Dirk Braeckman. Echtzeit, at FOMU, 29/03/2024 – 19/01/2025 © We Document Art / FOMU Antwerp


This is part of Echtzeit. For an introduction from the editors, more here.

Peter Verhelst

31 mei 2024 • 2 min

Gave myself what-for.

Look at me.

From head to toe.

Drummed it in.

Over my whole body.

Trained. Drilled myself.

Spread over my whole body eyes cultivated from forehead to Adam’s apple; from midriff over navel to genitals; from armpits to the palms of my hands and my fingertips; to the two hollows in my lower back, to the insides of my elbows and the backs of my knees. Eyes everywhere

to constantly see again and again how translucent you were when you woke after our first night – your pupils dilating and contracting, eyelids flickering.

So I can remember
how you, arms raised, sighed and stretched –

how you looked at me, hair a mess. Eyes everywhere,

first to see every inch of you,

and again,

to imprint every inch,

and again

so I don’t forget,

and one more time,

to never not see.
Not even the places where we no longer are.

That time on the lake by nightfall,

where the surface luminesced as sky and water merged and we kissed

and you were already, over your shoulder, looking away from me,

but we still kissed

while you turned away, while I still had you in my arms,

you were already walking away over the stones

and your one hand on my chest and the other on the back of my head,

while you were already walking away, looking over your shoulder,

not to see me one more time,

but so that I would see how you stayed away – the sound

of a falling stone – while the sky was already growing paler again,

the surface glittering, you see it again,

it was that still that morning on the lake – the sound

of a stone falling in water.

We kissed. I thought,

you said, keep watching

how harder and harder we no longer kissed.

Originally in Dutch.

Translated by David Colmer.

Peter Verhelst (born 1962) is a lauded Flemish poet, novelist and theatre-maker. His big breakthrough came in 2000 with his novel ‘Tongkat’ (Prometheus), with which he won both the Golden Owl, the Young Golden Owl and the Triennial Prize of the Flemish Community in Belgium, and the F. Bordewijk Prize in the Netherlands. For his entire oeuvre, he won the first Sybren Polet Prize in 2018. In 2021, he received the Constantijn Huygens Prize for his ‘breathtaking oeuvre’. The prize was ‘a culmination of Peter Verhelst's sustained effort to keep searching for everything that could be’. Peter often collaborates with visual artists, choreographers or musicians. Passionately, he defends art as one of the most important human expressions. In 2022, he was awarded the Ark Prize of Free Speech. According to the Free Word Ark Committee, he deserved the prize ‘because he tries to counter the great challenges of this world in turmoil - war, climate, inequality, envy - with uninhibited beauty, connection and open discussion’.

  • Artist contribution