Jan Arends

Lunch Break Poems

a selection, translated by Donald Gardner

Lunchpauzegedichten (Lunch Break Poems) — Jan Arends

(p 5, Wie)

For Gerrit Kouwenaar

If
you draw
a tree
you
reveal
knowledge.

A
tree
is no language.

A
drawn tree
is language.

An
axe
turns a tree
into wood.

Therefore
a chopped-down
tree
is an act
of language.

Everything
that says
that the
tree exists
is
language.


(p 9, De winter)

Winter
is goodness

The seclusion
of the day
when it’s evening.

And
looking
into the tree
for the knowledge
that you know.

The goodness
of warmth.

The goodness
of fire.

It
is winter
and in my life
it looks out on
former days.

It is good
that it is winter.

If you
love winter
you should not
shrink from death.


(p 17, Je kunt)

You can’t
go back
to the judge.

The judge
is dead.

Evil
has been spoken.

Evil
is repeated.

Evil
has become law.

Evil
is untrue.

Only
sorrow
is true.

You can’t
go back
to the judge.

The judge
who said it
is dead.


(p 18, Als)

If
people
point at me
it’s not because
of my hunchback.

I don’t have
a hunchback.

Why then
do people
point at me?

I bear
an invisible sign
of shame.

I bear
a stigma.


(p 20, Het)

It
is the stigma
that makes you ill.

I
have come
to be with you
in the loony bin
to do
what I have
always done.

Let
you see
a stinking wound.

Make
visible
the stigma
that I bear.


(p 30, Ik)

I
write poems
like thin trees.

Who
can speak so
meagrely
with language
as I do?

Maybe
my father
was stingy
with his seed.

I have
never
known him
that man.

I have
never
heard a real word
that didn’t cause pain.

To write
about pain
you only
need
a few words.


(P 39, Ik ben)

I’m fifty
years old
and I’m not
a nice man

I don’t
have a wife
or any offspring
and I’ve jerked off
plenty of times.

That’s
how I smear
my bread.

It
stinks
of me.

Where I go
I bring
misery.

Maybe
I’ll visit you
tomorrow
with an axe.

But
don’t be
scared
I’m god.


For more information about Jan Arends or Lunch Break Poems, please visit the Lebowski Agency website.


© Eddy de Jongh

Jan Arends (1925–1974) was raised in a Catholic care home and went on to lead a turbulent life, stumbling from one short-lived job to the next. All the while he wrote poems and stories that focused on his battles with officialdom and the medical establishment. He committed suicide in 1974, days before the publication of his final collection of poems Lunchpauzegedichten (Lunch Break Poems). He soon became a cult figure whose work has since been rediscovered by generation after generation. Keefman has achieved classic status and is now in its eleventh edition.

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