The Dutch Riveter: Poems from BIGGER THAN THE FACTS by Jan Baeke, translated by Antoinette Fawcett

In the bar in the square everything is cut back
to far-off and nearby.

You come from here.
I left a month ago.

The barman is glued to the radio
deaf to our thirst, listening to messages for the resistance.

Your nails scrape away all the sticky stuff.
I see the patterns, the awkward prayers, look
straight ahead, right through the windows
and see the square visited by ever stranger shadows.

I see how dear to me
you could be.
You bend your head.
The bar bends in towards you, all its glasses dying.
Shave your head. Shave your neck. Get rid of a beard, hair by hair. Stick photos across the vista. Cover the eye that wants to make bricks from a ruin, instructions from bricks. Avoid seeing a chapel behind dark-green cypresses.

Go back, go forwards. Leave the hotel without being seen. Don’t breathe before the square has been crossed. Restrain yourself from remembering a name. Don’t place an order, don’t give in, don’t go down like the sun but cry out like an avalanche, be silent like glass. Think and don’t think about thinking and avoid that thought and get lost in that thought and write that thought down and tear it up and succumb to it, turn your head away, rise up, walk off.

See hair growing. One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, every hour of the clock, count every minute in your sleep, count till you sleep, till the fire dies down, heaven burns, the fire lasts till morning, till they laugh, how the laughter feasts on others obsessed by the same laughing.

How that requires a similar afternoon or a few days, the last few months, other possibilities. If questioned wish to understand the question, catch fire, complete a sentence. This one. Another one. Stop.

By Jan Baeke

Translated by Antoinette Fawcett


Published by Arc Publications (2020)

By permission of Arc Publications

Read The Dutch Riveter here or order your paper copy from here.

Buy this title through the European Literature Network’s The Dutch Riveter page.

Jan Baeke is a Dutch poet, translator, editor and curator, with nine poetry collections to his name. His latest collection, Seizoensroddel (‘Seasonal Gossip’), was awarded the Jan Campert Prize 2017. Bigger than the
Facts appeared with Arc in 2020, translated by Antoinette Fawcett. Baeke is currently the festival programmer for Poetry International in Rotterdam.

Antoinette Fawcett is a translator from Dutch. After a career teaching English and world literature in the UK and several other countries, she returned to university to study for an MA and then a PhD in literary translation. Bird Cottage by Eva Meijer was her first full-length translation.

Category: TranslationsMarch 2021 – The Dutch Riveter


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