Descent

We crossed the Styx.

The ferryman lay drunk in his boat.

I held the helm and we sank like stones.

 

Water like the earth consists of layers,

transparent ribbons, glistening strata

of ever less light, less warmth.

 

Bubbles blossomed in your hair,

the current tugged your head backwards

and stroked your throat.

 

Stones waved with arms made of algae and ferns,

gurgled softly, sang of ‘peace’.

They sliced your clothes away.

 

Fish licked the blood from your legs.

I held your hand tight.  I wanted to comfort you,

but you were falling too fast and there are no words

 

that exist without air; my love

stayed above, blue balloons, brief bouys,

marking the site of the accident,

 

before flowing on.  Your mouth fell open

your face turned red, your hands sought

for balance, sought my arms.

 

You tried to climb me.

You were a glassblower with a cloud of diamonds

at his mouth.  I held you like a kitten.

 

I stroked your fingers.

You did not let go.

You slept and I stroked your fingers, let go.

 

Esther Jansma

(trans from Dutch James Brockway and Esther Jansma)

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