Hilde's poetry
in English translation


From my leisurely Sunday morning
I see how a blackbird stubbornly tugs
until the worm admits it’s dispatched.

A hundred times the blackbird must
have hopped past my father’s eyes
as he pushed the spade into the soil,

his shoulders hunched,
his half-smiling lips tighter
than in former years.

Now that I know him,
am an eldest daughter,

he silently produces a word
that has to do with pruning,
not putting dahlias in vases

but letting them last in the ground
for a whole season,
retaining their shape in tubers.

Procreated by chance,
I think, and watch the blackbird’s
cautious, patient stance.

Translation: John Irons
Original title:
From the collection
Al wat winter is en waar (All that is Winter and True)


She’s seven and has an age-old face
the sort on which all summer light plays
poorly, never shines quite right.

You see her at seventy, yes you can,
her room at Sunset Home spick-and-span,
not one to dream away each night.

She waits for the bus, her ticket in hand,
looks at a dog wagging its tail, and
for one moment she seems suffused with light.

Translation: John Irons
Original title: Little Miss Dalloway
From the collection
Al wat winter is en waar (All that is Winter and True)

(Novena )

He who knows sorrow within it will fall.
Out of this accident a dry tongue
of nine days’ duration has grown,
all verses reiterated till my head
knows, acknowledges, though not from choice
what’s drummed in by the doctor’s voice.
He who flies sees no tree that stands tall.
Governing hell there are white-coated
men, mild-tempered but strict,
their finger on the pulse.
They conclude with your body a pact,
declaring poets inexact.
He who trusts sand can build nothing at all.
For hell has a smooth-sliding door
of hard-glass efficiency
and nine times negation.
What does not belong remains unheard:
the useless sorrowful word.

Translation: John Irons

Original title: Ongeluk
From the collection Deuren (Doors)