For my father

Through the mortar of Montreuil, I walk
out from an abandoned Sunday, in the sounds
of a well-known opera, thinking of you
and your urge for the sea, far lands.

The version played at home, you softly sang
along with, there, drowns out the one here,
deafening from chapped window frames.
And still further I unfold your wings in me:

staggering on the coast of Paris, on an over-pass
of the Péripherique, I am swinging again
in a dense foliage; you pushing from the depths,
me, dizzying above the prison barracks

full of hunger in Zuffenhausen and Fellbach,
and higher still, amongst the sea gulls
of our native town, screaming in white.
Homesick, in black flocks, piercing arias.

From ‘Spertijd’, WEL, 1982, 1983, 2000. ISBN: 90 6230 083 9
Translation: Catherine East



ut betrayal. Yet
the comparisons. Ebb on
paper or
dead time.

The inverse
still occurs;

from nothing to anything
instead of the other way round,
as in an outer language


From ‘Linguisticum’, Double You, Luxembourg, 1994. ISBN: 2-9599994-0-1
Translation: Sandi Stromberg



Approaching from the calculated angle. Just
a quiver between us, a reflection of tri-
angular sails, fluttering in the arid wind,
the scraping of a bottom over time.

Desert sand scrunches in the ancient lens.
A couple more degrees and then the cosmic mountain
is submerged, her temple drifting like a lotus
on the reflection of will and matter.

I turn. At the burning bay of Avranches
the poet-father weeps for his drowned daughter.
Centuries revolved their fulness in our grief.
I was a young man and did not resist.


Gods rose with states and eventually declined
Once more we clamber upwards past the lions.
The monsoons washed our blood off the stairs,
over the lowest terrace; that of envy, lust and death.

A white hand feels in the ashes for subsided verses:
fruit trees, elephants, judges, a small woman
with a spear, and touches broken strings, my love
for you. Harsh sounds of admiration, and incomprehension.

On top I take her in my arms, lift her up.
We laugh, become each other. Her frock leaves me naked.
I had to be your father and stroke everything smooth again.
States rise with gods, who trigger their decline.


I caress the veins of this breaking book, honey
flows out the stupa, covering name and form,
remembrance of a loss. Who cannot read
goes climbing round and seeks his place.

Do you recall that last night in our empty room
that stank of your incense, how we listened
to the flies? I was to go with you to the clinic,
but you screamed, you stuck your spear in me.

In this frail morning wind the speaking
ceases, spite rules in a smile,
many loves ago chiselled out of what
was devoid of any meaning.

From ‘Tropendrift’, In de Knipscheer, 2003. ISBN: 9 789062 655380
Translation: John Irons


So, as not to exhaust the soil
the rice after each second harvest
is replaced once by maize or beans,
for the sake of love, soft looks
by words that no longer conceal
that suspicion burrows in deep roots.
To the very lowest
ánd the highest form
of the Javanese language
my patience
and eagerness to learn and pledge
are to be tested.

Repudiated wife or mistress,
you prefer to choose a man without caste,
without honour, without true belief.
You will beg and command,
you will bow down and be exalted,
you will know what it means
to live, outside the familiar rotation
of monsoons and harvests,

outside the yield of your womb.

From: The third harvest, Pendopo Editions, Indonesia, 2010
Translation: John Irons


The eye of the city peers,
gazes out over a shrinking west
and sums up needs and disarray

in the sated iris of its rose.

It witnessed piles of wood burning
on the square, revolt defiling images
and breakers of growing disbelief

not solely crashing against portals.

Softly creaking in limestone and lead
it indefatigably sucks in conceptions
only contained in secret annals,

it projects in a timeless gleam

what the nature of the beast in us decides
when we are fearful and voluptuous,
would seek to emulate the Master, disguised

as His mother, licking our lap.

From ‘Cathedra’, WEL, 2015. ISBN: 90 6230 099 5
Translation: John Irons