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Feature: The Low Countries
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Hans Faverey

Poems from Three Cycles:

Exorcism / from My Little Finger / from The Parapet

Translated by Francis R. Jones

This piece is about 7 printed pages long.



‘You’re making me into something I’m not.’

Then she had to stoop

to pick something up; I saw
a few vertebrae,
then quickly touched

her spine.

She shivered; turned,
stood up straight;
greets me with a laugh

and is gone.


Having been lying on one’s left side;

having to lie on my right side.

The unforgettable face:
remembered with ever

greater effort, seen

again. In it, the eyes;
the cheekbones,
the nose; her mouth

which I never knew.


That you never existed.

I suddenly let myself slip;
and I hide my face.

The winter is long dead.

The swifts are back.

Have I always loved you;
or has she never existed.
are not memories.

Memory is perception.


Where she now is, now

I do not know. Just as she

happens to think of me, I
might happen not to think of
her. So, precisely where there is

nothing, there is always

something. By denying
motion I cannot even
manage it here,

manage it now.


As soon as it looks at itself

it is never anything else.
It is indivisible,

Come and stand on my shoes again:
then I can see your face.

It is broad daylight;
it has rained;
your eyes are glistening for something;

an ant is searching for something.


It’s clearer now in my head;
I think I am in my head;

I can see the other islands
again. The sea appears
to have calmed down as well.

And so I repeat myself:

controlled despair about nothing.

The myrtle has started to blossom again.
With a fresh laurel branch
I manage to beat off
most of the flies.


She stoops

to pick something up:
because she had dropped something.

To see her stoop like that

I got her to drop something.
Before she leaves the room
and closes me behind her,

I get her to do it one more time.

And that’s enough: no more.
At last: off you go.


from My Little Finger


What happens when, in the depths
of the night, all the lights
burning, every thing

confirms its presence,

and rises as summoned

up to its base;
nor do I, once I have
taken me into myself,
know what is to be done, nor
what is to be left undone.


What gives rise to the certainty
of renouncing all that is salvaged,
even beneath a waning moon,
has proved so far to be nothing.

Even less gives me a sense

of what has consisted of nothing
so far. Even the waxing moon
rules out of salvation: lapsed
certainty; unravelled existence.


Now it is here;

now it is not-here.
How is thrusts through itself
takes place between not yet

and nevermore. Once under

way, it moves neither where
it is, nor where it is not.
Given free rein
it keeps slipping from who
stands fast: now from one,

now from another. And how someone

can turn away and never
come back; stumbling;
a shivering for good.


Now I, walking backwards,
keep throwing these pebbles one

by one over my left shoulder,

and even the mist’s downiest plumage
is becoming homeless too, what happens
is that – just as the corn had once
begun to blow, and I, grown reckless,
doused myself in the rye –

cleansed, second by second

sucks me through itself,
as if the roar of the sea, though
far away, were already aware of me,
had already detached itself to me,
long before I ever come to be.


It is not yet now;

yet now has not just been.

They are not the same leaves which
are casting themselves in their laps:
it is the river being reminded
of the river flowing here.

To be able to prove it,

to be man enough to do so,
the time is now ripe:
even if it fails.


Inhospitable facts no longer serving
a purpose; these have made me

what I have become:

these I hold in honour. Facts
consist of nothing. A pool
of clear water holds most
thoughts of absence.

But still I come running with two

hands full of water: here –
God is great, but no greater
than his failure. Any word
would rather swallow itself than
have to learn to swim like this.


When: what you see is there no more;
even the same river is there no more;
Pan holds back his cry, no nymph or
non-nymph cuts the waterline;

smoke inhales itself, blood
hides from blood

in a blood-slit – dagger

whose hand has fallen away;
hand raised to raze itself –
only then is there sense in stripping
the sentence of all its words.

from The Parapet


How come the unmoving
is so within me in leaping
flame, in cooing stone,
your wafting wings, Erra.

The old man, busy crossing
to the shady side of the square:
do not snatch away his stick. The girl
waiting to bleed for the first time:

help her; do not smash, with a single
sweep of your arm, all the glasses
to the ground. Do not throw
stones at a stranger
in a blind alley.

I warn you: mind you
do not do this, Nergal, or
I will silence you dead.


The angel leans further and further
over the parapet, until
his wings start tingling
with excitement. Should he

hurl himself down, perhaps,
and give them a taste
of what an angel is made of?
Further and further:

the tingling, the longing
in his pinions; repeating
the spells, the spells forgotten;

delusion, or essence, or beyond
them both. So why isn’t he
humming, that angel of yours,
that shadow already turning purple
where there used to be a parapet?

Hans Faverey

Hans Faverey

Hans Faverey (1933–1990) was born in Paramaribo, Surinam, moving to Amsterdam as a child. He published eight volumes of poetry from 1968 to 1990. The sequence “Exorcism” appeared in Lichtval (Lightfall) 1981, “My Little Finger” in Zijden Kettingen (Silken Chains) 1983, and “The Parapet” in Tegen Het Vergeten (Against the Forgetting) 1988.

Faverey’s Selected Poems, Against the Forgetting, translated into the English by Francis R. Jones, was published by New Directions in 2004.