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…

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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     

SUMMER’S EMOTIONS

Miniatures for my maîtresse 12

Beware, you loner, of summer’s emotions:

         the passions of high seas and high rise,

         of Death Valley and the Gorges.

No shades of feelings here

No clair-obscur

Only the desolate loneliness of intensity

                                               too intense.

But not to forget:

         Sovereign solitude is by far the

         best of solitudes,

         and life is not meant for easy travelling.

Beware of second-hand emotions,

Rejoice in sadness chosen,

         and in the certitude of love at distance.

Sierksma, Haarlem 11.7/1989

WEEPING WILLOW

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Tiny tears sprouting,

sad the willow, as always,

weeps in spring,

mourns in summer.

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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.

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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.

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So, let be it for this grand tree:

the willow will no longer be there

– without me.

Sierksma Montmorillon 9.3/2021

HIDDEN TRICKS

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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.

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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

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Klein’s Blue,

applied on naked female bodies,

live brushes on a canvas.

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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.         

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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

TIME

Miniatures for my maîtresse 7

“Time turns advertisements into poems, and Time turns poems into advertisements, because Time changes the reader and it depends on the reader whether a thing is or is not art.” If Stefan Themerson is right, in his Wooff, wooff, or: who killed Richard Wagner?, I know what to do: I am going into the commercials business, because if one thing is certain, it is that only after their life is over do poets become famous. Ergo.

Sierksma, Haarlem 31.10/1989

HELL

Improbable faith, Romantic fiction,

something to be said for it,

– even for atheists.

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The gate to Heaven, always closed,

a dungeon opened,

takes some doing –

sang the Noble Bard.

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Man, not quite a social being,

yet, never alone is he –

always Hell bound.

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Hell has no boundaries,

its vast realm embracing Heaven,

now shrivelled,

to a clear, fictitious dot.

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Hell is the Other –

wrote the Wise Man.

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Sierksma, 21.1/2021 Montmorillon

ARROGANCE

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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.

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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.

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Sierksma, Scheveningen 2.3.2014

Translated from the Dutch

SNOWDIAL

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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.

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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.

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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

ARROWS OF TIME

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Heavy rains now – in December,

Dashing from the hills and mounts,

Whirling up the river-wash,

At its edges foamy sashes,

Ducks and loons in festive splashes,

Weathering the spinning waters,

Gurgling sounds against the wall,

Of this – my Belvedere.

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Where the water rises fast,

Raging on its stony bed,

Only weeks ago,

Leaves, wronged by storm,

Were gently floating,

Longing for an ocean’s grave.

Fishermen were calmly boating,

Waters doggedly meandering,

 Clean, as from the tap,

Fishes swimming, clearly spotted.

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Suddenly, the stream is muddied,

Yet, the torrent’s banks are cleansed –

Branches, trunks and twigs,

Saved in their respective niches,

Now abruptly shaved from there,

Since November’s heaving gales,

Swept la France Profonde.

Rushing the wild water course,

Paved before, by their own leaves.

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On the cruel rack of weeks,

Of months, of years and eons,

Time’s span is stretched:

Glacier moraine, not seen for ages,

Hidden stones, a corpse long gone,

Spitting rays of deadly light;

Stars, still bright on moonless nights,

Their cosmic source however vanished –

River-time is thus retarded,

A little patience is rewarded.

What happened quite a while ago,

Upstream, first leaves, then trees,

Following the river’s flow,

Will finally arrive below the wall,

Of this – my Belvedere,

Parading their display, their show.

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Sierksma, Montmorillon 4.12/2020