6 december 2009

For Breughel's Notebook

They brought her in at about seven in the evening,
the sun hanging low between Meindert and Oudskarpel
and the Meerwater ringing with fish rising to feed;

her long dark hair matted with kelp and sea kale
had caught in their net webbing where mullet and bass
still thrashed and foundered, but she lay motionless

as the men reached into her beauty with salty hands
and guttural expression of wonder. Pieter Houyten,
known for a connoisseur of good wine and fine women,

finding that tapering fingers and exquisite manicure
proved her a Frenchwoman, whispered his little French
to her delicate drowned ear - Quy v's ez bele midons!

While poor Jan de Boek, their soft-headed handyman
from Pompmolen, blubbered helplessly Ik verzoeke jou,
geliefd' Margaretha, kom uit'n de water
, thinking her

no doubt his beloved sister, vanished these dozen years.
She still lay as if stunned, bobbing among other fish,
until Rijk van der Weyden swept his steel-gutting knife

in an abrupt arc, shearing the tar-sealed seine-knots;
and then these men, knowing so much of fishes' recovery,
watched in amazement as she shook into her new freedom,

vanished at once into the complete privacy of the Meer.
Thankful, they hauled the lesser catch back to Oudskarpel,
sharing already the doubts that they knew would be theirs

When they told for the third time how she had foundered
in their nets, as they stood by, rubbing their eyes,
pinching themselves, in the hope that it might be true.

- John Gohorry