Poems by Frank Martinus Arion

October 2016

Translated by Arturo Desimone


Same way a melody can enter a man, rips into him
Sending him to shimmy and dance on his feet,
Pushing him to lose his balance and his good name,
making smoke come smoldering off his marching body—

Your lips have done the same to me.
Almost dead now from smoke and dancing, I need a guitar for me to play
Rip this motherfucker from where it stood in my soul
Before it turns me into a crazy lizard
Or fires me to pop open yet another fuming bottle.

Well, all that noise is nowhere to be found on your lips, unnecessary—
A red flower, whichever way I turn it is looking at me and finds me
Its image, reflected here, blooms and bosoms down low into my soul—

It opens and shuts in front of me, calls
Tells me things, but I can't hear well from afar
While I am wanting, heaving for kisses



Meskos un melodia por dentra un homber—
Pone zwai i zeilu riba su pia pone
Perde su balansa i su number, hasie fuma-fuma—

Asina bo lipnan tambe a hasi ku mi.
I morte fuma mi ke un guitara pa mi toka
Ranka e koi konjo aki foi di mi alma
Prome ke hasimi un lagadishi loko
O ponemi bolbe habri un botter.

I tur esaki ba falta di bo lipnan—
Un flor kora ku unda ku mi bira ta mirami
I su imagen ta aki bon te den mi alma—

E ta habri sera mi dilanti i jamami
Papia kosnan di djalew mi no por tende
Mientras mi ta razu pa sunchi

In Papiamentu; from Ilusion di un anochi: 16 sonet original di amor (A Night Illusion: Sixteen Sonnets of Love) (Willemstad: Ruku, 1968), 14.


Minimal Heart Wanderings

I was on my way to the above, Sire, to you
I was on my way to the boulevard and the people,
I turned back at mid-road:
there was more liveliness down there below.

Sire, I halted here, against the greenery. That summit,
I judged to be more fit for someone else.
Here in the green I am that.
There in the valley, sea came in her nest. I smelt
all around me, I smelt
up the clouds
I smelt down the below.
My breast swelled
with water, Sire, water

I climbed further upward. I smelt nitrous oxide and ozone.
Good fumes to be smelling, I thought
And smelt further. It was delightful scent, Sire,
I smelled the whole of heaven.

Between the two blue countries it was empty.
I could savor that smell, thorough, Sire.
I smelt, up until horizon,
white blood of the blue sea.
And I cast back my head.


Minimale hartstochten

Ik was op weg naar boven Sire, naar u
naar de boulevard en naar de mensen,
ik draaide mij halverwege om:
daarbeneden was meer leven.

Ik stopte hier tegen het groen Sire. Daar is de top
dacht ik, voor een ander. Hier ben ik in het groen.
Daar in het dal was de zee in haar nest. Ik rook
om me heen Sire, omhoog naar de wolken. Ik rook naar beneden.
Mijn borst zwol van water Sire, water.

Ik klom verder. Ik rook salpeter en ozon.
Het is goed te ruiken, dacht ik.
Ik rook verder. Ik was heerlijk ruikend Sire,
Ik rook de hele hemel.

Tussen de twee blauwe landen was het leeg.
Ik kon volop ruiken Sire.
Ik rook, tot aan de horizon,
het witte bloed van de blauwe zee.
En ik wierp mijn hoofd achterover.

In Dutch; from Heimwee en de Ruïne (Homesickness and the Ruin) (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2013), 150.



Sometimes, when alone, most unexpectedly
that tire wobbles loosely from your car,
it is like seeing two snorkels, a sad white belly,
it is like seeing beetles, a traffic accident.

As beetles, zoom-zoom, there they flee,
here they come, a couple on the terrace going at it
exposed as the underbelly of a lizard, is what you are
as a defeated black deckhand, you are. You grovel,
your arms outspread. And . . .
One push, one light holy little shove I tell you
—you, who are already teetering on the brink—
One word, one letter, one single night-call ring—
one bite of fear (that fear of being all alone.)
(Finger in the hole of that phone-dial, spin-wheel)—whether or not to—
whether you will marry, you marry
you marry.

Sometimes you marry beneath your social standing,
in that lowly unpoetic bed
of your matrimony.
You marry for good.
Oh, do your wedding in quiet, will you.



Soms, alleen, héél onverwacht
hangt dat wiel van je wagen los,
als twee snorkels, trieste witte buik,
als torren, als een auto-ongeluk.

Als torren, zoem zoem, daar gaan ze,
daar komen ze, het paar op het terras
trefbaar als de onderkant van een hagedis ben je
als een verslagen zwarte matroos ben je. Je smeekt.
Je armen zijn gespreid. En . . .
Eén duw, een lichte heilige duw zeg ik u
—want u bent aan de rand—
Eén woord, één brief, één enkele telefooncol—
Eén hap van angst (die angst om alleen te zijn).
(Vinger in de telefoongaten)—of u huwt, u huwt,
u huwt.

Soms huwt u beneden uw stand, in dat laag en onpoëtisch bed
van uw huwelijk.
U huwt voorgoed.
O, doe uw huwelijk in stilte.

In Dutch; from Heimwee en de Ruïne, 154.

Read Arturo Desimone's essay on translating Arion's poetry: The Divided Dutch Antillean Writer and the Unifying Force of Translation


Frank Martinus Arion is the literary pseudonym of Frank Ephraim Martinus, (Curaçao, 1936-2015)  poet, novelist and linguist of the island Curaçao. In the 1960s, he emigrated as a young Antillean student to the Netherlands, where he majored in Medieval Dutch at the University of Amsterdam, where he completed his dissertation in linguistics, Kiss of a Slave: Papiamentu's West-African Connections (published as Frank Ephraim Martinus). The national library of Curaçao bears his name.

Arturo Desimone, Arubian-Argentinian writer and visual artist, was born and raised on the island Aruba. At 22, he migrated to the Netherlands. He is currently based between Argentina and the Netherlands while working on a long fiction project about childhoods, diasporas, islands and religion. Desimone’s articles, poetry and short fiction pieces have previously appeared in CounterPunchCírculo de Poesía, Acentos ReviewDemocraciaAbierta, and BIM; he also writes a regular column for the Drunken Boat poetry review, titled ''Notes on a Journey to the Ever-Dying Lands''