The Enclosed Garden
Where is the entrance to the garden surrounded
by a gate so tall that no one
could simply step over it?
Was the square of grass planted more as an idea
of nature than as a garden
and perhaps a lush sight when seen
from the high windows surrounding the Valeriusplein
if your eyes glaze over? I’m looking for a place
to sit but in front of the benches
lie pools of water, ankle deep.
The water mirrors a city
a night absorbed by itself.
On the edge of the encircled grass
stand little houses sunken dreams
of architects of the Amsterdamse School.
Blonde hair is made blonder combed
frizzless by a tall young man.
Tirelessly he straightens the lifeless
locks and from a milkshake pink bottle
he squeezes a soothing smoothie
for an unleashed defining effect.
Construction workers walk through the soggy grass
to an apartment tower opposite a four-story
home that seems to be sinking
into the waxing shadow of the colossus.
Rooftop with jacuzzi it says
on the house in fat optimistic yellow writing
that tries to talk back
at the bewildering darkness
which raised up by cranes,
plunges the square into silence. Hello?
Planks rest in a hammock. A hand
clamps onto one of the ropes. Is this what is
keeping the balance of this sagging square?
Construction is also doing nothing for a long time and hoping
that the waiting will come to an end of its own accord.
Two men in orange jumpsuits tuck
the planks into a fuzzy pink blanket.
Are they storing thoughts that shouldn’t escape
under their helmets or are they protecting themselves
from sagging roof terraces and plummeting
jacuzzis? The planks stay put.
There used to be a clinic here that you could always turn to
if your thoughts deserted you. It was so lush
that going crazy wasn’t forbidding.
I once brought a poet there
that saw stars falling in his head
like snow flakes that don’t repeat themselves.
Would the people signing up for a life
with high-grade lifestyle services all forms
of high-end care and extensive facilities
in the field of wellness know that the snow seeers
used to roam here? Will they emerge from the steam
of the infrared sauna? Interested?
Sign up using the form below.
Narrow balconies shape like stacks of duplo
a relievo that pulls my gaze from pale purple
to pale purple parasol. Could they have been red
once handed out in the heat of summer
by somebody that offered shade like flowers
underneath which we ate and drank together?
Revved up mopeds open up a distance.
I step aside for a young man engrossed
in a conversation his phone no baby
like a slice of pizza at his lips no baby no way
believe me all the curtains are closed
don’t you trust me but it’s still light out
in the eternal Woutertje Pietersestraat.
The balconies look out onto a field
that doesn’t want to look like a garden with a fence
around it locked up. Not a child in sight.
A full white fungus droops
under a balcony white porcelain
a round shape like a fetus that is yet
to become a fetus or am I projecting? I don’t
want any more children do I a liquid form
a wave or meandering script and a drawing
of a painting of a finger in a circle a door bell
eye with an iris welling up in a tear
a thick dropping tearing up tear drop.
A woman tears past on a mobility scooter
in the direction of patisserie Rahmouni where crystal
chandeliers bathe the space in a clear
yet somehow soft light.
I can order a type of tea called Carefree.
Flan de Huevo
The Snickers Cake
Pastel De Nata.
Or shall I enter on the other side at the dried out
palm trees? Children are sitting in a circle here.
A boy up against the window forms the letter o
in the haze of his breath o when will they come and get me.
I think I recognise something
in the grocery cart on the sidewalk
a banana peel coffee cups
and pack of cookies torn open.
When I throw a tissue into the cart
I don’t know if I’m contributing
or taking something away. Time seems to halt.
in the streets where movements repeat themselves
o when will they come and get me.
Shiny green foil covers the stone facade
around windows and a door to a balcony
with a very narrow chair.
The first floor of the M.H. Trompstraat
is somewhere between earth and heaven
and the bright color seems to make it float
between the endless rows of brick
that swallow the street or give it
a face because who knows, it’s possible
that the matter we’re made of devours us.
The green makes visible how low the ceiling really is
under which people live or could this be a map
of a plan that never came to fruition
turned inside out and hurled at the wall?
A tall man shrouded by a djellaba
of soft grey teddy fleece that covers his feet
floats by a pink bike with a basket at the steering wheel
just a touch too small to fit an apple in.
In the shiny green tree shapes are reflected
as if they were watered down interrupted
by the singing of a boy that is
bent over in a stroller. He has to bend down
to avoid hitting his head on the cover
opened halfway. He loudly sings halla lalala halla.
Halla lalala halla hands on his knees
as if someone ordered him to do so.
Hello says his mother. Hel. Lo.
Upright the boy pounds the cover open
and breathes deeply to let out a waterfall of
clattering a-sounds in a stream
HALLA LALA HALÁ! HALLA LALA HALÁ!
And before I know it I’m singing along the lala-sound
falling out of me like water that knows where it’s
headed and it’s as if I’m encircled
by the flickering green here
by cries that celebrate life itself
and the possibility to share something
have found a place to stay
until the mother snaps at me: Hell-oh.
Hello I mumble back.
Where is the entrance to the interior playground?
Crackers are handed out to thigh-high children .
They dance around with them.
One child is buckled into a high chair.
With reddened cheeks she refuses
to eat - unable to escape.
Two children are picking their noses
as each other’s mirror image. A woman opens
a book to read to the children
that are crowding around the story.
No one waves back.
I am going places I say to myself
even if only along a line
that has been dotted out for me
in the shape of the Hoofdweg or am I forming this line
from directions thoughts events
and everything that could not flow in this direction
thoughts nobody had things
that are yet or will never happen
am I buckled into a tower
or am I walking here entirely freely
past the identical house layers?
Through each window I see another life
stained glass here sheets of flowers
that nature does not know there.
In every possibility a new beginning
and whether I am deluding myself to escape
from the linear we’ll never know
and perhaps in not-knowing resides
precisely the freedom I need.
In elk raam zie ik een ander leven
hier glas-in-lood daar folie met bloemen
die de natuur niet kent.
In elke mogelijkheid een nieuw begin
en of ik dit mezelf wijsmaak om te ontsnappen
aan de rechtlijnigheid zullen we nooit weten
en wellicht schuilt in het niet-weten
precies de vrijheid die ik nodig heb.
Many ghost drivers end up on the wrong lane
through using an exit as a driveway but
about half of all cases involve people
turning around on the highway, be it directly,
be it via a parking lot or a gas station,
sometimes in order to avoid a traffic jam. Most of the time
the ghost driver corrects his behavior on time.*
I hear and I know:
I am a ghost driver in life
that demands linearity and remains linear
or should I make the line more my own?
I am going places after all
and the line might not be anything more
than the shortest distance between two points.
Yoko Ono knew what to do with a line
Draw a line with yourself
Go on drawing until you disappear *
that has a vanishing point
or would that be a moment.
What would Hendrik Wijdeveld think
who gave the Hoofdweg its face/ identity? gave faces
of the Christmas trees and garlands the glitter
that swarms like wild bees between the honeycombs?
And I don’t know if I’m relieved
when I walk back and cannot follow a line
through the Surinameplein anymore through the traffic
that is whipping in each direction.
On a small road shoulder I
halt. Wild rocket around my feet,
Is this the entrance?
A garden opening.
*quotes from essay Radna Rumping
Maria Barnas about the poem - When I went to look at the works of art, I saw different kinds of enclosed greenery in the various places I visited. I wanted to see if I could connect them in the poem so that a more spacious, perhaps more dreamy garden would emerge. The earlier poem The Borderless Square and The Enclosed Garden now form a diptych.