High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Delphine Lecompte: Death Snooze and the Hoe
© Koen Broos
© Koen Broos © Koen Broos
Friday Verses

Delphine Lecompte: Death Snooze and the Hoe

This week's Friday Verses are written by Delphine Lecompte. We translated Dutje de dood en de schoffel (Death Snooze and the Hoe). This poem first appeared in Dutch in Het Liegend Konijn, a magazine for contemporary Dutch-language poetry.

Delphine Lecompte (Ghent, b. 1978) made her debut in English with the novel Kittens in the Boiler. In 2009 she published her first book in Dutch, De dieren in mij (The Creatures in Me), which won the 2010 Cees Buddingh’ Prize. It was followed in quick succession by a series of bulky, wild, baroque volumes, including Blinde gedichten (Blind Poems), De baldadige walvis (The Rowdy Whale), Western and Vrolijke verwoesting (Cheerful Devastation). The Best of Delphine Lecompte appeared in 2018. In early 2021 she produced her first collection of stories, Beschermvrouwe van de verschoppelingen (Protectress of the Outcasts).

Death Snooze and the Hoe

During my afternoon snooze I encounter death
In the next room the former lorry-driver is watching
a slow film
About a coarse, naïve guy who can gamble without becoming addicted
I know I can opt to go along with death
But I decide to wake myself up, the roller blinds are dirty
And outside people are walking around who try to set me on fire and go unpunished,
Drag me across gravel, dig into the remains with a hoe, and finally spit.

I get up and watch the end of the slow film with him, the dénouement is a damp squib.
I say to the former lorry-driver: ‘Being on the point
Of falling, there’s a word for it but I’ve forgotten it.’
The former lorry-driver says: ‘Your life is passing.
Even though you’re sweet to me or too often concerned with strange words, it’s still passing
And it won’t have amounted to anything. Would you like cod tonight?’

We are silent because we have betrayed all our demons and secrets to each other
During the first month of our acquaintance,
we’d done with it
We thought something would be left, a joke
here and there,
A burlesque family myth to be repeated
again and again
But we pounded each other to exhaustion with
the monsters and rages
I more monsters, he more long-drawn-out rages.

The window is open and we listen to the passing adolescents
Who confuse Napoleon and Alexander the Great
They are on the point of selling their souls to
fiendish tinkers and glossy brokers
With pseudo-primitive ponytails and breathlessly clawing mothers
I have a mother, she visited me yesterday with a map of the world

She pointed to Madagascar and said: ‘When I was ten
I made four hundred
Gynaecologists melt in a fire station. Don’t ask me how.’

I did not ask her how, she wore a new blue dress
With white piddocks on the hem, and red kookaburras on the neckline
I take a shower and think again of death: a tongue,
A dice, a bridge, a whispering, a badminton set,
a wild boar
He was neither seductive nor cajoling, he was as
colourless as an umbrella-salesman
In his father’s shop, the shop that bears his father’s name.

I dry myself off and say to my reflection: ‘Beet, mare,
owl, incest, straw.’
If you say it often enough it’ll bring you luck in autumn
That is rural superstition and it has never yet let me down
The former lorry-driver kneads my vagina and says bitterly:
‘When my daughter was big, I took her to a special
clothes’ shop
But she’s forgotten all about it. She’s also forgotten that I drove to Barcelona
To intimidate her holiday sweetheart with a cosh.
I ate squid for the first time there
And I immediately got food poisoning. She was slim again by then, my daughter.’
We get a breath of fresh air and look at the moon in the park
Twelve rock-hard people have ridden roughshod over the moon
And five hundred bleating citizens have sealed the fate of the arrogant, unrepentant Socrates
I say to the former lorry-driver: ‘Kiss me beneath the moon, I’m afraid.’
He kisses me and I taste the squid and the cosh of long ago
We are on the point of falling like domino pieces.

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