• Niels Hav
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Translated by PK Brask & Patrick Friesen

 

 

The Battered Inside

 

The battered inside of the cupboard under the kitchen sink

makes me happy.  Here are two honest nails

hammered into the original boards that have been there

since the apartment block was built. It’s like revisiting

forgotten members of our closest family.

At some point the boards were blue; there is some leftover red

and a green pastel. The kitchen sink is new

and the counter has been raised ten centimeters. Probably

it’s been renovated several times through the years.

The kitchen has remained current; there are new lamps,

electric stove, fridge and coffee maker.

But here under the sink a time warp has been allowed

its hidden existence. Here is the wash tub with the floor cloth,

the plunger and a forgotten bit of caustic soda.

Here the spider moves about undisturbed.

 

Maybe there’s been kissing and dancing in this kitchen.

Probably there’s been crying.

Happy people newly in love have prepared fragrant meals

and later cooked porridge while making sandwiches for lunch boxes.

Hungry children have stolen cookies. Laughter has resounded

in the stairwell and ropes have been skipped in the yard

while new cars were being parked outside. People moved in and out,

old ones died and were carried downstairs, newborn babies

were carried upstairs. Everything according to order—

my nameplate will also disappear from the door one day.

I get down on my knees in front of the kitchen sink

and respectfully greet the plunger, the spider

and the two honest nails

 

 

 

Whose Side Am I On?

 

I’m for people who have joie de vivre—

the ones standing outside smoking,

while the president hands out medals,

content to shiver during the applause.

 

The man who washes the floor and puts the chairs back.

I do not agree with the chairman,

a general secretary gives me the creeps,

have those people no self-respect?

 

The woman who bakes cookies for the homeless.

I’m in support of common decency.

The man who gets up in the middle of the night to deliver

newspapers on his bike, while morons piss in his bag

and call him Paki.

 

People who cry in their sleep at night for lack

of vitamins found only in love.

I’m for the woman collecting bottles,

and going through other people’s trash

so she can give her granddaughter a trip to Rome.

The man who crosses the street to help a bewildered

boy who fell out of the nest too early.

 

I’m all for kindness.

I’m for him who hides his poems

in the tool drawer in the garage.

The failed ones are the most remarkable.

The one who sweeps the sidewalk including his neighbour’s.

Old people who lie dying in hospitals.

 

I’m for him who is misunderstood

whenever he opens his mouth. The mute poets,

content with walking around mumbling to themselves,

while they take care of their work and provide for the family.

The woman the others make fun of.

The man who isn’t able to maneuver his wheelchair

and the bus driver who gets up to lend a hand.

The ones who sing in traffic. The man who makes a fool of himself.

People who move their asses.

 

I’m not for gang-related stockbrokers.

People who think they are the queen of heaven. Arrogant sneers.

The man who blocks other people’s bank accounts.

The atmosphere in court.

 

I’m all for politeness, for bursting into tears

in the morning at the supermarket, common hysteria,

caring for pets, and bewitching smiles in traffic.

 

The man who spends seven years building a cottage

and finishes by smashing it to pieces in a rage.

That’s whose side I’m on. 

 

 

 

Forcefully 

 

Joys evaporate

and everything disappears

in a scurry.

 

But give me,

give me—

oh, yes, give me again

a gulp

of the wildest

happiness

straight into my heart

muscle!