Poem in which Arjen reads a poem on an escalator

(for Arjen Duinker)
Arjen would like to read a poem on an escalator.
Because the festival organisers have not arranged
for translations into any lingua franca
it is unclear to many of us whether
it is a poem about an escalator or not.
Although loquacious on many topics
on this matter of the pertinence of the escalator
Arjen remains silent.

There is only one escalator in the city of Durres
and it is in the new shopping mall
so everyone involved in the festival
has to go and hang out at the mall
congregating at the foot of this escalator which
Arjen ascends, reading.

Because it is quite a short escalator
he then has to get off the up escalator
and onto the down escalator
then off the down escalator and on again
without pausing.

Because it is not a short poem
this has to happen several times
during which various members of the Albanian public
get on the escalator too
and stand for the ride blinking at
the back of his reciting head
or pass, staring into
his incomprehensibly speaking face,

either seeing or not seeing
that for the length of this unknown poem
they, we, the mall, and especially the escalator,
have been drawn into a kind of respiration
the rising and falling of the breast of an idea
sleeping in the heart of every escalator
the interpretation of which
we still scarcely know how to begin.

W.N. Herbert

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