Thursday, August 22, 1996



I'm mulling Bert Schierbeek's 
Een Plek, in Tirade, vol. 32,
an essay on homesickness 
and lost youth, circa 1988,
in translation. What is lost?
Besides the words themselves?
But I don't understand Dutch
so this is all supposition.
What is homesickness? 
You left that place armed 
with a wooden sword 
and a flask of cold tea. 
Armed unto the road, 
you were, it was not negotiable. 
You had to fight for it. The distance.
A boy running away from home.
This place was never the place,
but places where the heart wanders off to.
The house of language 
is the same everywhere 
said Faulkner. A prison
of hypnotic rhythms, and cadence.
I would tell you more 
but I am not authorized, and
I can't tell you where Bert's words 
leave off, and mine begin. it's like that.
There are few gods left to contend with.
Think of transposition. Bert said:
The Beat Generation had to leave,
they had to go on the open road 
looking for a piece of lost America. 
A downtrodden culture. 
Looking for their own roots 
with their heads in the clouds, 
they were homesick for a place 
they made it for us, said Miller, in Paris. 
Hell, and the front door of paradise open. 
America is a dream of displaced Europeans, 
and the curious vagueness 
of the literature of place.
What is home, asked the traveler.
I am stranded no matter where I go.
I am homesick on both sides of the world.
it's an equal-opportunuty thing.

22 Aug., 1996?  some time before Aug 24.
slightly rev. 10/28/2015

‘Bert Schierbeek Een plek’ In: Tirade. Jaargang 32 

Thursday, August 15, 1996



Persistent whispering of cottonwoods 
praying for rain in the desert, 
trick the air into believing 
the deluge has come.
This far below sea level, 
the clouds dump torrents upon us. 
The street becomes rivulets 
weeping into the River Amstel.
The cottonwoods' promise 
is answered a hundredfold 
and in biblical proportions.
But this is an alien land, 
no sundance for the tree of life 
this far north from the plains 
of the Lakota Sioux.
No sun, for that matter.

Everyone complains 
that God has stolen summer.
Perhaps it's because on this continent,
they've forgotten how to dance to the sun. 
I read that Baal was the god of rain.
I thought he was the sun god.
I am reminded that Mesopotamia
wasn't always a desert.
But something is brewing.
The dust devils are restless.
The dry wadis channel flash floods
into standing waves, cresting at 6 feet,
sweeping entire villages out to sea. 
The streets are flooded in Amsterdam,
but I am safe here, below sea level,
in the canals of Amsterdam.
I am dancing in the rain,
dancing for the sun.

15 August 1996
transcribed and slightly edited 24 Oct., 2015


While looking in his wife's mirror
I admire myself, in his eyes? Or mine?
He is a photographer who tries to capture
the intangible soul behind the eyes,
but never will. He lives in a flat
that was once a bank vault, 
with thick impenetrable walls.
It's appropriate that he lives

next door to the YabYum Bordello
I'm just a housesitter with benefits.
There must be something in the air,
for tonight, even the luna moths circle 

the light leaking from the YabYum Bordello.
I'm watching Vanya on 42nd St., again,
suffering from an acute lack of sleep,
age is a creeping mirror in the darkness.
Under the cover of night, men queue up, 

the neon sign flashes, in red and gold,
a door slams, they enter slowly
and push back the thought 
of encroaching old age, 
threading denial with their cocks. 
A momentary respite. While I
live like a nun above the rooftops,
the vault of sky, my witness.
Sometimes it seems the gables 
shift and sway liike tall ships.
Any port in a storm, says
the lonely cry of a seagull.
who patrols the YabYum sign,
with folded wings so like a wimple.

15 August 1996
transcribed and edited 24 Oct., 2015