Following the Tiber stream,

this Fourth of May* I led my son from Rome.

We walked the Via Appia Antíca.

Now, from the aerodrome of Fiúmicino,

he leaves me by a jet plane for our Low Lands.

Travelling home by tram

  • – my monk’s cell in Borghese’s park –

I brood over my father’s death,

his life, resistance in the war.

Once freed, resistance failed,

and I failed him.

Wars do create utopias and I was part of his.

High hopes cannot endure dead certainties.

Some days before, my son and I,

we entered Villa d’Este.

‘t Was Pegasus himself now – touching down,

saluting son and father with his wings immense.

That very instant verse were boiling,

however, ‘t was a week they took to cook.

The fountain waters of the place were cooling,

and all around the Villa mount was gushing.

There, at the far end of its garden valley,

from Mother Nature’s countless tits fair fluids flowed.

I sucked her then and there.

My grownup son,

ashamed as always of his father,

just failed to recognize the common nurse.

Then, unexpected, yet unseemly dull:

A fountainhead appears, named after Ariadne.

With just a yarn,

she saved her lover Theseus from the Minotaur,

– and did so womanly.

That thread of threads,

her child’s umbilical cord,

she could not cling to.

She suffered bitter death while giving birth.

So there, high on the hills of Tivoli,

I was to tell my son that story of another death,

from other heights this time, Kap Súnion sublime.

Young Theseus left for Crete,

pledging his father Aegeus

– in case he won –

a white sail on return.

Alas, love drained his wits.

Out on the cliffs the old man waited.

He saw the ship approach,

his son the captain, yet brown sailed.

And then the father jumped.

The Thread of Ariadne has been tattered,

our cosmos thus become a mammoth labyrinth –

a dome without a key stone,

a home without a clue.

Endlessly we wander and without aim.

Young Icarus, that other son,

the bee’s wax gluing feathers to his arms,

was beaten by an awesome sun,

resembling Pegasus, who lost the wings he grew,

when severed from the gorge of the Medusa.


A bottle of the best red wine,

true fuel for us walking gods,

a good prosciutto at my side,

a day ago I suddenly decided:

So many hours of vain walking,

I had been pregnant long enough.

And in a small, untidy park I laid myself,

and wrote.

Having felt so high and hot,

now covered by the shades of an acacia wood,

at last I found tongue’s destiny.

The tree’s tears dropping on my eyelids closed,

brought back the rapids of the Villa d’Este.

I heard and felt them fall.

My son – his Mother’s son – detests my lovers.

“The Child is Father of the Man.”

He never really laughs.


May 2003

*The Fourth of May, the day the Dutch commemorate those fallen in the war of 1940/45. My father too part in the resistance, he lost his best friend to a German pistol, shot while plundering German mail bags. That friend’s first name became my second name: Johan.

Through centuries, our family called sons and fathers ‘Rypke Fokke’s’, ‘Fokke Rypke’s’, ‘Rypke Fokke’s’ – and so on. My father and I, we did not get on very well, we did not see one another the last six years of his too short life. Not even at his deathbed. I killed history and broke a heritage: Sanne I called my son – not Fokke.


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats. The reader, interested in my writings on aesthetics, literature, and sociology, may want to open, where various pieces are published.

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