‘Shall I Walk with You Some of the Way?’
Why not? You may walk with me as far as the traffic lights
or as far as the very next underpass.
As far as the third street on the right,
as far as the entrance to the park.
As far as the hospital, as far as beyond
the hospital, right up to my front door.
You may walk with me as far as inside my room,
as far as a glass of something or other,
as far as when I’ve brushed my teeth
or when the first morning light
falls across the chair with the clothes.
As far as when the construction workers start their day,
as far as when school opens,
the civil servants have their break,
the shops close
or as far as the departure of the last slow train.
As far as after waking up but before breakfast,
as far as after breakfast but before lunch,
as far as after lunch but before supper
you may walk with me.
A Soft Stone
I am the stone my parents once decided
to stumble over only once, so I’m alone.
I am the pebble-stone of contention in the gravel
at the front door of their cardboard façade,
I commemorate – as a memorial stone –
the end of what was once a home,
I am the gravestone of a person without surname,
the rock that Sisyphus was condemned to by the gods,
the millstone round the cripple’s neck.
I carve myself into a thousand toes
to stub them endlessly on the slightest things.
I am a soft stone from which no shoot springs.
Lament of Those Who Listen to War Reports
Dust raised the days of the flesh,
flesh turned to dust.
In the interim rooms remained empty,
spring came, birds flew,
bombs were hatched.
We spilt Coca-Cola on newspapers all summer long,
let the voice on the radio rattle on.
Music swiftly wiped out every news flash
and on my face lay your hand.
Bombs didn’t fall here
another bottle of Coke toppled over.
Your mouth went in search of the glass.
The switch dimmed the radio voice.
The dead floated away in the Coca-Cola and
people were getting raped. We were busy loving.
As if that were possible.
Hagar Peeters is one of Holland’s best known poets. She frequently gives readings of her work. Her first collection, Genoeg gedicht over de liefde vandaag (‘Enough about love for today’), gained her immediate recognition as a bold and distinctive new voice. Many of her subsequent collections – five to date – have been awarded prizes. In 2008 she was on the shortlist for Poet Laureate. She is also a critic, editor and columnist and in 2015 her first novel appeared, Malva, inspired by the life of Pablo Neruda’s daughter. It has since been translated into several languages with an English edition in production.
‘A Soft Stone’ was first published in Poetry Salzburg Review.
The original of ‘Shall I Walk with You Some of the Way?’ is in Genoeg gedicht over de liefde vandaag, Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 1999.
The originals of ‘A Soft Stone and ‘Lament of Those Who Listen to War Reports’ are in Koffers zeelucht, Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2003.