Everything inhabitable: a poem by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchinson
·2 min read

Everything inhabitable

Never lost that resistance, that primal jostling with sorrow and joy,
or given in to pulpit preaching, to the Word that says what is
right or wrong, never been too lazy to stand up, to face
up to all the bullies and fight pigeonholing with your fists
raised, against those riots of not-knowing inside your head,

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tempering impotence with the red rag in your eyes, and
always announcing your own way with rock-solid pride,
watching someone reduced to pulp and seeing the last
drop of dignity trickling away, you are against craniometry,
against bondservice, against all of humankind’s boxing in.

Never lost that resistance, that seed of wrestling free, your
origin is dressed in mourning attire, your origin was fortunate,
it had an escape route, not that your experience is aligned,
not that you always see that the grass on the other side may be
withered and less green – the point is to be able to put yourself

in another’s shoes, to see the sea of sorrow behind another
person’s eyes, the rampant wrath of all wraths, you
want to say that maybe you don’t understand everything,
that of course you don’t always hit the right chord, but that
you do feel it, yes, you feel it, even if the difference is a gap.

Never lost that resistance and yet able to grasp when it
isn’t your place, when you must kneel for a poem because
another person can make it more inhabitable; not out of
unwillingness, not out of dismay, but because you know
there is so much inequality, people still discriminated against,

what you want is fraternity, you want one fist, and maybe your
hand isn’t yet powerful enough, or maybe you should first take the hand
of another in reconciliation, you actively need to feel the hope that
you are doing something to improve the world, though you mustn’t
forget this: stand up again after kneeling and straighten together our backs.

  • Translated by Michele Hutchinson. The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and translated by Hutchinson (Faber), won the 2020 International Booker prize.