“Belgian writer, poet and artist Hugo Claus has died aged 78, ending his life by euthanasia, his wife has said.”
I knew Hugo Claus’s poetry only from anthologies until recently, when I stumbled upon his Greetings: Selected Poems. (In physical bookstores one may still “stumble upon” something new instead of gliding along the rigid rails of one’s habitual inclinations.) This poem, translated by John Irons, is from that volume:
I Write You Down
My wife, my heathen altar,
That I play and caress with fingers of light,
My young wood that I overwinter,
My neurotic, unchaste, and tender emblem,
I write your breath and your body down
On lined music paper.
And against your ear I promise brand-new horoscopes
And prepare you once more for world travels
And for a sojourn in some Austria or other.
But by gods and constellations
Eternal happiness also grows mortally weary,
And I have no house, I have no bed,
I do not even have any birthday flowers for you.
I write you down on paper
While you swell and blossom like a July orchard.