An Englishman with gorgeous eyes is tuning my piano.
I’m going to do it very carefully, he says.
droplets and leaves are spilling from the elderberry bush
in the corner of the garden, sir, like words from my mouth.
Would you mind?
I think the tree is incurably ill.
We might have a slight problem here.
A humid summer has dawned in my mind
dear sir, a paralysing heat. Do you have any suggestions?
I don’t know what ‘scorching’ is in English.
Would you like a drink?
Thank you so much.
In Brussels I ate chocolate made of gold foil
and I wore an impeccable hat.
In Paris I rode in a Ferris wheel.
I could go with you to London just like that.
If I have sugar. And milk.
The Englishman plays.
That’s that and that’s all.
Thank you so much.
Why I Am Not a Painter
I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not.
- Frank O' Hara
Through a chink in the door my eyes take in the room
at the level of a receding horizon.
Loops and lines sprout through vanishing points
to trace what escapes.
Make sure that considerations are measurable: weigh them
in a hand that you clench like a fist
and strike a table. Listen to its sound
echoing in the room next door.
Close a door to make something happen –
a form of certainty in the faded
house that has shifted slightly. The floors
are buckling and the windows and doors
show cracks. These are the hinges
of an existence I call my own.
Thought and the Girl
Out of the corner of my eye I see fields and houses go past
while I try to pay attention to the girl
sitting opposite me. The corner of an eye can contain many things.
A house that I recognize a ditch a cow and even
the creature grazing and staring in bewilderment as it
stretches its neck anxiously hearing an unfamiliar sound.
Or is it, more stiffly, awaiting a signal?
Animals proliferate at the edge.
They settle down in this subsiding marshland
with ungainly houses in every one of which
I’ve lived. The girl is clasping a book
in her lap with cross-sections of brains.
She draws circles round lobules and ventricles and dissects
my ability to think and think of her.
Maria Barnas (b. 1973) is a poet, artist, columnist and novelist. She has published four Dutch-language collections of poetry and one in English, Umbra. Twee zonnen (‘Two Suns’, 2003) was awarded the C. Buddingh Prize for first collections, while her 2013 collection, Jaja de oerknal (‘Oh Yes, the Big Bang’) was shortlisted for the VSB Poetry Prize. A feature of Barnas’s work is its reckless gaiety and unnerving wit. Many of her poems are imbued with a sense of deep discomfort at everyday situations that are generally seen as normal.
‘Erbarme dich’ was first published on Poetry International Web. http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poet/item/11307/6/Maria-Barnas
The original is in Twee zonnen, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 2003.
‘Thought and the Girl’ was first published on The High Window. https://thehighwindowpress.com/2017/06/03/dutch-poetry/
The originals of ‘Thought and the Girl’ and ‘Why I Am Not a Painter’ are in Jaja de oerknal, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 2013