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Poems

Ruth Lasters
Translations: Paul Vincent

HALL

To employ a man or woman
who somewhere full-time in a hall

unfolds chairs
one chair for each thing I don’t say to you, for every non-

touch. And then to be able to go there, you and I,
each separately to sit down there just for a moment, perhaps

counting under our breath the rows of chairs already set out.
Making what didn’t happen visible and

visitable.

FIELD

Perhaps football really is the only goal,
of the subconscious and conscious too: two parts

quite simply because a match requires two
teams. At some point half of your neurones consciously

represent a ball, as big and heavy as the head itself, in which
beyond your control the olfactory memory grows of

newly-mown grass: the field. First the ball wins, you see it
so sharply before you, down to the stitching of your leather

skull. Then the unconscious grass perception scores, fills
your brain herby green until it almost snaps and only

the tickling of a sheet along your cheek causes a
a resetting kick-off, which will make everything again

possible.

 

BITE

Because apples stack so nicely I’d like to
stack some under your skin. Your legs, skull, chest

full of apples, the yellow kind covered in spots and full
of lumps. Just one red, shiny

perfect one that shifts as it moves through your
body. And then trying to tell where, in which of your

limbs exactly it is hidden, and every time I guess right
to take it out, take

a bite from it, trifling, true, but multiplying by infinity makes it
undeniably desecrated.

MOVING ON

If moving on seems impossible, then choose one single
moving on, one splendidly

stubborn deed, if need be: hearing fizzy water every midnight
exploding bubbles, a sort of star-listening
instead of star-gazing. If moving on is impossible,

then choose one journey backward to a moment when
all the ‘one days’ you were promised suddenly became ‘now’,
perhaps to

that morning when ambition was just
growing with you like grey mould
through a loaf.

 

TABLES

Tables, sometimes I wish
masses of them suddenly would be turned
upside down and that you, just like me, had thought of horses

fallen on their backs, a thought so identical
it was like a tiny pump beneath the skin which we

needed only to push, so much more exclusive
than a touch of fingers – I want to touch you that evening it

snowed last year: impossible
and possible are sometimes so adjacent, that it seems

merely a matter of just re-
negotiating.


LEAST

Windows, Love, will replace themselves one night purely
through the wish to open them. Everything in its least

typical form, a transitional step to no more. Snow
will dissect itself into degrees of

comparison of the word
white on top of which a cat lies icy-white, a sacrifice to the thaw,
the mud grey as your voice that I peel into sounds, trivial,

free of syllabic offence. Be quiet or offend truth: shout that
the sheet is round. Err ruthlessly beyond this moment that
at most is

just us.

WAY THROUGH

Doors too should start paying
their way. To record strictly how often they are opened-shut each week, how
many times we charged through and back. To see if
they’re doorworthy and if not: seal them shut. Till it is said

a hundred times: ‘I could have sworn that only yesterday’ –
Then, it would be reopened, you’d see advertising signs
everywhere saying Way Through! Door! and on one side of the door

a field of fake poppies would be planted and on the other a
plastic bench on which sat a woman, a man that
– I wished in vain – only looked like
us. Us with a margin of error.


TUB

I lifted my old lovers into the bath, I wanted at a
glance the thing, the one I had

loved, most or less, perhaps or certainly, unconditionally
or in case/if.  In a tub as long as a galleon

the synchronised
washing of each other’s back, each with a piece of soap

blue-veined, after which with shoulders
scrubbed open till they bled

they walked away. Except one, you, whom I
hooked myself behind, legs around trunk, to wait

together right through the other
for the unbearable cooling of the water.

WOOD

Did you ever see
the aftermath of fireworks? The branches of smoke, not

the spark, but the fluffy trunks in exactly the same
place where rockets just burst open. The air wood

that after they’ve died down emerges for you
for a few seconds. The residual value that is actually more splendid than

the intended beauty of crackling coloured fire. So is too,
after you have sighed that, despite unfaithfulness, you

still love me, what afterwards hangs in the room in a more penetrating,
terrible, unwitting way more beautifully: the irreparability

between us.

NEON

Neon light, how it often starts flickering
when I’m aware of my futility. Coincidence, it’s true, but

thinking of my cosmic tininess
I already saw (made) them blink: a mirror-fronted wardrobe’s neon tube, the T

of Bar Tamar, the hat of Tio Pepe
advertisements. And that the popping of a streetlamp near a window

can already cause minute alarm, shift
during the deed, so that a different sperm cell than the one from which we –

had made it. So lamppost maintenance – may it
always be done with blind arbitrariness – is ethically a highly

charged business.

SPRING

The all-will-be-well-man made of iron and cogwheels
has to be wound up, every day, by a different
citizen. Only with a properly wound-up spring

will he shout jolting through highways and alleys:
‘All, all will always be
well!’ Those forgetting their wind-up turn risk a fine/blame/ death

sentence (not by a long shot, darling, it’s not even for the one
who tries to brew a highly toxic
elixir of immortality). Seriously: those neglecting their duty to wind the spring

must search for the construction
of an all-will-get-
better-man special bolts and screws in a pile of scrap metal

blindfolded.

CARP

The fact that no one ever saw the complete formation of an ice sheet,
really every second of how a pond congeals into

walkability. Of course there is no complete witness to this, not now
and not in the past. That sure point of contact with

people from earlier times suddenly brings them close, as if they are
looking at me through the murky surface of ice. Especially in the middle

near the frozen carp in the hole like a gap in time, through which they
seem to signal the consolation that now of all times there

are about as many of them missing, on the other side as we
have brain cells, as if in the head

of all who have been here
there is the wildest

scintillation.

KEEL

Boats wear beards under water,
strands of seaweed and algae, slowing them down

as if there were growing there wilfully beards of
lost fathers, who never once heard: Dad, you did it Well-

shaved keels cleave razor-sharp
fast. Boat beards never reach ocean beds or become so long

that whoever spies them diving needs
gills. For everyone it is a different delightful walk

–  for me along this weathered quay – for which each
of us paid the price of not having

gills.

LAND

Can you save ‘together’? Can you by doing much intensely as a couple
protect the other from the one-man cage between underground

floors? Say twice ‘of course’ and lay your head
on my buttock, casually since moments like this of wild spleen

return more often than not, down to the pore deposits
exactly the same. Only the gleaning of ‘together’ into a dam against

awful singularity may perhaps just once, when backs are languid and
are soft like land full of something further than

hope, full of beauty broken out of the most difficult thing like – you are my –
tulip bulbs eaten in

wartime.

SWIM

Swimming is licentiously sleeping in thrashing water
PAUL SNOEK

Every swimmer swims a sleeper further
in the other, dark hemisphere. Each floating, each crawl stroke

increases a feeling of weightlessness in those who
nod off on the other side of the world. Someone must now say

that there are always far more sleepers than on the waking side
swimmers, so that it is only possible

if whoever boldly cleaves through water pulls with them
a gigantic imaginary bouquet of side-sleepers,

tummy-turners, back-liers. Somewhere I must be received
with great consideration after presenting this fully stamped

swimming card.

FLOWER

White flannels with which you wash your old father
harden in the night into envelopes for

unwritten letters to each other (one day there’ll be a machine, Pa,
which with electrodes on the scalp will register and print out

the epistles you wrote only in your thoughts, never noted down. So they
will lie after your last breath in a pile exactly

your own length). For God’s sake, keep your legs still, Father!
Perhaps there grows in the brains of parents who are changed

unnaturally by their child, an image of always the same
weird, impossible flower – draw it in the steamy mirror –

like a new species of flower runs riot after
nuclear radiation.

SPECIES

Why don’t we in case of despair, no matter whose, make formations
like ducks suddenly form a v against a whirlwind.

Perhaps a herringbone floor of us hundred
standing closest, feet crossed over crowns

as soon as a gong resounds with which one person applies for
temporary release, evacuation from himself to

‘the species’. Or more feasibly: that one helpless one who squeezes
acrobatically into a suitcase which we then pass on and on through

streets, with as destination only his unconditional remaining.
Till he kicks the suitcase open, can deal with himself again, get a

grip.

Ruth Lasters

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