Against the rocks. A Poem
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.