Monday, 6 June 2011

A poem by the Flemish writer Hugo Claus


Autumn. Listen. Crackling. Can you hear that heavy rattling?
It draws near in our clothes, in our hair.
Lice of sound. What is this leprous mumbling?
Child, its the poets outside, their teeth chattering.

The closer the poets get to their moment of dying
The more furiously they groan for the stars.
In the morning mist in which their images melt
The poets freeze in a recognisable jacket.

Hear how feverishly they explain their imminent demise
For their death rattle has to be transparent,
Cause their widow readers to sob.

‘Oh, our ego was too obscure!’ they complain.
‘Time required that, polyinterpretable like us!’
And look, they crawl out the swathes of their souls,
Their mouths full of croquet and prayers for mercy
For their prostates, their plagiaries.

Oh close to death the poets suddenly discover
The calming miracles of gods, aphorisms,
Aspirins, caresses. For the first time their love
Can read something of her love with her lips.

And before the poets, loose winter apples
Rejected by the pickers because undersize
Finally also fall in November
They want to fall for ever comprehensible to the
neighbours. In milkman language, bruised fruit.

They continue to listen bitterly to the crumpling
Of the newspaper than keeps on spelling their name wrong
And they do their crosswords
Full of anecdotes, fear and stumbling loves.

But too late, too deaf, the poets realise
That what was obscure and obtuse in their verses
Does not become clearer by wear, by duration,
But that it goes on decaying. Their house, their word,
The equator, the azure remain unfathomable.
Their surly dark remains as volatile as money
And as vulgar as death.

‘But, by the way, yourself? Yes, you! Did you not revere
Fission, ferment rather than the monument?
Also seek an epitaph in each motet?
Wring an emblem out of each injury?
Find your dented ego in each plate of thymus?’

- ‘Oh yes. Still upright I dream of the literal.
For sure. Until the end those worries, roses.
Paradises, radishes, dried-out likenesses. With
To this sheet of paper these corpses of letters.’

Adieu the poets write all life long
And greying like lavender in November
They continue - gangrene and jest and puzzle -
To pitifully beg for sympathy,
As I for the wear and tear on my ears and eyes
That loved you, love you.

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