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A video & music production by Eileen Glynn and Ryan Goodsell with spoken word by Tineke Van der Eecken.

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For Seraphine

Ugiye he?

Amahoro

Umuzungu

Ugiye he, where are you going, you ask

Kw'isoko, I say, I am going to the market

You laugh when I can't get the tone right,

when I don't say isoko but isooko, which means ‘source’,

like the source of the Nile.

N'amahoro? Is there peace?

people greet us as we walk past the new election billboards

Children giggle and call me umuzungu.

You've told me it's a word for white person, it means someone you only ever see going past,

like explorers, slave merchants, colonials

and aid workers in cars.

I guess the word has not lost its meaning.

We stop to look at the newest wax hollandais, the latest fashion prints from Congo,

while local pagnes wrapped in green, red and yellow, parade by.

We work our way past rickety stalls made of tired bamboo

They sell bright orange palm oil in bottles, rice in any quantity you can imagine,

and beans, beans and more beans.

Amahoro ni meza, yes, there is peace, all is good.

This market is as busy as a red anthill

We buy fish capitaine, Nile perch,

but your kings live in the green hills, you say,

never see lake Tanganyika

for fear of death.

You don't greet the Batwa vendor

Then a word spreads through the crowd,

événements

événements

événements

'Events'. How very Burundian,

this euphemism for ethnic killings.

Vendors pack, vehicles toot and beep.

The crowd thins.

We follow the crowds across the street, past

Belgian shops, remnants of the past

People empty the shelves in fear,

compete, for sugar, flour, rice, tea

and beans, beans and more beans.

For days the city pretends to be asleep.

N'amahoro? No, there is no peace

There is fear in your voice

Don't worry, I say,

we are here to bring peace

See—elections are coming

Multiparty democracy

You'll win, everyone will win

Amahoro

You shake your head

You don't know this country, you say

I can’t wipe the fear from your almond spiced eyes.

What happens next only the tall grass on the hills can tell.

Ugiye he—where are you going

Umuzungu—the one who is always on the move

N’amahoro—is there peace?

Amahoro, umuzungu, ugiye he?

Published in ‘Marginalization’, Blackmail Press, January 2012, and

in ‘Uneven Floor’ May 2013

Plat du jour

At my table I serve you

plump tomatoes of empathy

bright peppers of joy

creamy eggplants of meaning

in a tangy pickle of truth

I sprinkle you with sugar

and tickle you with berries

when you’re gone

I sizzle you in my memory

and fry up a plan

to invite you again

Salt rivers

for Bert

Last night we were rivers

our breath falling

and rising mist

In our sleep I sensed

your finger, a foot

each turn

became

a silent orchestra

We cut strips into the night

tore its pages

a first stanza

facing east, together

the third facing west, alone

Our arms knitted a canvas

to navigate the landscape

of a breaking day

You and me are

Tigris and Euphrates

rivers running side by side

green valleys lodged

between waters

Yesterday we crossed

the sand onto white planes of salt

unrippled, it stretched

towards the sky - a mirage

We wrapped our limbs around

islands covered with flowers

I had never seen.

Published in Poetry d'Amour 2014 by WA Poets Inc

Becoming Australian

I am not your daughter

not your sister

don’t know your childhood lullabies

Never heard of Ned Kelly before

I am no one in this place

Kartouchke en zijn

minderwaardigheidscomplex

Do you know my heroes?

My mother, Nelly, born in Sinaai, 1941

And my father, Roger, born in Kerksken, 1939

Do you know my sister Frede, my brother Dieter?

I grew up with songs of Jacques Brel and aunties singing Edith Piaf

Allez venez, Milord

vous asseoir a ma table …

I read Annie Mg Schmidt

Performed

De Kippetjes van de Koning

ze zijn zo akeling kokket

And later Tom Lanoye, and Benoite Grault

I like ‘Amélie’ and cry with ‘Geheel de Uwe’

Until recently

I was no one in this place

Then I heard about Ned Kelly

Today I become Australian

I sing your national anthem

Speak your Aussie accent

And learn of Moondyne Joe

A bark in the park

Shhh. Tap runs. Flip flop, footsteps. The door. Klunk klunk krrr, the coffee machine warms. Flip flop flip flop. The door! Krrr krrr pshh, machine, coffee smell. Flip flop flip flop. Klik. Yes. We’re in. Hello. [sniff]

Hey, I smell cat! There they are, spoilt brats. Drinking milk. Drinking milk! Don’t look. Keep going. Flip flop flip. Hey, I know what we’re doing. Let’s go!

I’m first in the bedroom! I can jump and be first on the bed. Oh, okay, I’ll wait.

Can I jump now?

Lick lick lick. Cats have milk. Don’t listen to them. Stay focussed. This is important. This is my time.

‘Come’ she says. Forget about the cats and the milk. Cuddle in bed. Oh yes! How about here, on my tummy? And there? Oh yes.

Hey, that milk must nearly be finished. [sniff] Coffee, close, yuck. Cat’s milk’s better! ‘Where are you going?!’

I’m fast. Scare the cats. They run away. My turn for milk. Ahh.

Back to the bedroom. Flip flop flip. Bedroom, kitchen, boys’ room, kitchen, bedroom. Flip flop. Kitchen! Djunk. The fridge! What are we having? Djunk. Nothing. Djunk. The fridge, again! I’m here -- hello! Djunk.

Shower runs. I’ll just sit here. Whoooo! the hair dryer. I’ll just sit here.

Here she is. What are we wearing? The black wind jacket? Come on, the black wind jacket. Oh. Skirt. T shirt. What about shoes? What shoes? Pick the boots, pick the boots! Or the crocs, crocs are good too, even if they’re ugly. Heels? Oh no. (Sigh)

Huh? Is she swapping shoes? The ugly crocs? Yes! I’ll be good. I promise I’ll be a good boy. Let’s go let’s go! You know what? I’ll run ahead!

Where is she? Clickiticlick. The leash! Is it the red one? With the yellow plastic bags? We’re in business!

Cross the road… The park! Aah, ooh, oh yes!

She

He looked back at the creature he created…

Her breath
the salt of sweat
the sweetness of peach

Her lips
the spray of an ocean
wave in sunlight

Her eyes
the light of the Milky Way
in a moonless sky

Her fingers
gold dust from the purest desert
turned liquid

Her toes
the touch of feathers
brushing against the wind

Her belly
the universe
where life ends and begins

Her heart
the poetry of all books written
past present future

Her mind
the wind blowing blossoms
over moist soil and burnt leaves

Her voice
the sound of every language

He now understood
he needed to redesign
man

(c) Tineke Van der Eecken, 2012

Brussels

An unwilling beast
Brussels today
a horse refusing
to be driven

Between us
a new coldness
the square, redone
a new statue of Bartok

Every corner
a story
every wall
a scandal

A piece of me
is lodged in you
a jigsaw puzzle
I remain, incomplete

Brussels

Een weerbarstig dier

is Brussel nu

een paard dat niet

gemend wil zijn

tussen ons

een nieuwe kilte:

het plein, heraangelegd

een standbeeld van Bartok

Elke hoek

heeft een verhaal

elke muur

een schandaal

Er is een stuk van mij

in jou gebleven

als een puzzel

blijf ik, incompleet

Tineke Van der Eecken, maart 2013

Liquid

Though they never needed them to be married

she has made rings

to mark ten years

He never liked adornments

Never needed symbols

to show their bond.

Refused to have his measurements taken

She beats patterns on the precious surface

traces of life, an appropriate touch?

Before he refuses her gift

she destroys it.

She places the glinting piece

in the guillotine,

cuts strips of it,

drops them in a crucible,

lights her jeweller’s torch with oxy and gas,

points the flame,

melts them down

She watches

each bit dissolve

their edges shining,

shrinking

to a glowing ball

of liquid them

Val di Mello

I feel the softness of my blouse as your hand touches it
You flick me a smile
Silk is the fabric of love, you say
In Italian it sounds even better

Quando finisce un amore

Your words, your hands, your look make me
buzz and hover like a honeybee
It’s just what I need
at twenty-three and about to leave
the world I know

On your Yamaha 650
you take me to your favourite place
The wind around our bodies
The snow high on the Alps

Val di Mello, the valley of honey
The grass is a feather quilt
The water is golden
Its glistening froth clings to the rocks
Floating, holding on to something
Already gone
Your love sticks to me like honey

Quando finisce un amore

I don’t want to let go, not now
and cannot be alone
Come with me, I say,
but we both know this impossibility
now, after this

Quando finisce un amore, when love ends

Because of Val di Mello
Because you—us—are not real
Because a black hole is forming
A new home without you

Quando finisce un amore

Once, on the dark continent, I write to you
in my Italian latinizzato, as you call it,
but I don’t hear you say this
I don’t see your glorious smile,
I don’t feel your hands reaching for mine
I don’t sense the empty seat behind you on the Yamaha

Quando finisce un amore

For months I go hungry for news
an emptiness, craving that Val di Mello,
until, at last, I push away the memories,
make way for new, fresh images—colour

Quando finisce un amore cosi com’è finito il mio
senza una ragione ne’ un motivo, senza niente

Then one morning,
a letter from you,
sent many months before
plans to visit, now long gone

Quando finisce un amore
ti senti un nodo nella gola
ti senti un buco nello stomaco
ti senti un vuoto nella testa e non capisci niente

Feel a knot in my throat
a hole in my stomach
an emptiness in my head
and understand nothing.

Sisters

Is it the storms
between you and me,
or the angle of this moon?

Are our quarrels
the dismay of birds
forbidden to land?

Or is your sorrow, like mine,
just damp earth
beneath the dead leaves of time?

Ode to Brel

We’re in a playhouse bar after closing time
cigarette smoke curls around your profile
The piano drifts from
les putains d’Amsterdam
and Hamza the hero
to the Battle of Waterloo
‘Je m’appelle Hamza!’

You sing enemies and friends
Jef and Antoine,
harbourless men,
hearts yearning for a safe port
Le port d’Amsterdam?

You make us look for Marieke Marieke
entre les tours de Bruges et Gand
and buy bonbons for Mathilde
because flowers tend to die.

Behind the swirl of the smoke
la chambre sans berceau
A bedroom without a cot
Non Jef, t’es pas tout seul

Salut Antoine, je vais mourir
It’s hard to die in spring
The great warrior Hamza defeated,
you traded death for paradise
North Sea for Tahiti

We sing
La chançon des vieux amants
And cry
Je t’aime encore, tu sais.
Je t’aime.

Listen to this

Ode to Brel

Parole

If food had a language
it would be French:
moules marinières et dorades dorées.

If a kiss could speak
it would talk in Italian:
saro il tuo contadino
e tu la terra mia.

If the wind could speak
he would sound Flemish:
met gierende stem in de gutsende regen.

If Mother Earth had words
she’d speak in Bibbulmun:
Nidja boodja. And ask, where is your fire?

If peace could plead
it would say in Kirundi:
Amahoro
Leave Africa alone.

Let drums sound,
tears be dried
Let breath be spiced
with the scent of rain on desert sand

Let wind blow away the memory of blood and war
Let food infuse life into crusted land.

Let elegance brighten the days.

Let language bring language
Words bring vigour
Parole, parole.

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Listen to this

Parole Audio file