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.
and everything disappears
in a scurry.
But give me,
oh, yes, give me again
of the wildest
straight into my heart