Elma van Haren
Today the day is high enough to put your hair up. An infinity
of light-blue sky that’s rising into space with sparrows
cashing in, so golden is this light.
Today it sounds like everything has fallen into place, objects
have stopped their squabbling, the dogs have gone to sleep
an approaching rhythm longs you to your feet.
You see the dust that’s stuck to books, but in your
mind the stories that you carry are all clear. How can the
form of things present itself with so much certainty, when
people bear their contours with such doubt? But still it’s
more than enough,
the way you shoot through golden
layers today, accelerated by the voice of someone calling
Here she comes!
Purple, sugar-sweet details surround her, her voice, her scent,
it’s that kind of day, a constantly approaching staccato that’s
gone before you know it.
The weather is changeable, and people,
but since the day blue mould
crept into this English cheese, the recipe
for Stilton has remained unchanged:
A real farm dog is always on a chain.
Warm milk in tea: a mortal sin!
How distinctive the sea, her rhythmic tides
upon the beach, moon-set precision.
The only thing that can massage the ingredients a little
who’s sitting on the beach and feeling the breeze,
how hot it is and which book they’re reading.
(People in other words and weather!
Typical: elastic poetics…)
But now, in honour of Stilton,
we will picnic on the beach.
A basket with bread and cheese and sausage,
apples, wine and milk.
A real old-fashioned picnic on a
plaid blanket, the bread fresh,
apples green and crisp,
the sausage gleaming with oil,
A good cheese is always ripe.
In a bout of smell-wrestling between Stilton and sea,
the latter would lose.
If you press your ear to the cheese, you hear it seethe.
That’s the mould’s blue-blooded breakers,
anxious to scour your mouth.
The red wine does its best
to outdo our burnt skin.
Now and then we feel a little tremulous.
Has farm dog started fermenting perhaps
and got too strong for us?
How’s the use-by-date on that chain,
and anyway, what’s the aroma of beach?
Could the sun be a Fata Morgana of cheese
and is the ebbing milk flooding out of the pan
as boiling froth?
Thunderclouds, mould-blue cumulonimbus.
It’s rumbling on the horizon:
Here comes the elastic poem
bouncing down the dune.
Elma van Haren (b. 1954) is an award-winning poet and novelist whose work is driven by a sense of astonishment at everyday reality. Typographical devices and loose rhyme help to establish links and bridges within associative poems enriched by fantasy and memory. Van Haren is a visual artist as well as a writer.
The original of ‘14 February’ is in Het schuinvallend oog. Dagboekgedichten, De Harmonie, Amsterdam, 1991;
The original of ‘Parallax’ is in Zacht gat in broekzak, De Harmonie, Amsterdam, 2005
Associate Partner:- 'The Resurgence Poetry Prize'
World’s first major ecopoetry award. With a first prize of £5,000 for the best single poem embracing ecological themes, the award ranks amongst the highest of any English language single poem competition. Second prize is £2,000 and third prize £1,000.