got into deep water,
but my mother drowned
my brothers counted the crumbs on their plates,
my father had every ditch and pond filled in,
said he would not move an inch ever again
and his sorrow grew, glistened
until it became a palace with ballrooms and footmen
in black velvet liveries,
and with silver mirrors
that reflected the glow of his tears
and with balconies and windows
from which he demanded silence
and called for feeling and forbearance,
and if need be, love...
my father grew old and the daylight
couldn’t bear him anymore.
A Man Wanted to Talk About Love
A man wanted to talk about love.
‘No…! Not about love…!’ everyone cried
and everyone left or knocked him down,
and death peered through a window:
‘About love…? Ridiculous…!’
That man put on a pair of wings
like those of a thrush,
but larger and more despairing,
and away he flew and sang about love
and love sang about him, murmured about him –
never did a man go to bed more sorrowful
on the indifferent earth.
A thought is stalking me, hounding me,
I can hear it, I can feel it breathing down my neck
but whatever it does, it won’t get me,
with its gleaming fangs,
its hunger and lust
I don’t think it.
Toon Tellegen, born in 1941, is one of Holland’s most celebrated poets, with many awards to his name. He has written more than twenty collections to date, but he is also a novelist and extremely popular children’s book author. Three of his poetry collections have appeared in translation in Britain in recent years, translated by Judith Wilkinson: A Man and an Angel (Shoestring Press, 2013), Raptors (Carcanet Press, 2011), which won the Popescu Prize for European poetry in translation, and About Love and About Nothing Else (Shoestring Press, 2008).
‘A Man Wanted to Talk About Love’ is from About Love and About Nothing Else, Shoestring, Nottingham, 2008
original in Over liefde en over niets anders, Querido, Amsterdam, 1997;
‘my father got into deep water’ is from Raptors, Carcanet, Manchester, 2011
original in Raafvogels, Querido, Amsterdam, 2006;
the original of ‘The Thought’ is from De werkelijkheid, Querido, Amsterdam, 2014.