Having a Place


by Hester Knibbe. Translated by Jacquelyn Pope.


One day the image you have of yourself
no longer corresponds to what you see in the mirror.

In it stands someone you recognize
as the person you are, but looking as if a jet

sleep had come over it and a winter in which
it was white and silent and afterward

came rain, a storm hung
to dry under the heavens. That

shrinks in your mirrored face. In your head
lives an image from last summer, but now you

face another season, you have to line your eyes
again, do something with your lips, revise yourself.


One day the one you fell in love with has disappeared.
You live in the same house and you care about each other,

sure, but another kind of tenderness
is needed to break through to each other and

sometimes a reticence sits down to dinner
that is difficult to talk around.

Not that the bodies don’t speak to each other,
they still stroke and touch every Eden, explore

every heaven, but there are also small
torn stitches in the seam of love, invisible

in mirrors, because it had to drag itself
across the earth, catching on twigs and stones.


One day you are out strolling on ebbland
and suddenly stumble over its space.

A stoical sea underlies it, wind
creating a haze that obscures the smudgy stacks

under the heavens and in the distance stands
a leadblue graphic, cardiogram of the stones,

extending massively, light forgotten
once again. Nothing here that reflects you. Sand

seeps from under your feet,
where you stand slowly fills

with sucking water: this is
your place now, tomorrow this was your place.

Cover image by crodriguesc.

About the Authors:

Hester Knibbe is one of the leading Dutch poets writing today. She has published fifteen collections of poems, including Archaïsch de dieren, which was awarded the VSB Poetry Prize.

American poet Jacquelyn Pope is a widely published poet and translator and author of Watermark from Marsh Hawk Press (2005). Her translation of Hester Knibbe’s poetry has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, a PEN/Heim Translation Grant, the Academy of American Poets, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.