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Tonnus Oosterhoff

Two Poems

translated by Karlien Van Den Beukel

Ik ben de dwerg / Ik was getuige

Ik ben de dwerg

I am the dwarf of average height.
My loom becomes larger when I dream. I’m dreaming:
‘If I don’t go out weaving, there’ll be crow to eat.’
The world is in the weft,
I latch on to the spool
and the tenterground.
But aren’t I becoming smaller?

The hand on the willow on the glass the
hand holds the hand out
foot props the wind struts
into the orphanage
keep a hand on the purse strings
the drop foot winces

With mirror and capstan, I’m sitting half under,
half above my eyes, keeping the corner of the purple
couch dark. Nine feet away from the window, in the
play of light and shadow
the shadow.

How large the window is. To get it on paper I have to shove
the paper backward and I still won’t make it.

The willow on the other side of the bridge
appears on the pane like silver,
an elbow and a hand high.

There’s a breeze and a cloud follows. I slide across the flooring
up against the window sill but it sees me
coming, the willow, makes itself
small on the glass, a small thumb.

When I picture it the face
or what passes for it, covers the tree
not the window. You are nose bridge,
you are structure peering over the water.

You were far away at yours.
The car rolls out of the garage.
Familiar, the moon illusion

hand holds the hand out foot props the wind struts
hold house well come hold the hand up
the drop foot

The overture of light and shadow and light.
Here on the couch upshot and game token.

It’s blowing ‘and’s of form-deprived clouds
across the floor to the window sill
but the willow, which gets me, makes itself
small on the pane. Tom Thumb keeps itself fist-still.

When I picture you, your face or the tree does not
cover the window. You are bridge peering over the water.
You were far away anyhow

I sit half under half above my eyes, back and arse
keeping the driver’s seat warm.

Stand still.
Am I dreaming or will I reach it?

I figure the postcard:
the red orphanage where the
public orphanage stood where
language beings waited

the red orphanage where the
petty household stands where
the playing cards wait

the red orphanage where the
house with speech recognition

Get this, it has to come out of
this if it is ever to become larger.

The token suddenly wants to know
whether it itself has won.

I express the both of you in an angle: minute and half a minute
beyond the horizon impede my comings and goings.
My ways governed by pointed hat and pointy hat.

My scale creature gauges the birch on the glass
and the willow on the pane and the edge of the wood, the oncomer.
The wind grinds the clouds

Ending my heart.
Now we’re staying here.
I stood still when I took that in.

I stood still and still I took that in.
True size.
I stood still.

Pull the bell, the straw, the other one

Hand holds the hand up,
foot struts the wind props
Hold house be welcome
keep a hand on the purse strings
winch the drop foot


Ik was getuige

I was witness,
o green tree, the green tree
how the cantor embarked on his stone throw
through a rift in the warped universe.
Also, I was witness to the stone
at a throw’s distance.

Tonnus Oosterhoff

Tonnus Oosterhoff

Tonnus Oosterhoff is among the most critically acclaimed and innovative poets working in the Netherlands. His poetry books, including Boerentijger (Farm Tiger) 1990, (Robuuste tongwerken,) een stralend plenum ([Robust tongue works,] a shining plenum), 1997, and Wij zagen ons in een kleine groep mensen veranderen (We saw ourselves turning into a small group of people), 2002, are published by De Bezige Bij. Strongly interested in the visual arts, his novel Het Dikke Hart (1994) investigates realism through the life of the now obscure late nineteenth-century realist painter and asylum inmate Gerrit van Houten. Oosterhoff has also published a collection of essays, Ook de schapen dachten na, 2000.

In 2000, Tonnus Oosterhoff began creating and publishing animated poetry on his own website His collected poems 1990–2005 Hersenmutor (Brain Changer) — which includes the animated poems on CD-rom — appeared in 2005. His latest collection, Handschreeuwkoor, comprises handwritten poems and drawings.

The two translated poems ‘Ik ben de dwerg’ and ‘Ik was getuige’ are from his collection Ware Grootte (True Size), 2008.

Karlien Van Den Beukel, London, 2010. Photo by John Tranter.

Karlien Van Den Beukel, London, 2010. Photo by John Tranter.

Karlien van den Beukel has been translating Tonnus Oosterhoff’s poetry since 2000. She teaches at London South Bank University

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