Fathers

1 February 2012

Cornelis

owned the smallest farm in Loosduinen
next to The Hague, now swallowed up
had my grandmother, his daughter,
walk the goat to the Malienveld
and graze it
she walking it through the city on a leash
once slaughtered a goat
maybe the same one
because it ate a ten guilder bill
killed it
and retrieved the money from its stomach
the bill worth more than the goat
drank his piss in the morning
but made my grandmother eat
from separate dishes
when on her period
died shortly after his wife
from a broken heart
having lived through two world wars
and the hunger winter

August

owned a plantation in Java, Dutch Indies
growing kapok
hunted tigers and other big game
bought new cars with cash
knocked up one of his planter girls
decades his junior
his daughter born in the kampung
until at age seven
when his mother found out
he formally acknowledged her,
a Dutch legal requirement,
retrieved her to live with him
her mother as well
whom he did not marry until
Indonesian independence was a fact
now or tomorrow
so he could take her with him to cold cold Holland
where she grew smaller until she disappeared completely
once hit my brother
a story oft repeated
my father, my mother telling him to never do that again
the felling of a giant who
just before the Japanese came
lent a friend ten thousand guilders
a veritable fortune
he saw neither friend nor money ever again
leaving the young republic broke
his possessions fitting in a few crates
after years in a camp during the war
to cold cold Holland
the mother country he had never seen
plummeting down the class-system
like it had no bottom
cold-shouldered by post-war Netherlands
which got rich of people like him
a nuisance
a painful reminder
of an inconvenient past
died unacknowledged without thanks

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