My father comes to wake me up.
The barn’s on fire! He lets me watch
it through the window and I know:
this is for me. With such resolve
and rapture, I too will burn,
as unrestrained, as fierce as this.
My five-year-old body flares up
where later blood and fire will be.
Not knowing why, I start to cry
from fright and utter bliss.
It’s early when he calls me,
my son, responsive to the heavens.
He says the sky is funny. We go
outside, where rising from a slate-gray
foundation, there stands a dome
of clear heart-rending copper. His face is tight
with grave enthusiasm. The garden’s
deathly still. Together we stand there,
motionless in this cathedral
of enigmatic light.
All at Once
All at once my ability
to retain warmth was
gone. Now the kids
have moved out, I sniffed,
funny that. I buried myself
under more blankets. The fire
roared. The warmer of us two
could no longer take the chill
off me. I shivered and
shuddered as if facing death.
Which I was. Death and I
were standing on a bank.
Between us, nothing but
a considerable distance.
We do hear it, the drum in the distance,
but don’t listen. The rhythm of the sticks
determines our steps. Even now.
I want to linger by a waltz from before,
a dance, a child in my arms. The tension
between the past and present is unbearable.
The march is inescapable. Furiously
I dig into memory’s music box, trying
to find her before I fall. But look,
the drummer brings us the grandchild,
luring us into a new song, saddling us
with a final joy before the end.
Anna Enquist (b. 1945) is a musician, psychoanalyst, poet and best-selling novelist whose work has been translated into many languages. Since publishing her first collection in 1991, she has been one of the Netherlands most-loved poets. Much of her work is highly personal and drawn from the joys and tragedies of her own family life. The Fire Was Here, a thematic bilingual edition of ‘poems about mothers and children’, was published in 2003. Several of her novels have been translated into English.
‘Drei Abhandlungen’ is from The Fire Was Here, Toby Press, New Milford, London, 2003
The originals of ‘Drei Abhandlungen’ and ‘All at Once’ are in Alle gedichten, Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 2005
‘The Drum’ first appeared on Poetry International Web http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poet/item/22537/Anna-Enquist
the original is from Een kooi van licht, CPNB & Poetry International, Amsterdam, 2013.