WAYS OF THE WORD

Travelling from my French hometown – and what, after all, is a ‘hometown’ that one has only inhabited for a year and a half, after having left one’s Dutch hometown of some forty years… – to our little country seat, you pass a barren field, surrounded by a tree here and there. A sign indicates that this is a meadow for Gens de Voyage. This is the French Newspeak for Roma or Gypsies, one of its euphemisms referring to people who are allowed by communities to stay there for a while, then to ‘move on’ – after all they are People who Travel….

What a difference with those who are also on the road, yet travelling the inner map of the mind, not knowing where it may lead them: The Roads of the Poets. This kind of Gens de Voyage live the Bard’s paradox, well phrased by Czeslaw Milosz:

… I keep silent, like it becomes

a man who knows that the heart

can suffer more than our language…

I speak to you silently,

Like the clouds do, or the tree…

One is reminded of the last, quite often misunderstood paragraph of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” At least, I think I have understood this. This is not the austere, almost Mondrian kind of abstract Modernism, stating that what cannot be grasped within the confinement of ‘positive’ empirical-logical thought, should simply not be spoken of. Wittgenstein, methinks, was seeking refuge in the arts.

Wittgenstein would have applauded Milosz’ verse. The Austrian philosopher is merely warning us that we should beware of blah blah, stating notions of so-called knowledge in ostensibly clear language, but in fact resulting in nothing but blah blah. He we would have trembled and shuddered in this age of conspiracy idiots and wayward religious emotions. When things are unclear, perhaps not yet clear, not to be stated and thus not comprehended as communicable knowledge, we should indeed not utter nonsense instead.

However, “there are more things between heaven and earth than dreamt of in your philosophy…”. Things ineffable. No ‘mysteries’, no ‘higher beings’ – not the guru’s nonsense. I mean mysteries, perhaps even miracles of a cow standing with its legs on a blanket of ground fog; a high-speed swallow diving onto the waters, merely touching the surface with the tip of its little beak, while snatching away an insect; a Douglas Fir caressing the heavens…

.

.

What is needed here is the eye of the painter, the words of the poet, those Gypsies of an inner world, silent, yet speaking to us of such wonders. The arts’ paradox.

Sierksma, Montmorillon 22.4/2021     

EXTRA ECCLESIAM EST SALUS

From the beginnings of its existence, The Church – written with two capitals to indicate that The Church of Rome considered itself and is still considering itself as the sole true Church – instructed the world, rather radically, that Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus; that outside that Church no one can expect any salvation.

As a solid follower of Karl Popper, I am now in the position to actually falsify this general statement – once and for all. Out here in sweet Morthemer, a kilometre away from its huge castle, so maltreated by the Romantic followers of Violett-le-Duc, we find the little chapel of its name. Approaching it, most visitors stop to inspect its backside which is how it is offered to them; the backside as a sort of front. So, they pass on. Curious this is, as the actual front, with its Gothic little porch, is hidden from the outside world and resides in an altogether other world. One must be enterprising enough to enter a narrow, if not forbidding little ally between its wall and the wall of neighbouring houses.

What one finds there, looks like this:

.

.

Hidden, enclosed by a wall, is a small hortus conclusus, the ideal site to drink a glass of something good, have a bite of something tasty, or even to make love. The chance of being disturbed is minimal. This is Paradise. I, instead of driven out of it by a grim Godhead, I have entered it and enjoyed its wholesome effects on body and soul – this, many a time.

Here, then, outside its walls, is the salvation The Church wants to deny the infidels who do not want to be part of the club and remain outside – here is the true salus gained in conclusu, under an open sky That is: Salvation outside the Church. Though – true enough – we need its building’s mighty cover. The Church building hides us from the unpleasant world we have just left. We are left to our food and drink, the caresses of the loved ones and the aesthetic contemplation of a tower both simple and sublime – the result of a contrast between the very small space of the court we’re in, and its relative height.

Sierksma, Montmorillon 16.4/2021

AMBIGUOUS NORTH

Having been inspired by the name of the establishment, Hotel du Nord, I sat waiting in the car for the ice creams my love was buying for me in the little grocery shop in the village of La Trimouille – in the middle of France.

In an early spring, the weather was certainly not summery, so the motive for eating an ice cream – or for that matter eating two, one straight after the other – must have been the association of time and place with the word Nord; a polar desire took hold of me, strengthened perhaps by the fact that I am from the North – a stray Dutchman.

The building does no longer house a hotel; it serves pizza’s, though passing through the village, I have never seen any taken out. Some second-hand owner must have tried to bring it back to live, once again; he had the name repainted on a white-washed stone doorframe, in the process also whitewashing the first word Nord.

As it took my woman some time to buy the cold sweets, for the first time in my life I used the stint to ponder the traffic signs on the other side of the road, visible from behind the steering wheel – visible, that is, in a rather fuzzy way.

So, what I did was: make my phone a close-up shot, then enlarging it.

Something strange is going on here. The town of Le Blanc, printed vaguely on the sign left of the bigger one, is indeed situated North of La Trimouille; so is, by the way, the Hotel du Nord. However, the town of Montmorillon is lying in the opposite direction, more or less south of here.

How lucky I am, knowing all this before taking my bearings from these traffic instructions. Perhaps a forlorn tourist, not that well versed in the geography of the departments of the Creuse and the Vienne, nor in the curious lay-out of the La Trimouille road system, might easily get lost, being confused by the contradiction between such ambiguous signs and compass bearings of the atlas in their lap. They might need some ice creams and take their time to ponder the puzzle.

Sierksma, Montmorillon 12.4/2021

SEDUCTRESS

.

Wintery walking,

in this cold a treasure hunt,

nature far too rich for failure.

Caressing a tiny stowaway,

fellow traveller in my pocket,

breath-taking seed pod,

a green and silky skin –

taken from the frosty, leafless branch,

of the wisteria.

.

Unwise, you plant that gorgeous bastard,

as, within years,

strong walls, tiled roofs are ruined,

close to death.

Its summer flowers will be heaven, though,

the crumbling house’s wreath,

already now, seductive velvet seed pods –

a vernal paradise.

Sierksma, Montmorillon 8.3/2021

WEEPING WILLOW

.

.

Tiny tears sprouting,

sad the willow, as always,

weeps in spring,

mourns in summer.

.

Registering the defects piling up,

this could be my last spring…

Oh, help!

 never exclamation marks in poetry,

never the whiff of sentimentality –

it kills all verse.

.

So, let me put it this way:

I’m weeping for the willow,

the willow does not weep for me.

The bishop, after all, was saying,

that all that is, must first be seen,

transparent eyeball of the bard,

[and all that jazz]

being in the eye of someone,

something gazing.

.

So, let be it for this grand tree:

the willow will no longer be there

– without me.

Sierksma Montmorillon 9.3/2021

HIDDEN TRICKS

.

Holy books – full of hidden tricks,

walking ripples of a stream,

changing water into wine,

first using sticks,

to strike the liquid from the rocks,

the dead turned back to life,

to linger on, stay for a while,

sometimes promoted to the ranks of gods –

all at the snap of a finger.

.

Those were the days of faith, no science,

a writer’s phantasies considered to be facts,

tracts by the thousands,

penned on parchment or papyrus,

with application and great love,

man manacled to miracles,

at the mercy of magicians,

convinced,

their powers had been handed them,

from high above.

Sierksma, Montmorillon 1.3/2021

KLEIN’S BLUE

.

Klein’s Blue,

applied on naked female bodies,

live brushes on a canvas.

.

Fascination –

the gaze knows no escape,

fixed, not on an object’s shape,

but on the colour pure,

a touch of Prussian, surely –

                                                 yet Klein it is.         

.

A picture in the archives,

found quite a while after its taking,

forgotten, orphaned by its time.

Observation, if not meditation,

a haze,

a thing that wants to look like something:

the shadow of a stem of dried hydrangea,

 inserted in the gravel,

on the bottom of a vase.

Sierksma, Montmorillon 23.2/2021

A NAME POLITICAL

How well-hidden history may reside in the names we use.

In the Netherlands, and probably also in Belgian, Dutch-speaking Flanders, we find the so-called dukdalf. It may be applied to large wooden constructions, planted in the water near harbour quays. Here is one depicted in a painting.

.

Willem Bastiaan Tholen, “Enkhuizen” 1919

.

The ones I like best look like this; they are much smaller, man the measure… A steel globe on a stem.

.

.

.

When in use, they look like this.

.

.

.

In a real harbour, one for big ships, these metal globes are their anchors on land. Enormous loops of solid rope are used to moor the ships. The distinct impression is one of a noose, strangling the steely man body seems to be hidden in the soil.

In this case, however, it calls for a bit of extra phantasy to mentally reconstruct the image of the whole dukdalf.

.

.

History is squared – not only, as in all others, hidden in the name of this contraption, but centuries of heightening the quay made this little steel man disappear, effacing its function, yet conjuring up the mystery of the quadrature of the circle.

A good friend enlightened me, made me comprehend the true meaning of dukdalf, referring as it does to the Duke of Alva, le Duc d’Albe, the Spanish general who at the start of our Eighty-year War was heading the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands.

Each time a Dutch sailor man was mooring a ship at the quay, he was strangling the Duke…

Sierksma, Montmorillon 1.2/2021

ARROGANCE

.

A seagull, captive on its sandbank,

braving the stranger, arrogantly,

– the tide has made of it a reservation,

gurgling water enclosing its periphery.

The man, standing on his boundless beach,

aimlessly questioning,

what all the sand about him weighs,

how many grains are in his sight –

questions asked throughout the ages,

yet no one ever counted.

.

Human baloney, is what the seagull thinks,

its predator’s beak turned to the right,

ogling the alien, a cyclops with an hostile eye,

too bright, too sharp and terribly unkind.

Bored to the core, the bird is yawning,

has far more vital things,

that aggravate its modest mind.

.

Sierksma, Scheveningen 2.3.2014

Translated from the Dutch

SNOWDIAL

.

Hatted, here I stand,

Against a dustbin in the park –

I cannot do otherwise.

And yet, eternally it turns,

The sun behind me.

No eternity for man,

Convicted as he is to time restricted.

.

Face freezing in an earnest eastern wind,

blowing in from Russian, German plains.

Opening the camera,

hidden in a locked-down phone,

gloves in pockets,

naked hands turn a death-white.

The spirit shivering,

the body cooling dangerously.

Few minutes are sufficient,

to meet Death face to face.

Standing on an earth, cruelly moving,

frost fading at the fringes of my shadow,

my icy existence is melting away.

.

Sundial’s shadows,

merely risking a cloudy day.

The Hourglass, turned over,

allowing one the foolish notion,

of life eternal at a hand’s command.

Snowdial’s frosty time, so tangible,

slowly running out,

slower than the sand in hourglasses.

Running out it will – relentlessly.

Sierksma, Montmorillon 17.1/2021