Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

The Return of Racism – Poems by Coen van der Wolf

Sep 3, 2021 | Poetry | 0 comments

The Return of Racism


Pigeons, startled at the bus stop:
that’s all you need to plug into JFK.
They bolt from the powershed, make you think
there’s a disturbance at the synagogue
just by bridging the gap.
But all’s well and you’re in Dealey Plaza,
A luminary picked off and the indirect crooked ways

You think you know them, the long dark dusty roads
where poplar and suspect twine.
You should like to think you know them,
The Ham-heirloom, the hoist-host.
Your baseball days were strewn with postcards of the hanging.
Each stop saw Oswald writhe, was complicit
in some shoddy autopsy.
They worst the wayward.

This must be history:
pack the best horse off to heaven,
hazard the harebrain

America was all diners, tall waitresses,
Frat boys who looked like Brian Wilson.
Black people came crashing in
like a break at the cinema.

The quartet practiced in the park.
We sang dirges in the dark.



Bible class: yes, Bible class
or work on your tables.
There were naked Eves to be had,
dinosaurs to be lugged.
High-end detractors held Galileo.

There was a tale of the Israelites,
tossed about as usual,
who rose early one morning and slunk off,
their thunderer doting on the slums.
I wanted us to steal away one morning.

The wilderness never worked for Black America.
You never saw the old dispensation,
the distribution:
how a snake oil man might ride into town
and roil the crowd like word from Saunière.
You glossed paintings, meta hodos and The Way.

How beautiful this English:
the grain, the grub


A broadside against Nelson’s ties to slavery.
Not a word on how he felled
professors, do-gooders in Naples.
Burned, fed to toddlers on a stick.

History has cored and filled our continent with hides
and it’s a chore.
We sat the cross down between the chimneys.


There’s no escaping the unctuous idioms
of American evasion –
“I was so happy to be part of that conversation”-,
nor the mechanics –
“the over-sexualization of Black bodies”


Welter of weary voices:
a backwater beaming.

Holding on to Belgium for dear life
(O you canard-capped canals)
Dusk sizzling in the offices
While the Belgians carry punishment abroad
As Caesar did



Coen van der Wolf (1982) has been writing poetry since his early teens. The recipient of a 2011 Master’s degree in Ancient History, he is reacquainting himself with modern languages. He has been published by In Parentheses, The Raintown Review and The Whitewall Review.


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