westzaanstraat

 

above the rooftops a plane came sailing
without a crew they'd already jumped
in wartime no one thinks of fireworks
when something goes boom
bombs fall bullets hit and ricochet

the girls will love the bracelets, eh?

a dead horse in the middle of the street
the cart burning brightly the flames
dancing across the road the boys
running and leaping as if the cobbles
were ice floes

towards what used to be St. Maggie's
and is now a public garden
Saint Mary Magdalene
deliver us from pests and thunderstorms
but she wouldn't know

the girls will love the bracelets

about a giant metal goose a B-17
Flying Fortress falling from the heavens
one Wednesday afternoon
onto an empty school wings dripping
all the way to the presbytery

1 fire-float 2 ladder trucks
16 spouts 1400 meters of hose
912,000 liters of water 115 men
the fire brigade dousing the dead
the school the houses for 25 hours

the girls will love the bracelets

sacraments and smithereens
the priest sighed for days on end
the boys found mica and plexiglas
everywhere the shining remnants
of the flying fortress

were taken to the neighbor
– there's always a neighbor
in Amsterdam Dresden New York Baghdad
whose hands will turn
plexiglas and mica

into bracelets for the girls

 


On the 23rd of September 2006 this translation was presented to John Tayloe, when he, being the last surviving crew member, unveiled a plaque commemorating the crash of a B-17 Flying Fortress onto the Westzaanstraat in Amsterdam March 22nd 1944. Here you can read the original in Dutch.

© translation S. Legman

 

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