maandag 14 juni 2010





By our grandson Willem, who is four years old now

a certain corner in the garden has been called Australia.

Why, that is not clear. It is a spot where the rhubarb grows

and where a mulberry tree stands which birds are fond of,

certainly when it is summer and the berries are ripe and black

and juicy and sweet. Some flowerpots stand there,

a zinc bucket, a leaky watering-can, and an old window frame.

Sometimes you find daddy-longlegs there or some wood-lice,

but I think that part of the garden is not a bit like Australia.


From the moment little Willem knew he is going to live

in Australia a lot of Australia has come into his life.

The bedside stories I tell him must often be situated in Australia.

His pet is a soft, light blue kangaroo. Granddad Wim, he says,

tell me a story about Australia! And so the story has to play out

in Australia and often the story has to be about kangaroos

which are doing things and  play at leap-frog.

They are joined by grasshoppers which can jump

higher then everybody else as they just fly over the kangaroos.

It is dead easy for them. They have red wings.


From time to time a huge salt water crocodile

rises up from an orange river to devour

an innocent poor little kangaroo. That is fearful.

Willem can accept this, but he does not like bushfires.

Okay, he says, crocodiles are allowed but no bushfires, Granddad.

This said, even the teeniest of tiny fires or even a walking match-stick

are absolutely forbidden to enter the story. Not even when a dark

little rain cloud appears in the clear blue Australian sky.

Or when an elephant is coming with its useful long snout.

But with that elephant element Willem does not agree.

Elephants are certainly not residents of Australia, he explains to me.


At the end of the story I put all the kangaroos in a circle

around a  non-burning campfire. It does not even smoke

and it is not worthy to carry the name of campfire.

The kangaroos start singing a polyphony kangaroo campfire chant

Under the light of a promising Australian moon.


After that Willem will go to sleep quietly.

And his Dreamland will probably resemble his Australia.


Far and vague is the land

that is called Australia.

Its nights are green and its moon is blue.

Don’t think that I shall forget you. 




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