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10 December 2020updated 09 Sep 2021 11:28am

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld: “Openly Falling”

A new poem by the International Booker Prize winner, written in response to Curtis Parratt’s photo “Fall (5)”.

By Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

In the end we said it might be nothing, this fretting about
our dented souls, the bath we always fill to just below
eye level, that the rain falls openly and we struggle to keep 
our balance, that we call ourselves insignificant, the stumbling

over our own feet, no, it is nothing. Or that we are so unfathomable
in our summertime peaks, that we sometimes dream of lying beneath
livestock until our breath has been taken away, that we flee memories like a
horse that has bolted, before feeding it sugar cubes again and

so sweet, so sweet, no, it is nothing. That we rake up the leaves
and carry away the autumn in bin bags, that we still want to say so
much before we turn off the light and dig into the night, that sometimes
we curse ourselves and think the party’s over, yes, the party’s over, that

the long present frightens us and so much time to be old, no, it is nothing.
Or that we are constantly prepping for life like for an exam, that we turn
up the central heating against all those ice-cold trains of thought,
that we forget to ask someone about their illness because we rarely

assume health, no, it is nothing. That we scrape the garden, the moss
from the tiles, that we are the moss that grows in places where
it should not grow, that we sing a song and it makes us feel sad,
that we sing songs in order to feel sad, we sing la-la-la and the tears

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on our cheeks, no, it is nothing. Or that we sometimes start an argument,
that we dash the paint from someone’s existence, that sometimes everything
is so pointless and the curtains shut, that we despair of other people’s light,
we empty the bath, rub the moisture from our eyes, no, it is nothing, it is nothing.

Translation by Michele Hutchison

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Credit: Curtis Parratt

This article is from our “Photo that shaped me” series

This article appears in the 08 Dec 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas special