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ROEL VERTOV

 

 

Roel Vertov is a writer and musician living in The Netherlands. His poems have appeared in Dutch magazines, and in English he’s previously published in Plume and Kestrel. He lives with his wife and daughter in a restored bridge house with their Flemish rabbit, Jet. For more on Roel’s work, see www.roelvertov.com

 

 

 

Soft Drugs on Architecture Day

 

 

The girls from Beirut smoke shisha

            in Rotterdam’s Schouwburgplein, crowds

pouring from the Pathé cinema with laughter

            that doesn’t suit the outside world.

 

Tourists unfold their maps and snap

            photographs of the postwar landscape

well aware of the Nazis but oblivious

            to places like Java, Sumatra—

 

the revolution that carved a small chapter

            into the history of empire.

What do we learn when one of the girls

            draws in the smoke and rolls it

 

on her tongue? Her cousin has just died

in Syria, she’s just repeated the words

out loud, and yet—the Dutch East Indies officer

            continues his implacable watch

 

from his station within a monument of stone,

            and the roadies for tonight’s concert

piece together the metal armature for the backdrop

            and stage, as if a human being might somehow

ascend the risers over a sea of small fires

            held in illuminated screens, and sing.

What words can be given to a night like this?

            Who will hold her when language fails?

 

God must tend to the wide rolling waves

            of pain and loss, I think, or else must be

in a world more troubled than our own, a broken

            ruin of a place, full of sorrow, or else

 

depends upon me, wonders how I can return

            to the garden each morning, surprised

by tomatoes bursting from the vine, fruit

            carved by paring knife and served to those I love.

 

 

©2017 Roel Vertov

 

 

Author Links

 

Roel Vertov's website

Poetry in Plume

 

 

 

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