Eeltsje Hettinga 31/01/2019


Under the wolf moon of a single night
the canal shows barely a skin of ice,
but still the boasting, blathering
words go gliding over barflies’ tables:

the icy sweep of wide black lakes,
oh, man, one faster than the other
in the old attempt to keep ahead
of Time’s infernal bird-trap.


Thinking of my parents and Auden, with
snowstorms in the streets of New York
and shades, whinnying as they circle
the hoary paddocks up past Burgwerd,

I’m pissed in a pub near the Potmarge
and staring at the snow-splashed windows
that stare straight back at me like eyes
from a blind, white no-man’s land.


There was a fire that sparked from a father’s blades,
when he, faster than the light below Woudsend
(Under our breath we called, ‘Hey,
don’t you need to look where you’re going?’)

flew into a hole in the ice and just as breakneck,
almost galloping, came shooting back out
into the light again north of Sloten. Oh, man,
thousands wouldn’t, but I do, dark night.


What is white if not blind, says the girl
with the easel on her back who wants
to paint beyond the dyke as nothing less
than time that’s snow because we, a vanishing, we,

a little night music floating under the ice,
like language that slowly goes mute
in all the things that can’t be said, say,
snow’s face beyond the dyke.


As winter skates into a hole in the ice
while the light, that ousted queen, loathsome
and foul, brushes the Emma’s wet quays,
I stop by a cat that’s lying, half-dead,

on the Gijsbert’s clinkers, and think
– for nothing now can ever come to
any good? – of the future of my language,
my Frisian, in winter’s dark bird-trap.



Translation: David Colmer