A Kiss in Brussels
We stand here freezing in our winter coats,
a kiss prevents my breath from showing white,
my hand slows to a halt in mid caress,
I want to let you go, but not tonight –
my fingers in your hair, the evidence.
Here for a second in this city park,
we’re two cold lovers mouthing March,
who kiss as though exchanging quotes.
Saint Davids, Wales
In a valley full of psalms and nightingales,
he lay beside a river on the bank of a cathedral
reading the cotton-thread clouds on a violet evening.
Flowering valerian everywhere. Bible-blithe people
bowed their heads like blades of grass and the bells
chimed his personal invitation – it was a huis clos
of grace and as the wind erased the writing
of those clouds, he lay there by that water and was
oh so joyous. Death was there as well: a murder
of crows celebrated their vespers of objection,
while the heron-like priest regurgitated a formidable
centuries-old sentence, that every man is a piece
of the Continent etc. Then the choir filled the dish
that seemed to serve him up: the dragonflies
hung in the air, as if planning to settle him...
Calm down, molecules! You’re a clod of Europe,
let me embrace you before you wash away and drown,
he thought, confused. But dozed off on valerian.
He lay in that valley listening to the canon for choir
and crows, the holy words, the diaphanous hovering;
and from the bells above him time rained down.
The Lake Inside of Me
The lake inside of me flows from another lake
that’s down below. They’re not of equal size.
My lake’s a word and of a different depth.
It’s deep enough to drown, but no one dies.
Can origins be interchanged? The waters rise
and fall, but equally; the source that feeds the sea
is fed and to the same degree. There is no fountainhead.
Eternity’s a river – constant motion – in between.
My lake is not below. Below, the sun reflects,
the dazzlement of all I’ve known. Your name,
written in water, is valid all the same.
Benno Barnard (b. 1954) is a poet, playwright, essayist, travel writer and translator. Although born and raised in the Netherlands, he moved to Belgium as a student and lived there for several decades, a period that is reflected in the setting and concerns of much of his work. A lifelong Anglophile, Barnard currently resides in the English countryside with his American wife. A selection of his poetry, A Public Woman, was published in English in 2015 (Eyewear, London).
‘A Kiss in Brussels’, ‘Agnostic Evensong’ and ‘The Lake Inside of Me’ are from A Public Woman, Eyewear Publishing, London, 2015
‘A Kiss in Brussels’ was first published in Sirena, Poesia, arte y critica 2007/1, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2007.
The originals of ‘A Kiss in Brussels’ and ‘The Lake Inside of Me’ are in Het tongbotje, gedichten 1981-2005, Atlas, Amsterdam, 2006.
The original of ‘Agnostic Evensong’ is in Krijg nou de lyriek, Atlas, Amsterdam, 2011