Tuesday Poem

at the rowing course, ghent

see how my father sets out on the water in a small boat
he rows with steady strokes and in between

is silence, he stirs the water with his oars
making waves that reach the banks later

there where I’ve left already, I’m cycling along the waterside
I call out that his speed is seven and a half knots per hour

he’s got his back to my view, he sees
where we were, I see what’s ahead, he’s wearing

a kyrgyz hat, not a real one but something made of
faded cotton, for the wind is too strong, he says

too strong for a hat, and on his feet he’s wearing
galoshes that belonged to his father-in-law

they stay in place, he says, in case he ends up
in the deep-end after all, he loved the water, the way he

loved my mother for in the middle of the sea
she was the only thing missing, he let slip

one day, and what about us, I thought and waved
goodbye, he couldn’t wave back, I called

but he couldn’t hear me, he was rowing and it looked
so effortless for him, slowly he fulfilled

his earthly duties while looking at me, on the shore,
now and then, he was moved, perhaps, but from here

I couldn’t tell, it may just as well have been
a game whose rules I didn’t know

and I thought I could leave him there, the water
understood him and carried him back to front

back to the shore

Miriam Van hee
from ook hier valt het licht
(translation by Judith Wilkinson)