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The End and the Beginning

After every war

someone has to clean up.

Things won’t

straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble

to the sides of the road,

so the corpse-laden wagons

can pass.

Someone has to get mired

in scum and ashes,

sofa springs,

splintered glass,

and bloody rags.

Someone must drag in a girder

to prop up a wall.

Someone must glaze a window,

rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,

and takes years.

All the cameras have left

for another war.

Again we’ll need bridges

and new railway stations.

Sleeves will go ragged

from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,

still recalls how it was.

Someone listens

and nods with unsevered head.

Yet others milling about

already find it dull.

From behind the bush

sometimes someone still unearths

rust-eaten arguments

and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew

what was going on here

must give way to

those who know little.

And less than little.

And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass which has overgrown

causes and effects,

someone must be stretched out,

blade of grass in his mouth,

gazing at the clouds.

Translation : Joanna Trzecia

Einde en begin

Na elke oorlog

moet iemand opruimen.

Min of meer netjes

wordt het tenslotte niet vanzelf.

Iemand moet het puin

aan de kant schuiven

zodat de vrachtwagens met lijken

over de weg kunnen rijden.

Iemand moet waden

door het slijk en de as,

de veren van canapés,

de splinters van glas

en de bloederige vodden.

Iemand moet een balk aanslepen

om die muur te stutten,

iemand het glas in het raam zetten,

de deur in de hengels tillen.

Fotogeniek is het niet

en het kost jaren.

Alle camera's zijn al

naar een andere oorlog.

De bruggen moeten terug

en de stations opnieuw.

Van het opstropen

gaan mouwen aan flarden.

Met een bezem in de hand

vertelt iemand nog hoe het was.

Iemand luistert en knikt

met een hoofd dat nog niet is afgekletst.

Maar bij hen in de buurt

duiken al gauw lieden op

die het begint te vervelen.

Soms zal iemand nog

onder een struik

doorgeroeste argumenten opgraven

en ze naar de vuilnishoop brengen.

Zij die wisten

waarom het hier ging,

moeten wijken voor hen

die weinig weten.

En minder dan weinig.

En ten slotte zo goed als niets.

In het gras, overwoekerd

door oorzaak en gevolg,

moet iemand liggen die

met een aar tussen zijn tanden

naar de wolken staart.

Vertaling: Gerard Rash

Some Like Poetry

Some -

thus not all. Not even the majority of all but the minority.

Not counting schools, where one has to,

and the poets themselves,

there might be two people per thousand.

Like -

but one also likes chicken soup with noodles,

one likes compliments and the color blue,

one likes an old scarf,

one likes having the upper hand,

one likes stroking a dog.

Poetry -

but what is poetry.

Many shaky answers

have been given to this question.

But I don't know and don't know and hold on to it

like to a sustaining railing.

Translated by Regina Grol


As long as the woman from Rijksmuseum

in painted silence and concentration

day after day pours milk

from the jug to the bowl,

the World does not deserve

the end of the


Translation: A. DUSENKO

Going Home

He came home. Said nothing.

It was clear, though, that something had gone wrong.

He lay down fully dressed.

Pulled the blanket over his head.

Tucked up his knees.

Soliloquy for Cassandra

I remember it so clearly —

how people, seeing me, would break off in midword.

Laughter died.

Lovers’ hands unclasped.

Children ran to their mothers.

I didn’t even know their short-lived names.

And that song about a little green leaf —

no one ever finished it near me.

Nothing Twice

Nothing can ever happen twice.

In consequence, the sorry fact is

that we arrive here improvised

and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,

if you're the planet's biggest dunce,

you can't repeat the class in summer:

this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,

no two nights will teach what bliss is

in precisely the same way,

with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue

mentions your name by accident:

I feel as if a rose were flung

into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you're here with me,

I can't help looking at the clock:

A rose? A rose? What could that be?

Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day

with so much needless fear and sorrow?

It's in its nature not to stay:

Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer

to seek accord beneath our star,

although we're different (we concur)

just as two drops of water are.

Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh