What it is
It is always today, it is always the house
which is already old, always the man or woman
who looks at the clock, who closes the door and goes
off to sleep, to the city, catches the train
it is always the same one who stays in
the body, regretting the time that is missed
as the end softly settles inside
snow always drifting over the known
wanting to keep it all here, wanting
to have by touch the face of the man or woman
with its tired eyes – it is this house,
the silence here, the white roofs.
It is the morning, this window, the hoarfrosted roofs
the chimneys like small cold people breathing
beneath the drift of grey and white, the mothers and fathers
of snow. It is the man who is going off to work.
I see that his hands are too small for his bag.
I run after him with bread and pills. The streets
are like glass, shoppers pass, no-one looks surprised
when I fall. The man has long since caught the train.
It is the silence of a million flakes, dizzy
wind-driven doves, a million times I.
It is lying here and spinning with lightness,
turning white, thinking of the man on his way.
It always happens just like that, it is falling
and looking into the light where dust in soft
ice-cold dresses tumbles downward and knowing
this cold, these particles all mean nothing.
But the man on the train is wearing his suit.
The train is moving through fields which are white.
That is there at least, thinks the woman lying in the street.
And she always happens just like that
to stand up straight, wipe the snow from her eyes,
brush herself down, do the usual, buy a paper.
All things fall towards their end, but how can I
always know this, at times it slips my mind.
One theme in the rich oeuvre of poet and novelist Esther Jansma (b. 1958) is how pasts, personal and ancestral, infiltrate the present. This links with her work as Professor of Dendrochronology and Palaeo-Ecology at Utrecht University, where she specialises in the dating of ancient timber and wooden artefacts. Jansma acknowledges Hans Faverey as a poetic influence. However, she brings her own lucidity and sophistication of poetic line to her reflective explorations of time and being, of loss and recovery, which are both philosophically thought through and personally felt. An English-language selection of Jansma’s poems, What It Is (Bloodaxe, Hexham), translated by Francis R. Jones, appeared in 2008.
‘What it is 1, 2 & 3’ are from What It Is, Bloodaxe Books, Northumberland, 2008
The original is in Altijd vandaag, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 2006