Maaike Rijntjes: I can serve you the country
Eighteen young writers from Flanders and the Netherlands have brought nineteenth-century artefacts from the Rijksmuseum to life. They wrote their stories in response to the question: what do you see when you look at these objects through the lens of impending doom? We join Maaike Rijntjes as they look at a plate of the Dutch province of Overijssel. ‘Does my story not ease your hunger?’
Plate decorated with a Netherlandish province (Overijssel), Anonymous © Rijksmuseum Collection, Amsterdam
I can serve you the country
are you hungry?
i am hungry.
sometimes I dream of a slice of apple pie.
whenever I try to pick it up,
it floats a little further away
you can bite through fingers
as if they are roots.
roots need fungi to grow
something that dies then rots in the ground
in order to live.
this is history repeating itself
an empty plate. an empty circle.
come, come closer.
are you scared?
don’t be scared.
as my parents would say whenever it rained:
you’re not going to melt.
let me tell you another story.
a fairy tale: a creation. a declaration.
people were made of light, radiant as gods.
they lived off air and learned all about nature,
until they forgot about the ones up there.
this angered the gods.
they made flowers breathe dragons
fire rain down.
then they made new people,
out of mud.
out of grain.
they had to learn to live off the land.
does my story not ease your hunger?
come sit beside me.
lay your tired head on my shoulder.
my grandparents owned
a glass cage full of fine china
that they never ate off.
as if they could still live
are you dizzy?
me too. for days now.
come, give me your hand.
I can serve you the mud.
I’ll cut off the crusts,
chop it into quarters.
just imagine it’s something you do like.
warm apple pie.
don’t be scared. the hunger will pass.
do you know what a human is made of?