Ramsey Nasr — I wish I was two citizens (then I could live together)

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and this is my poem, come on in

don’t be afraid, ignore the echo

let us begin in emptiness

welcome to my crater of light

 

once we gathered, you and I, remember

revived by the cool gleam of a rummer

our shadows like finest crystal

our fame as glancing as the light that falls

on a letter read by a woman becalmed

 

we were gold dusted

pale, almost translucent with love

lowering our eyes before each other

 

and we loved to do penance

if someone asked how we were

we answered truthfully

ashamed to our boots, sir

firmly convinced

that we ourselves had scourged

our very own lord

and crucified him personally

the certainty of the apocalypse

was branded on our retinas

 

what happened in the few short centuries

we looked the other way?

 

I hoped to show you a fatherland

formal, pure and with sustained metaphors

moulding a poem about us, but when I began

I had to look on while one nation

spontaneously wiped out the other

like two irreconcilable republics

 

how did we move so fast from humble to rude

from a glimmer to an omnipresent shrieking crew?

how could careful caterpillars give rise to this hummer tribe?

 

they say: because god disappeared – our father

had decided to make himself even more invisible

to see if it was possible, no, it wasn’t

and god was gone

and in this still-life with absentee

the astonished netherlands now stood

mouths full of mortality

full of frivolity and highly regarded death wish

 

all their vanity had been revealed as vanity

the gleam of them, the dust they embraced

the palace of mirrors people once took for eternity

had been declared unfit for habitation

the frost crackled on their souls

 

and out of that gap we were born

kevin, ramsey, dunya, dagmar, roman and charity

appearing as if by magic

bungee-jumping, with inflatable orange hammers

screaming and screeching and anti-depressive

or gang-banged in silence for a breezer

a big welcome to the nether regions

 

yes, that’s what you get, this is what’s left

when you ram the guilt out of our bodies

we fill the hole with gleaming emptiness

 

between psalm singing and pill popping

between gold and bling

I found a country where everything must go

 

this land is the revenge of the forefathers

like an iconoclastic fury they rage on in us

but it exists – like the connection between

burkas and kids’ padded bikinis exists

between buttermilk and binge drinking:

concave and convex our centuries slide together

 

cancelling each other out is our strength

our nature strives for emptiness

like a cyclops longs for depth

 

you see, I wanted to show you a fatherland

not this desert of infinite freedom

but this is where we live

and how beautiful it would be

if someone one day like a second-hand deity

could build a country rhyme by rhyme

for this nation that misses its nation

 

here of all places, in the open pit of our heart

we can achieve something great

a poem’s a start

 

Ramsey Nasr

Ramsey Nasr was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In addition to being a prize-winning author of poetry, essays, dramas, he is also a gifted film and theatre actor.

In 2009, Ramsey Nasr was voted Poet Laureate of the Netherlands. In 2000, he was the winner of the Hugues C. Pernath Prize. In 2006 Ramsey Nasr was awarded the honorary Journalist for Peace prize by the Humanistisch Vredesberaad (Dutch Humanistic Peace Council).

On January 28 2009, Ramsey Nasr was voted Dutch poet laureate for a term of four years, partly on the basis of the above poem. The title refers to Spleen, a famous poem by the Dutch poet Godfried Bomans. It goes something like this: “I sit here in the window box / to watch the boring weather. / I wish I was two little dogs, / then I could play together.”

 

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