Against the rocks. A Poem

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
Author text
Marieke gedicht

What are authors currently going through? For the Passa Porta Festival we asked seven writers from different countries to respond to this question with a new text. Their contributions have inspired us in compiling the festival programme.

The young Dutch poet and novelist Marieke Lucas Rijneveld sent us a cycle of three long poems on loss, from which we give you the second poem, translated by Michele Hutchison.


Against the rocks

Everyone can think of them: people with that pitapat on their tongue

who say everything that comes to mind, dishing up a recipe for game

just like that but they can’t help describing the deer in the distance

and the bang-bang, but they rarely know the formula for a good life.

Everyone can think of them: people who lack an internal anchor,

who never lie motionlessly in the day, who cannot hold onto any truth

or ship, everything they say is made of scaffold planks, who don’t see that

the fish who swim at the surface are suffering from a lack of oxygen.

Everyone can think of them: people who keep God in the lining of their

winter coats, who park their bikes inside the church and still put on

the lock, who say amen and yes all the time, who sing psalms but

grumble inside, cursing everything right down to the fundaments.

Everyone can think of them: people who shrink from happiness like

a big black dog, always carrying a bag filled with fear of failure on

their backs, who avoid any kind of chance as a precaution, they do see

it but pack it away in the store cupboard of their doubting minds.

Everyone can think of them: people with open faces who smile

their heads off but inside they are fighting against the stream

who keep coughing up jokes, ha-ha, and then wishing themselves dead,

or cursing themselves onto the rocks, to ward against vacancy.

Everyone can think of them: people who stop doing things they are good

at for fear of being tumbled from their throne, who have shot the deer

but refuse to prepare and cook it, and are too stingy to serve it,

everyone can think of them, but no one actually knows them.

Translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison, 2021


Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (1991) is a non-binary Dutch poet and novelist. Michele Hutchison's translation of their first novel De avond is ongemak (The Discomfort of Evening) was awarded with the Booker International Prize 2020.

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld at the Passa Porta Festival 2021

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld