Billy Collins

De Amerikaanse dichter en schrijver Billy Collins werd geboren in New York op 22 maart 1941. Zie ook alle tags voor Billy Collins op dit blog.


Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer’s dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

The complexity of women’s undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.

Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything –
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.

What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.

So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.



The boy at the far end of the train car
kept looking behind him
as if he were afraid or expecting someone

and then she appeared in the glass door
of the forward car and he rose
and opened the door and let her in

and she entered the car carrying
a large black case
in the unmistakable shape of a cello.

She looked like an angel with a high forehead
and somber eyes and her hair
was tied up behind her neck with a black bow.

And because of all that,
he seemed a little awkward
in his happiness to see her,

whereas she was simply there,
perfectly existing as a creature
with a soft face who played the cello.

And the reason I am writing this
on the back of a manila envelope
now that they have left the train together

is to tell you that when she turned
to lift the large, delicate cello
onto the overhead rack,

I saw him looking up at her
and what she was doing
the way the eyes of saints are painted

when they are looking up at God
when he is doing something remarkable,
something that identifies him as God.


Advies aan schrijvers

Zelfs als het je de hele nacht op houdt,
neem de muren af en poets de vloer
van je werkkamer voor je een lettergreep componeert.

Maak schoon alsof de koningin op bezoek komt.
Properheid is de vader van inspiratie.

Hoe meer je poetst, hoe briljanter
je schrijven zal zijn, dus aarzel niet
het open veld in te gaan om stenen te schrobben
of in het donkere bos hoge takken
en nesten vol eieren af te borstelen.

Als je terug naar huis gaat
en de schuursponzen en stoffers onder de gootsteen opbergt
zal je in het ochtendlicht
het onbevlekte altaar van je bureau aanschouwen
een schoon oppervlak in het midden van een schone

Til uit een smalle, hemelsblauwe vaas
een potlood, het scherpste van een boeket,
en bedek de bladzijden met zinnetjes
als lange rijen, toegewijde mieren
die je volgden vanuit het bos.


Vertaald door Ron Rijghard


Billy Collins (New York, 22 maart 1941)


Zie voor nog meer schrijvers van de 22e maart ook mijn blog van 22 maart 2020 en eveneens mijn blog van 22 maart 2019 en ook mijn blog van 22 maart 2016 en mijn blog van 22 maart 2014 deel 1 en eveneens deel 2.

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