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SONNETTO POESIA Vol 1 no 1 2002
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Remco van der Zwaag
Johannes Andreas der Mouw
der Mouw's & Remco van der Zwaag's Sonnets
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der Mouw's & Remco van der Zwaag's Sonnets



"What is perishable, is matter ("pradhna"). What is immortal and imperishable, is the soul ("hara"). Over both the perishable and the soul the One God ("deva") rules. By meditation upon Him, by union with Him, and by entering into His being more and more, there is finally cessation from every illusion ("my-nivrtti")."

Svetasvatara Upanishad, First Adhyya, 10.

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1

Through chalices of unreal crystal glows
the tragic-purple velvet underground.
The lamp's invisible; the handles drowned
in slender waterfalls of sparkling flows.

Galaxies glitter; nebulae, all round;
constellations blink in yellow tremeloes:
each chalice, a reflecting nothing, shows
a universe above the grief profound.

To sorrow's purple contradictory,
diaphanous and polished, thus I see
my crystal-ware of poems, cool and pure:

world-nebula of melted sentiments,
forged into scintillating thought. I sense
of one God everywhere the signature.

2

The stone lies there, beside the crooked tree
that stands next to the path, making its way
downhill. A year ago I did convey
it to the ground and in vague reverie

I thought: "What I do bears analogy
to pharaoh; we ask with the same dismay:
all die: am I not, who I am today
and was and will be in eternity?"

I knelt, my head moved closer to the stone;
in falling darkness it had slowly grown,
an ancient monument before me set.

Above it a small star. I thought: "Its light
departed in the days of Ramses' might."
I felt the pharaoh and I had met.

3

I'm Brahman. But we are without a maid.
Around the house there's one thing I can do:
I fill the waterjug and have no clue
hence always spill and have the cloth mislaid.

She says this work is to a man taboo.
And I feel helpless and to myself tirade
when she has my own clumsiness repaid
by serving me the tasty, steamy stew.

And I revered but Him, who does unfold
in magic of the world, of art and knowledge:

when she does enter with my plate of porridge
and I her wrinkled fingertips behold,

my adoration suddenly expands
from Sun, Bach, Kant to her old callous hands.

4

An apiarist, I send my thoughts to air,
to swarm the nightly sky when its ablaze
with cosmic flowers. Their glittering bouquets
make bud the Giant Soul and visions glare.

I gather, as Im curiously ensnared
by each, their essence with which I inlay
my soul, a honey-comb, so it displays
the fragrant rose of Berenice's Hair.

My love directs their semi-conscious flight
to starry beds that verge our galaxy,
my peacock-butterfly, my nightly chapel:

they carry home their load from nebulae
and fashion with my words, supple and white
my verses, cell next to starlit cell.

Andreas van der Mouw (1863-1919)

Translated from Dutch by Remco van der Zwaag

by Remco van der Zwaag, 2002

 

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5

Carp fishing

The trees have lost their shades of brown and green:
Dark ghosts against a city-lighted sky.
I catch a glimpse of bats zigzagging by
And hear mosquitoes buzzing past unseen.

The pond is quiet, like a blackened screen.
Above my line hovers a dragonfly.
Guided by a silent seeking sonar cry
A flashing shadow grabs it from the scene.

A string of bubbles surfaces, quite near
The bait. A late train passes by. I hear
Its distant thunder running through the glade,

When, like a whale, the carp performs a flip
And beats the water with its tail fin whip,
Falls back - a splash and then the ripples fade.

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6

Felix

It's Sunday morning, twelve o'clock. I wake
up. Felix lifts his head. We rise and go
downstairs. He circles at my feet. I make
his breakfast, then switch on the stereo.

The pond is thinly covered by a sheet
of ice. Vivaldi's Winter fills the room.
I turn the fountain on. The music's beat
directs its trickle. Felix starts to groom.

A stoneware frog observes the water's fight
to free the spout while Felix flaps outside.
He kneels to drink and keeps the birds in sight.
Too cold! His head jerks back. He turns to hide.

The fountain springs to life. I stand and look
at it, then take up brunch and bring my book.

by Remco van der Zwaag, 2002