May 2020

Jan Kooistra was the RIXT poet of the  month May 2020. You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here. The translation of one of them – ‘the lay of the land’ – is published below.

Photo: Geart Tigchelaar

the lay of the land

that a girl sits in front of a shot window
softly crying in a room
that used to be a home
that a woman looks at that girl
through the holes in the wall
and feels her child’s hunger pains
that is the lay of the land

that a primal forest is transformed
into a wasteland in a day or ten
and fishes drown in plastics and pesticides
that a petty thief is thrown into jail
while a big-time crook lives in pomp and
circumstance and lays down the law
that is the lay of the land

that a virus prowls the streets
like a hungry wolf, laps up millions
and leaves us sheepishly paralysed
that air and sky become fresh and bright again
animals dare to roam grounds long seceded
leaving us dumbstruck and unenlightened
that is the lay of the land

that we’ll be flying again to luxurious
places for a few crappy cents across

dying oceans and crowded slums
that a wistful writer stares out of
his window at the faraway hills
turns around, forges that one sentence
that is the lay of the land

© Jan Kooistra
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

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