Poetry at Sangam



Man in the water by Erik Lindner

Translated by Francis R. Jones

An armless woman is standing by the lake
outside the saucer spaceship of a teahouse
you imagine how she lifted up her arms
and tossed them flying into the sky
the woman looks at you open-mouthed
you stretch towards your two arms through the water
you lost your wedding ring in the rose garden
your wristwatch always runs an hour fast

on the fallen clump of trees across the water
you see birds’ nests and black beetles
a duck swims slowly towards you
turns its beak and you see its eye
in which the lake is round and blue
your legs float across the pond’s soft shallows
over ooze and wisps of mud
the water is cold your coat swells out
and undulates along the ripples of your fall
the duck quacks and veers away from you
the tree branches rock on the waterline

day is breaking the light is rising
when the woman stoops to the water
drinks the lake dry with her open mouth
you’re lying in a hollow your hands in the mud
you lift your chest and slowly stretch
you pull your hands out of the sludge with a plop
and place them just above her armpits
where her arms used to be
her hair is short her breasts are small
the stone feels warm her neck unblemished

and you feel her strength to lift you up
her will to pull you out of the earth
and throw you high into the sky
towards the clouds the planets the sun
the milky way the dust of stars
right through the vowels of your name
to erase the roundabout ways you took
before the summer you arrived on earth
a wind blew up that didn’t last long
and the blossom landed between the corn.
At ‘Lone Funerals’ in Amsterdam, held for those who die without friends or relatives, a poet reads a specially-written poem. This poem commemorates a Lithuanian man who drowned in the lake by the Blue Teahouse in the Vondelpark.