Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Section from 'Het Uur U' by Martinus Nijhoff

Now there’s a certain game
that children play with the name,
so I’m told, of ‘treading on shadows’.
As someone walks, one follows
his shadow and keeps in his wake.
Normally, for each step he takes
one has to take two to his one.
It cut one right to the bone,
it tore at the heartstrings to see
the group in a row to be
skipping along as they did –
a stranger followed by kids.
It cut to the quick to be sure
to see sailor’s blouse and plusfours
dancing arm in arm together,
all the while holding in tether
the other two at their sides:
sailor helped swimsuit who
had managed to lose one shoe
and the second would follow the first,
while in a sudden burst
of speed alongside the plusfours
ran the owner of the poor
scooter, dumped at the kerb in full view. –
It was now long overdue
that all of this came to a close.
Against the house windows
there came the loud tapping
of fingers all rapping,
like an angry hen had begun
to call chickens back to the run.
The children paid no heed.
What had just occurred would need
their attention to the full.
The shadow now stood still.
Quite undaunted, they viewed,
their eyes raised, the stranger who
had come to a halt close by.
His head held half to one side
he gave them a serious look.
Unabashed, not one of them took
away either one of their hands.
And thus interlinked the band
of the four children stood,
like Tom Thumb in the wood,
gazing down at the tiny stones.
It lasted a minute perhaps, though
one that was an eternity.
Then the man moved on, and he
with his strange, extended walk
was seen – in no time at all –
to be round the corner and gone.

To see the entire poem, go to here


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