HESTER KN I BBE
Five Poems Translated by Jacquelyn Pope
After the Flood
After the Flood there you sit next to the boat, the fish gasping for air, the hare finding nothing to eat yet and all the birds left behind. There you sit in the same skirt in which, waters ago, you boarded the ship, but the dance has drained from your feet. For once the rain blew over at last, the water was lulled mirror-smooth, you saw your world turned upside down and lower still any movement stalled for good and when you took a better look that too that image stayed with you and how with each glance your essence lost more depth. Now you sit, ram and ewe already on dry ground, all at sea in flotsam and jetsam.
Standing Turned to stone I stand on this earth in a long skirt and a shawl that he pinned close across my breasts because the world insists on it. That’s how I was raised.
My eyes have neither iris nor pupil so I look to the inside, want to hear there everything that happens outside.
From what I observe a smile lies frozen around my lips that just keeps freezing. Thaw me adorn me with a cap of blooms and long stalks in my body.
Psalm 4631 In my need I call out to nothing and to no one, I am silent. One who’s seen dust gone to dust and bygones and survives has forgotten how to cry. Let the oak moan and groan about leaves fallen too early to the ground, the branch torn off its trunk. Let me stand wordless in its shadow. Let my silence be not small and stooped but worthily high and broad as the crown of the tree now its roots and silence are fastened to him and prayer is smothered in the ground
I dreamed that I dreamed of you: we sat on the sofa and talked a while, you wore the sweater I’d worn that day, your hair was wet from all the rain. Your body, solid and warm, was once again as fresh as when you’d been down in the fen and you recounted animatedly how different beyond turned out to be, how deep the roots of the oak went down. And I
told you what I’d experienced up here, how the hazel had grown. And what a year for spiders, I said. You burst out laughing.
Dead ordinary it seemed that night, sitting with strangers at a wooden table worn smooth with use, somewhere in a house on a grass steppe. Those people stared so at us when the plates and dishes appeared on the table that I thought: that’s it, the food is poisoned, they know all about it. And I also thought: oh,
I’ll just eat it anyway. Then we were herded outside in silence, to the zinc gutter low along the wall and there they hacked off both our hands. We stood there, bleeding to death.
Hester Knibbe: Five Poems