The Hunger in Plain View by Ester Naomi Perquin



Let this winter pass into another winter.
No more stately brooding. No bluebird’s eggs.
No driven mating or well-built nests.
I want the frost to blast the ground forever
with every seed or shoot that it conceals.

Leave streets as gray as winter has them.
The muddy slush of butchered days,
two blue mittens where the ice was thin.
The lambs are more than I can take.

Nothing worse than the rank excess
of spring exploding into growth.
Below it ice is silencing a son.

Amid this life, he doesn’t count.
No sunlight strong enough to draw him up.

No springtime longs to seek him out



Yeah her across the road had two boyfriends on the go at once so you’d see him peering through the curtains at number ten ’cause he never wants to miss a thing now his wife has got that leg and their daughter who lives upstairs never lifts a finger though that son-in-law is nice enough too nice really but hardly ever home no wonder the drunk from next door tries his hand now and then and the Christian lady from number seven ticks him off even if everybody admit it now worships in their own way that’s what the nice gay boy from number three said the other day when we were standing there with that guy with the dogs that belong to the lady from number four who can’t have kids because of her plumbing but God you know me I always say you’re better off just keeping it to yourself—


You Are the Wrong Man

You always were the wrong man
and you, incontrovertibly, are the wrong man still.

I don’t like love and never have.
I’ve stayed with you because I am so sure of it.

All that staring into someone else’s eyes, someone
who always has to do something, to go away, to move.

With you I knew from day one
that it wouldn’t work, that after a couple of evenings
of well-intentioned conversation, fumbling by full moon,
it would stop. And it did.

(It stopped, it kept stopping, less dangerous
by the day, more indifferent, more tenacious.)

Someone else, that’s: Paris, real life,
nights, the people in ads, hell.

Maybe I do love you, as long as I don’t stop
meaning it as something inalienable,
as long as I can keep it safe and well.


If You Lose Me

Start by making casual inquiries on the platforms, I love trains,
I like getting lost, ask if anyone’s seen me, fill out forms
saying what I’m wearing, what I look like.

Then find a photo—use the one on the beach that flatters
my nose—and pin my face up on countless
corners, in bars I have never been to
(you would stake your life on it).

If it takes too long, if you can’t sleep at night without my turning,
sighing or getting up, having to jot down words
to make sure I don’t forget them,

if you do sleep but aren’t woken by my sudden stuttering
laugh (I was dreaming something I’ve forgotten,
that faded but was so funny),

you can spend months anxiously asking complete strangers
if they’ve seen me or spoken to me, and when,
are they sure, what did I say and what did I
keep to myself, was I lying back then—

Afterwards you can slowly forget the color of my hair and eyes,
the way I always swore in German and cooked pasta
to mush, how I could talk for no reason
in the gaps you left

and later still you get over it completely: the way I usually
couldn’t wait to let go of your hand when walking
beside you, invariably wanted to stay at parties
for just one more hour and ended up
disappearing too.


The Hunger in Plain View
Ester Naomi Perquin, David Colmer (Trans.)
White Pine Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-945680-05-2


Ester Naomi Perquin grew up in the Dutch province of Zeeland but has lived in Rotterdam for most of her adult life. Notably, she put herself through creative writing school by working as a prison guard for four years and draws on this experience often in her work. Perquin published her first collection of poetry Napkins at Half Mast (2007) at the age of twenty-seven and has published two more collections since: In the Name of the Other (2009) and Cell Inspections (2012). Her fourth collection, Multiple Absence, will be published this year. From 2011 to 2013 she was the poet laureate of Rotterdam. Her poetry has been very well received and she has won prizes for all of her books, including the Netherlands’ most prestigious prize for a single collection, the VSB Poetry Prize, for Cell Inspections.

David Colmer is an Australian writer and translator who lives in Amsterdam and is specialized in Dutch-language literature—novels and children’s books as well as poetry. He has won many translation awards, including major Dutch and Australian prizes for his body of work, the IMPAC-Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, both with novelist Gerbrand Bakker. In 2014, Even Now, his translation of a selection of the poetry of Hugo Claus, was shortlisted for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation.

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