Translated by Jacquelyn Pope
Did an argument break out in the kitchen that morning?
Was there smashing of pots and pans: you
want to eat somewhere else? Go on,

get out! Or were they set outside, shrewd,
meant to feed on dust and hunger or to tempt the doves
of peace? Nothing wrong with that as long as
the cook stays put by another fire. Hollow

vessels on grass socks, what do they want from this
puzzle of trees and clouds? Even the wind
seems to have forgotten how to whistle and wherever
you look, those who are gone cannot be seen.

They’re steeped to their lips in bronzed silence. O
let their bellies chime like clocks, whack
with ladles and sticks, drive devilish
death out of those pots!

Some poems are puzzles, and to me “Hungerpots” is a good example of such a poem. I was drawn to it by the rhythms of its contradictions, which are embodied in the title (a neologism of the poet’s), where the cooking pot serves up the very thing it is supposed to alleviate. I knew that the poem was written to accompany a work by the Dutch sculptor Bas Maters, but as I read and reread it, the images it generated seemed to come from the worlds of Brueghel or Bosch.—JP
Source: Poetry (May 2010)
More Poems by Hester Knibbe