Who made the young me sweat in bed with visions from the psychiatric ward girls who’ve grown obsessed with the man and the touch of the man, and the touch of the woman that makes them realise they want to be a man I fear the man and want to eat him up but I am also scared that he has eaten me up that I was born in the man’s stomach or ribcage or in a toe and escaping from his body has made me lose mine I want to eat the man up the way I eat Facebook and installation art and have for years now eaten up enormous amounts of light shining on my face I hoped to be able to eat the man up to protect my sisters but I feel what’s left of the man gnawing at my insides searching for a way out through my womb my navel, my open mouth Every inch of my body of my thinking brain is split into two camps I am a single moustache hair fallen onto the chin after an attempt at union and the attempt at union has failed only my silhouette seems right I will wash down the drain of the shower or I will crumble I will drown or suffocate in the woollen jumper removed to facilitate copulation meanwhile I search for electricity pylons to hang out my shrunken body charge it, fuse it together because my body is more than just one body I require a state of being that will make me superfluous and all-powerful I want to build a corridor that leads nowhere and lock all of my bodies up in it so they won’t harm themselves or each other so they will be present as a single whole without context to confirm it billions of cancer cells that have established themselves in my father established themselves in my mother billions of cancer cells that have established themselves in me waiting for the right moment silent in a waiting room All my poems are quiet and still my poems have been smeared on the side of the bed my poems are not poems I am a puddle of blood seeping through a carpet that tries to turn systems into words the systems asked, ‘What can you do, now you know?’ and I was quiet, deciding to go on holiday
I wrote a poem about myself I wrote five versions of myself that were male broken, disembodied and confused I wrote myself into the hell of being an artist and left me there to rot I wrote beyond myself and came up with a lot of empty words: That the moment of ignition makes or breaks all memories that context mustn’t be added, but has to arise by itself that I put my father’s urn in the fuse box when he slapped my wrist for my dubious breasts and strange way of carrying myself that I only exist as a projection of the brain of a white Western male: I borrow money from a white Western male I buy toilet paper for a white Western male I am the white Western male’s thought experiment I am lying drunk on a floor and he asks who I am and I am a version of Kunta Kinte forced into a mould I feel no bond with my given name I lie on the floor drunk and see patterns on the ceiling the boy on the floor next to me is a child I want to acquaint with my darkest thoughts to destroy him to educate him I am an apelike jazz musician’s doll I am Sylvana, Louwiya, an enormous bum people pay money to stare at I can present myself in hundreds of forms I am a cool afterthought, a drum kit, I am a religious fanatic with yellow eyeballs and a hoarse-screamed mouth, I am a court jester: I put on a dress, I put on a flesh-coloured dress and I am one hundred and fifty pounds of flesh without a name language or country of origin a nail-chewing, collapsing, bleeding anonymous entity without a concrete goal all energy and no purpose I do have a good report: well done, well brought up I am a virus that eats itself due to a lack of matter to feed on I am the most flesh-coloured dress you can wear a daring choice and oiled on a snow-white beach standing among those hundreds of versions of myself I ask, ‘Are we already on holiday?’ I get no reply
By Simone Atangana Bekono
Translated by David Colmer
From HOW THE FIRST SPARKS BECAME VISIBLE
Published by Emma Press (2021)
By permission of Emma Press.
Buy this title through the European Literature Network’s The Dutch Riveter bookshop.org page.
Simone Atangana Bekono graduated from Creative Writing Artez with her first poetry collection how the first sparks became visible, which went on to win the Poëziedebuutprijs Aan Zee in 2018 for the best Dutch-language poetry debut and is published in English by Emma Press in 2021. She also writes prose, and published her debut novel Confrontaties in September 2020.
David Colmer is an Australian translator, writer and editor who lives in Amsterdam. He has translated more than sixty book-length works of Dutch-language literature and has won a host of international prizes for his work.