Uit: Prayer for the Living
We entered the town at sunset. We went from house to house. Most of the roofs were shattered, the walls blown apart. Everything was run-down and deserted. The town quivered with death. The world was at the perfection of chaos. Gunrunners lived off the desolation. It was as expected.
The little godfathers who were in control raided the food brought for us. They sabotaged the airlifts and the relief aid. They shared the food among themselves and members of their clan.
We no longer cared. I had gone without food for three weeks.
I feed on the air and on my quest. Every day, as I grow thinner, I see more things about me. I see the dead. I see those who have died of starvation. The dead are happier than we are, living their luminous lives as if nothing has happened. They are more alive than us. They are everywhere.
The hungrier I become, the more I see them. I see my old friends who have died before me, among a chorus of flies. They feed on the light of the air.
They look at us, who are living, with pity and compassion. I suppose this is what the white ones cannot understand when they come with their television cameras and their aid.
They expect to see us weeping. Instead they see us staring at them with a bulging placidity in our eyes. We do not beg. Maybe they are secretly horrified that we are not afraid of dying this way.
But after three weeks of hunger the mind no longer notices. One is more dead than alive. It is the soul wanting to leave that suffers. It suffers because of the body’s tenacity.
We should have come into the town at dawn.
In the town everyone had died. The horses and the cows and the goats too. I could say that the air stank of death, but that wouldn’t be true. It stank of rancid butter and poisoned heat and raw sewage and flowers.
The only people who weren’t dead were the dead. They were joyful and they sang lovely songs in low enchanted voices. They carried on their familiar lives.
The soldiers fought eternally. It didn’t matter to them how many died. All that mattered was how they managed the grim mathematics of war. All they cared about was winning the most important battle of all, control of this fabulous graveyard, this once beautiful and civilized land.”
Mooie zeldzame wilg
Soms na een herfststorm,
wanneer de lucht stil en geveegd is,
loop ik door de tuin en tel
de afgebroken takken.
Alleen de wilg toont geen verandering.
Ik kijk er lang met bewondering naar:
het ziet er niet altijd zo mooi uit
wanneer de buigzaamheid overleeft.
Vertaald door Frans Roumen