Affirmation (The Brother) Poem by Mischa Andriessen

Affirmation (The Brother)

It amounts to nothing, this weight.
Inadvertently I've drifted from where
I became an unwitting witness learning
that everything that matters emerges
of itself with ease I bear the burden
of crown and trunk, knowing neither
hunger nor thirst, hiding
in the heart of flame and flower
to blossom in the fire, the sun will shine
at night, when there is no birdsong
the silence of the mountain will be even
deeper; I am here now, money in my pocket
not lacking anything I will stand
still on this stump forever
while the wood is being milled
sawdust becoming pulp feeding pride.

Behind the barn he remains motionless
in the father's determined grip
a tipping point: Let him go, he won't fall.
Soon when I dare to look
it will be the way he said it would
weakness and cowardice revealing themselves
nothing to yell and scream about
the father says, But still I wonder
if what I desire is in your power.

What does it amount to, this weight?
In itself, standing is effortless.
I grow easily naturally
until later a shadow joins me
containing so much it could not possibly
be produced by me alone.

He stands beside me.
What makes you think
you can do it now?

One after the other we squeeze
our eyes shut, turning
our backs on the father
who brought us here
promising not to go away
before one of us can no longer
stand on his own legs
it's time to seize a stone
locate his temple, hit home
remaining steady from now on, regardless
of whether anyone is noticing
recognising the potential
of emptiness, an emptiness
that parts, not looking up
vacantly, the trembling reflection
in ditch water where nothing is left
of the one who was just here, someone
who is not indifferent, who like me
joins in, establishes, stands firm, perseveres
when weariness and weak will
present themselves, sharp beaks
hack unstitchable holes
in the skin, rainwater bird shit
dirties the view. However I knelt
she looked up, only then did the thought
take hold that there was no reason
I couldn't have disappeared
stayed away, I followed him blindly, all that time
it turned out to just exist, I
saw it at once, recognised the story
forming around me
as I had been told, by him
who I myself - who I never recovered
endlessly followed, until I assumed position
and saw him acting out for me
that his hand found hers
then escaped, he feigned deafness
gripped her again, surprised
by the futility of her resistance, it was me
who took her quietly in my arms, swaddled
her then lay her carefully back down, rose
returned in the scorching silence
was shown my place
as if it had always only been me
who had stood here always only me alone
standing here, growing naturally
a looming shadow.


Her gift will turn out to be the ability to see
and keep looking, seeing what presents itself
with all her compassion and innocence
as if for the first, that moment
of recognition, revealing herself
with a gesture and I will patiently
wait until my outstretched arms
shoot and grow vine-wrapped
or empty, look away, go berserk
seek a stone and a temple, strike home.
Because this weight amounts to nothing.
He keeps this up effortlessly
seeing himself look up quivering, a child yet
in the blurring water in which form
is only presentation not representation, fabling
a father's cry far overhead:
The body cannot be found
the birds circle for a time
above the thought and when
they are gone again, what must
have been there finally appears.
How the mirror then shatters open
she stares up and seems
almost alive in the water
that has demanded her hushed body.

Standing like this requires nothing, the crown
the trunk, what does it amount to?
an emptiness breaking free
for a change, he was never alone
standing here on his stump
still, resolute, ready to bleed
he tells me now, easy
it's me, look.

Translation: 2017, David Colmer

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