea scarcely shows itself,
Perhaps that boat is coming closer.

One learns, from the sea, the most beautiful things,
One learns, from the sea, the funniest things,

I’d like to stay here till the evening falls.
Another wave and yet another, listen!

As if I hear men talk on that boat!
They’d be quarreling, over directions,

Over the size of their cocks, haha!
Or the sounds in the clouds.

Nothing is heard that’s not imagined,
Dazzling lines without precision,

I want the sea to come closer.
I’m feeling cold and I’m feeling hot.

Thinking about the sea, the deep in the distance,
And about people who love the deep.

The thoughts are pressed together,
Love hovers about immeasurability

Like some courageous organism. I believe
The birds have little interest

In that boat over there in the distance,
I feel like going on board,

To wait until the birds arrive.
It’s true I harbour the turmoil of my senses

But establish little feeling of that turmoil,
Overcome, perhaps, by the salty air.

No, chased by the wind, words are rolling
Over the skin, mirror themselves in the sea,

Here, give me your hand. The sea sings
A song we can only see,

Glistening fish, glistening desires,
Glistening desires make up glistening songs,

Glistening fish provide refreshment,
Oh look, that bird hangs a garland in the sky.

I want to wait here till the sea evaporates.
I want fantastic smelling men,

I want them to come to me and caress me,
The boat becoming larger and more transparent.

But that bird… So primeval, so harsh,
My desires no longer find their way out.

I close my eyes, meanwhile dreams, dreams
Of all the heavenly bodies playing hide-and-seek,

You do all know that a word is an object,
That the mouth must be reckoned as a sense made of silver

And that the boat sails in a reality different
From ours? I stand and look, I smell the radiance.

The sea, by the sea, yearns for me, all my girlfriends’ eyes
Allowing sight of the waves in their inner selves,

I wonder which sounds make up the sound,
How much I can hear. Here, by the sea, each question

Is perhaps the one asked the most. I wonder
How long I must look before seeing an insect,

Whether my eyes can ever forget that boat.
One experiences riches and poverty by the sea, certainly,

As objects. I yearn after objects,
I yearn to make objects my own,

To own and let go! Hear the orders
Given on the boat, the rattle of chains, the drop

In the deep! Songs are sung out of boredom,
Like the song about glorious freight decaying,

Oh dear oh dear, that the hatches should not be clean
And flags not visible to explorers

Rushing to desert islands, that’s right,
With their flippers and their oxygen tanks.

I want the sea to keep on existing. No needs,
No wants. The love for the sea, for the water,

For the sea and the water, for the sea, for the water,
This is how I want to love the sea, like this, no senses,

To be sung, to love the sea like that,
First I want to love the sea. Hahahaaaahhh,

Hahhhaaaahhhaah, sight and sound are leaving me!
Desires are the men and mice!

I’d like to see the conquest, the approaching might,
The approaching night, the night with all her tentacles,

I wish to see fish glitter in the dark,
Black like the feeling extremities of one’s will,

I want the sea to be eternal, an eternal beginning,
I want the boat to come closer, silently,

Still. As absent as air and light.
Must we not lower our heads respectfully by the sea?

In awe of the whole God Almighty world?
Unthinkable! I want to stand upright by the sea!

The boat of inevitable farewell becomes smaller,
Becomes smaller in response to a signal,

Such immeasurability, such monotony,
I’d like another name for my experience,

Resembling a boat, many miles from the coast,
A name existing in three realities.

I don’t even want the beginnings of understanding,
I yearn for that one and only girlfriend,

The girl who loves me rather noisily,
She has a weakness for shells and stars,

Come to me, my dearest. I don’t quite grasp
The intentions of that boat, some squabbles, maybe,

Regarding stowaways, the discharge of one’s duties,
Or regarding a woman. Indeed, up and down,

The boat sails up and down, in search of something,
As if the wind whispered in the ears of the men,

As if… But wait, I’m beginning to understand what I see,
I see the want of birds in festive array

And the invasion by the colours blue and grey.
Yes, objects by the sea have beautiful names,

They evoke the continual rejuvenation
Of naming, the restitution of desires, aha…

That boat reminds me of a hungry beast
Even though I don’t believe in the supernatural,

Reminds me of a part of your body
Even though I don’t believe in naturalness.

Most birds celebrate their festivals
Outside the realm of our extravagant senses,

Behind the back of waves, under water,
Beside ghostly pieces of sky, inside our coats.

I want the boat to loose its anchors,
I want to see obscurity pass through our language

And I want to know why that one bird is lonesome.
Oh lovely song, put an end to our random dreams,

Please tell us that bird isn’t lonesome!
I see the sea, a bird, a boat, the sky

Getting ready to make predictions,
A sleepy fish, a folding fish, a threatening fish, a fish

Made of foam, and singing fish and leaping fish!
The boat is coming this way, coming closer,

Approaching our world by fits and starts,
I want the darkness to yield buoys,

That boat could disturb the quiet of spirits!
Strong pains are in my shoulders, in my arms,

I want the man who loves me on stairways,
I want the man who visits the depths of the seas,

I want the man who digs his nails into my belly…
The combination of water and air is terrifyingly still,

The smell of death infusing the moment,
The boat takes flight, hear the universal call,

And I don’t feel the need to lift up the sea,
To pull the sea closer, to pour the sea over myself.

I want to sing, blue and grey, cool with emotion,
I sing, yellow and green, cool with emotion.

Feeling sight, seeing smell, smelling feeling,
Forgetting the flying disarray of collectables,

I’d like the bird to make itself known to us,
I’d like the bird to gain the company

Of objects, of language, of obscure birds.
Lying across the sea, the same world.

Hey, I no longer see any boat! And the bird soars!
The men on the boat are asleep on their feet,

They’re working hard, not resting for a second,
Their one curse even heavier than the next.

Do inhale the strain of the machines,
The men no longer aware of their will,

Ahhh, one man feels and knows his will,
A man who spits artlessly at the distance

And grabs hold of my legs, restraining, letting go,
A man… Words also emerge by the sea

Not as drowning persons, the daily leftovers,
But as symbols of a dark existence.

There’s the boat once more, there, that vibration…
Responding to songs from the deep!

As if I’d continually teach the sea to sing!
Unthinkable, it’s unthinkable.

Hahahaha, yesyesyesyes, I want to sing like the sea,
Tame the involuntary waters with my hands,

Produce voices with my breasts…
I see the boat more and more as a boat,

The bird as a bird without feathers,
Oh bird, come closer, and I’ll keep quiet,

Show me how you decorate the sky
And tell me the names the sea has given you.

I feel the water pulling the waters,
The salty mist softly bites my neck,

I want to surrender to the darkness…
Let the words of darkness embrace my words!

I only hear sounds of immeasurable richness,
Of objects of value, elegant and fragile,

Wilfully radiating a lack of understanding,
I hear the grumblings on the boat and in my heart.

The sea’s names are infinite by the sea
The sea’s names, by the sea, are infinite,

I want to wait until the sea declines her names!
And then smell and look, then take in the night…

One ear the extension of my fingers,
The other in search of your mouth.

The bird has more to endure than the boat
But the radiance is too much for the men,

I want to stand by the sea and gain my senses.
Stand by the sea and know every word, is what I want.

Stand by the sea and not succumb, is what I want.
I want to stand by the sea and sing with my body.’

Translated by Jeltje Fanoy

Arjen Duinker was born in Delft, the Netherlands in 1956. Publications in English translation include: The Sublime Song of a Maybe (selected poems 1988 – 2000), Arc Visible Poets 8, Arc, (2002), Sailor’s Home, Shearsman, (2005) and The Sun and The World (two poems for two voices), Collective Effort Press, (2005.)

Jeltje Fanoy was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 1951. Her Indonesian-born Dutch parents, fearing an invasion by the Russians, emigrated to Australia in 1963 and settled in Melbourne. A Melbourne-based performance poet, Jeltje Fanoy is the translator of Arjen Duinker’s ‘Sailor’s Home’ from Sailor’s Home and The Sun and The World.