new zealand electronic poetry centre


Jan Kees van de Werk

Fugacity 05
Online Poetry Anthology


Letter in Spring

So: some catching up.

The photo-assignment I did have in Canada went well.
Had to make a photo-essay on the fabrication of all the stuff needed for the elections in Iraq.
Because of safety-reasons the stuff was made in a lot of different places, the ballot boxes, the vote-papers, the …., thousands of things.
Travelled thousands of kilometres.
Cold, very cold.
Up till minus 30 degrees Celsius.
Weird experience.
A bad suspense book, full of crazy CIA people and UN nitwits.
Did not go to Iraq because the transport was given to somebody else than my temporary ‘boss’.

Unfortunately I can not tell you that my beloved cows do already roam in the meadows behind my house.
But their time will come soon.
The only time I saw these milky mothers was not too long ago when they were stretching their stiff legs for about fifteen minutes.

Spring time is really jumping out of her bed.
Glad I am.
Saw the first lambs jumping and leaping in the air.
Makes me feel always happy and optimistic.
New life.
Herons flying to and fro.
Small branches in their beaks.
Their young screaming in their nests high up in the trees.
Majestic swans making up their huge nests.
I have got a nest nearby, with three eggs in it.
Huge eggs.
And ‘aalscholvers’(do not know their name in English), sympathetic clumsy water birds keeping hardly their balance while in the air and eating their own weight in fish per day, spreading their prehistoric wings while standing on the waterside to dry them in a stronger and stronger sun.
When you see ‘aalscholvers’ you are straight looking into the eyes of prehistoric times. They have not evolved a lot since.

I tell you the earth is cracking literally because of all the life wanting to get out, reaching for the light. And so do I feel: cracking by the things wanting to get out, reaching for the sun, buttoning and flowering. 

Yesterday I saw a mating ritual by swans. 
What a delight.
Symmetrical dance.
Slow and full of grace.
When they are ready, the female gently spreads her wings on the water, inviting the male.
So civilised.
So respectful.

Totally otherwise than the ducks.
The males really do chase the females, plunge them under and do their thing.
One after the other.
Serial rapists.
The females hardly get a chance to gasp some air.
She is pushed under the water the whole time.

A couple of days ago I went to swan’s nest in the swamps nearby, kind of hidden in the bush and marsh.
They were hissing and flapping their wings.
I came a bit too close.
The male came after me.
He scared the shit out of me.
I ran, stumbled and fell flat face in a pool of water.
Heard the swan flapping and hissing and making noises. Kind of laughing noises also. 
Got up soaking wet.
Luckily I managed to keep my camera dry, high in the air.
And: the photos came out magnificently.

Anyway, coming back to my cracking inner-earth.
I was laid back recently because of this fucking Meniere again.
I know also why.
Stressing too much.
That always triggers this.

So, I went out.
When I could walk again.
Trying to see things again in perspective.
Went to a village nearby which I did not know yet really well.
Neither the surroundings.
I discovered when walking an ages old ivy-grown wall.
Hardly visible because of fairytale-like trees.
Prey birds hovering above me.
A rusty brown fox sneaking away.
The sun sparkling in his tail.
Butterflies around my head.
I did find an entrance.
A rusty wrought iron gate squeaked open.
And then I came in the most imaginary graveyard I have ever ever ever ever ever set eyes on.
A Jewish cemetery from the 17th century.
Overgrown by plants.
Cracked and broken tombstones painted by soft green moss.
Stones with Jewish symbols like hands spreading fingers two by two (only the thumb is solitary) and hand pouring water out of cans.
Hardly visible, stunning Hebrew typography.
Dry leaves rustling under my feet.
No sound in the air but the wind and some singing of birds.
And the smell of spring in the air.

Michele, I tell you:
It was like a dream.
Death embraced by life.
Or the other way around.
I do not know.
What I do know is that I will come back on a sunny day when it is more green and the wild flowers will caress and perfume the tombs, to take pictures. 
Although they will never translate the real three dimensional feeling.

Reminded me also that I have to go with Leonoor and Sanne (my daughters) to the place where we did spread the ashes of my mother.
Also a fantastic place in the midst of dark woods, mysterious place with a brook running and whispering and a castle where my mother stayed a lot in her youth playing with friends. 
Then we will also think of my father of course whose ashes are god knows where. He was cremated when I was in Goree (years and years ago).
I do think of them, but not in a sad way, practically every day.
Sometimes I wish I could phone them just for advice and stuff.
Which I did often.
Always when the clock goes on summertime my mother used to phone me and warn me.
That’s what I thought off course when the clock changed an hour not too long ago and when I ignored that totally, like every year since her death.

Did I ever tell or write you that I reread the notebooks I did find when clearing out their house. The notebooks of my father. Full of little drawings and notes and thoughts.
He observed amongst others that his agenda was always full.
No space in between appointments and things to do.
He wrote in his nice writing (I recognise so easily because he always helped me with my homework) that he was so much longing for that space, the air, the openness, the …
He compared it with flowers which could not grow, if they were planted too much near to each other.
So they did not get enough air or sunshine or rain to come to their full blossoming.

I wish in retrospect we could talk about those feelings.

I never experienced his being suffocated by appointments and what what.
He always had time for me.
For walks and talks.
Helping me with homework or whatever.

Lately I go regularly to a café near a small lake, very near my house.
They have a nice terrace overlooking the peaceful lake.
I just read.
Cappuccino by the side.
Watching the sun going down in purple veils.
Swans gliding by.
Waterdrops like gold dripping from their beaks.
Bow-nets reflecting themselves like graphics in the water.
So nice!

Saul Bellow died.
Liked this author a lot.
Although it has been a long time since I have been reading him.
Going to reread him.
I remember him as the bringer of beauty and consolation.
Beautiful sentences.
Kind of melancholic and still full of energy. 

Took up tennis again.
Did not play for quite a while.
Felt that my body really needed the movement.
Mixed experience.
I liked it and I did not like it.
Now after a few times: I like it again.
But I have to watch not to play against my will.
As a result of my pushing and begging of my friends. 
And I will have to watch not to spend too much time on it.
Avoiding thinking: SHHHHiiiiit I had to work, there is still so much to do.
I am so much behind my schedule.
Etc, etc, …

In the mean time I work of course a lot.
In the process of more or less rewriting the last manuscript.
You remember the one out of which came the snv book (representation gift).
The publisher who did ‘Kaurischelpen en kamelen’ (my second last book, a travelogue with photos and poems) changed their list and does not do those books anymore.
But that they would still do this one, because they promised it.
But I was hesitating because then I will be a strange duck in their pond without any follow up.
So I went to the publishers of ‘De karavaan van de verbeelding’(on the poetry caravan).
They were enthusiastic.

Then I read in the paper about a new publishing house, being set up by somebody who owned a fortune in Russia with all kinds of magazines he did set up there.
He sold the whole lot now.
Is a multi multi multi millionaire.
And did start a publishing house.
Already many authors and editors are under his wings now.
Anyway I will be informing myself about him.

You might guess already that the main attraction for me was the money involved.
So that you might get more than just a lousy advance.
And that you do not have to write I do not know how many letters to get the royalties of some meagre Euro.

Leonoor is doing so well.
She has practically finished her studies in Amsterdam.
Specialised on ‘World-heritage’.
Now this year it is the ‘year of the castle’ in the Netherlands.
And she has to organise an important symposium on the subject and has to write background information for the general public.
So proud of her.

Sanne moved to Utrecht now.
And is doing Spanish.
Although her heart lies in Salsa.
Salsa-ing her way through life.
If she could become a professor of Salsa, she would certainly do it.
She lives in a neighbourhood in Utrecht full of Turkish and Morocco people.
Full of teahouses, and all kind of shops, hammams, etc …
Very pleasant. Very inspiring.
Everything very cheap.
Not too far from where I did spend the first years of my life.

Will be going now to ‘my’ place on the lake (see above), have a coffee and read a little.

Be well Michele

Jan Kees

Jan Kees van de Werk
’s-Graveland, 23-4-2005

Last updated April 27, 2005