is, is like
the returned migrant is like
the returned migrant is is
the hot air the succumbing to the heat
is the succumbing
the returned migrant is the adult is
the motherland that is the mother he tries
to worm back into is the worming is hot is blood everywhere
is the midwife the sigh
“it’s painful for everyone”
the returned migrant is the bar-slash-grocery store is
the booze in the hand of the drunk is
the drunk in the same corner on the same chair is the same
diabetic drunk who sat there years ago too the returned migrant is
paralyzed on that same chair is that chair is phantom pain observes
the returned migrant is the ocean is a few steps away from the ocean a small hot church the hot air a handful of plastic fans that blow the hot air to and fro the returned migrant looks for answers sits with a missal on his knee is the missal is here together in the name of the Father the Son et cetera sings together with the burnt bodies is the voices is the bodies is the Father the Son et cetera is the songs he learned before he knew how to ask interlocking questions the returned migrant is interlocking questions and the heat is a few steps away from the ocean is just like that water just like that water the returned migrant is full of terror inducing life is frightening is frightened is
the returned migrant hears himself the wind the water hears the wind and the water’s whispered death threats is all this is his neighbor is a small hot church is the hot air is the host is the kneeler is a few steps away from the ocean is the ocean is next to the church is the donkey is a vacant lot where the donkey brays chained to a lamppost during holy communion is the donkey is the vacant lot
is the eyes is
torn the returned migrant is
his eyes closes
his eyes closes
himself is closed
is the prayer to be whole
“is, is like” from HABITUS: by Radna Fabias.
Published by Deep Vellum October 12th, 2021.
English Copyright © 2021 by David Colmer.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Radna Fabias was born on the Caribbean island of Curaçao and moved to the Netherlands to study at the age of seventeen. Her first collection of poetry, Habitus (De Arbeiderspers), was published in 2018 to universal acclaim and went on to win an unprecedented five Dutch and Belgian poetry prizes. Published in English by Deep Vellum / Phoneme in 2021, Habitus has also been translated into French and Italian. German and Spanish translations are in production.
David Colmer is an Australian writer, editor, and translator, mainly of Dutch-language literature. He translates in a range of genres and has won many prizes, most recently the James Brockway Prize 2021 for his body of work as a translator of Dutch poetry. Colmer’s most recent publications include the Willem Frederik Hermans novel A Guardian Angel Recalls (Archipelago) and Leaving, a collection of poetry by Cees Nooteboom (Seagull).
Winner of the 2019 Grand Poetry Prize of the Netherlands
Winner of the Aan Zee Poetry Debut Prize
Winner of the C Buddinhh’ Prize
Winner of the Awater Poetry Prize
Winner of the Herman de Coninck Prize
"Radna Fabias’s Habitus, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer, astonishes with a measured unruliness. The reader is energetically flung through space by the irregular stanza breaks, enjambment, and narrative trajectories that feel fresh and unpredictable. Yet even with the zigzagging through time and space, Fabias’s authoritative voice steers us through critiques of the nation-state’s ongoing violence, showing us how such violence disguises itself as white generosity."
—Megan Fernandes, Poetry Foundation
"Radna Fabias’s debut collection Habitus advances geographically, temporally, and thematically—almost narratively—yet at the same time feels resonantly still, as though each line echoes the entire collection."