by Cees Nooteboom
Translated by Herlinde Spahr and Leonard Nathan
It takes so little:
An afternoon of burnished hours
that will not fit together
and himself broken up by himself
sitting in various chairs
with almost everywhere a soul or a body.
In one part of the room is night.
In another, time past, vacation and war.
On the ceiling the sea touches the shining beach,
and no hand that controls all this,
no equerry, no computer,
only forever the same self, selfsame he,
someone, somebody scattered,
the uncollected man in converse with himself,
dreaming and thinking
Someone who was going to eat and sleep later.
Someone with a watch and shoes.
Someone who left.
Someone who was going to leave.
Someone who stayed on for a while.
This poem is a meditation on our fragmented experiences leading to one's uncollected identity. Many of us can reconstruct fragments of lives lived intensely, and now lost, crystallized in memory or in the detail of many landscapes or encounters in life. Perhaps we leave a part of our soul in the animate and inanimate things we are intimately connected.
Cees Nooteboom (1931-) is the best known Dutch author, known mostly for his novels (the only novel I have with me is 'The following Story') and travel writing. He has been on the list of potential Nobel Prize winners for a long time.