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Paul Demets: Unstirring Leaves
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© Stephan Vanfleteren
© Stephan Vanfleteren © Stephan Vanfleteren
Friday Verses
literature

Paul Demets: Unstirring Leaves

This week's Friday Verses are written by Paul Demets. We translated Bladstilte (Unstirring Leaves). This poem was first published in Dutch in Het Liegend Konijn, a magazine for contemporary Dutch-language poetry.

Paul Demets (b. 1966, Deinze) is a poet, lectures at the Ghent School of Arts, teaches education at the University of Ghent, and reviews poetry for the daily De Standaard and the poetry magazines Awater and Poëziekrant. He made his debut in 1999 with the poetry collection De papegaaienziekte (The Parrot Disease, Meulenhoff), for which he was nominated for the 1999 C. Buddingh’ Prize and in 2001 received the Literary Prize of the Province of East Flanders.

Following this, he published the bibliophile collection Vrees voor het bloemstuk (Fear of Flower Arrangement, Druksel, 2002). In 2011 he published the collection De bloedplek (The Bloodstain, De Bezige Bij), for which he was awarded the 2012 Herman de Coninck Prize. The poem ‘Zonnehemel’ (Sunny Sky) from this collection was voted the favourite poem of the year by the public. In 2018 he published the collection De klaverknoop (The Clover Knot, De Bezige Bij), which was nominated for the Herman de Coninck Prize and the Paul Snoek Prize. At the end of this year, he will conclude his appointment as the rural poet of the Province of East Flanders (2016-2019).

Unstirring Leaves

Hand of mine, don’t let me go.
Leaf that hangs down from its branch
and bends with the wind. Veins

full of pigment. Time spills on the surface.
Wipe the still wet hair out of the face
of the light and cover me with shame.

You’ve been described so often. Shade
my forehead when I look into the sun
and my darkness slowly dissolves

when you reach for it. Form that depends
on a form. Be nothing, hand of mine,
but unstirring leaves in a wood. The restrained

cry of a tree before it is uprooted.
Scarcely a sound from the waving.
Hand of mine, don’t let me go.

(Dutch version below the photo)

Bladstilte

Hand van mij, laat mij niet los.
Blad dat afhangt van zijn tak
en meebuigt met de wind. Nerven

vol pigment. De tijd morst op het oppervlak.
Veeg de nog natte haren uit het gezicht
van het licht en bedek mij met schaamte.

Je bent zo vaak beschreven. Schaduw
mijn voorhoofd als ik in de zon kijk
en mijn donkerte zich langzaam oplost

als je naar haar reikt. Vorm die afhangt
van een vorm. Niets zijn, hand van mij,
dan bladstilte in een bos. De ingehouden

schreeuw van de boom voor hij ontworteld
wordt. Nauwelijks geluid van het wuiven.
Hand van mij, laat mij niet los.

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