Two Poems | Radna Fabias | Granta

Two Poems

Radna Fabias

Translated by David Colmer

‘we welcome the applicant.’ Two poems by Radna Fabias translated by David Colmer.

demonstrable effort made


the applicant is better—or at least as good as she’s going to get –
virtually free of grammatical errors
sounds like a newsreader
keeps – inasmuch as possible – her thoughts under control
keeps – to an acceptable degree – her emotions under control
no longer hurls cast-iron objects at troubled men
has forgotten her mother tongue
dreams in the language of the former owner
undresses brothers is fond of sisters open
to blue eyes


the applicant has internalized the corrective voice
is occasionally present in her own body
occasionally addresses her own body
(don’t be scared there’s no fire here not like that not now not here)


the applicant can ride a bike without training wheels
knows how to adjust clothing to the meteorological conditions
can go outside without a coat when it is 60 degrees
uses the hips less when dancing


the applicant visits the right establishments
has learned to spend an hour over a single coffee in exchange for free wi-fi
earns enough for a macbook
knows which sticker to stick on the glowing apple
has found an appropriate hairstyle
hides her brandmarks


the applicant
has an apartment
has, with inimitable and admirable adaptability, acquired everything she couldn’t find outside
the eclectic yet coherent furnishing of her home reveals mastery, possibly even synthesis:
the tropical warmwater fish have found a place in black-and-white photos on the mantelpiece
the fully-grown, intelligently positioned cactus clashes harmoniously with the caribbean-blue
accent wall
the previously suppressed colors are now accents in the form of decorative cushions,
throws and wooden rosaries carelessly draped over the furniture here and there a surprise in the
form of a china madonna
room has been made for metal and cane
the lost sun features in this tableau in three objects in three different shades of yellow which help
to ground the whole, namely: couch, flower pot, and the collected works of franz kafka


    important details: the couch is not wrapped in plastic and
the applicant owns a remarkably large number of palm trees


the applicant makes occasional donations to charities dedicated to the alleviation of
the harrowing suffering of people in distant countries
doesn’t know what the people who have fled should do either
is broadly socialized
is skeptical regarding claims that are not supported by scientific facts
is critical regarding science
regularly displays an empathetic somewhat misplaced philosophical view of
the suffering of marginalized groups
doesn’t know what to do either
can stay awake in the daytime even in winter
has moderated her tone
controls the anger
has pointed the finger at herself
is prepared to learn how to ride a bike while holding an umbrella
is also prepared to learn how to put a bike on the top rack*


*the applicant can furthermore deal in an appropriate fashion with
thick-tongued merrymakers
the rattling bikes passing by
the trains jolting over the tracks
the ubiquitous concrete
the woman across the road with the drinking problem’s bottles smashing in the recycling
young men on scooters
small-town stares
the cargo bikes of dual-income breeders
the bureaucracy
the suburban homes
the long wait for spring
the sighing blossom
the reddish-brown of the bike paths—no longer recalls blood—
impatient commuters
fellow humans out shopping
crowded sidewalk cafés
the longing for summer
the difference between city, province and football fans
the cubes of gouda
the humor of orange afro wigs
the importance of carnival
the ongoing complaints about the weather
the four seasons
the racing cyclists


we welcome the applicant


the rain
the hail
the wind
the newspapers with a cultural supplement
the escalators
the hospitality concepts
the parliament
young men with moustaches
young men in leggings
the fraternities
the theaters
the art galleries
the punctuality of the public transport
the sparsity of nature
the full country
the flat, rectangular landscapes
the well-fed cows
the xenophobia
the freeways
the efficiency
the popular press
the suburbs
the windmills
the freedom of expression
the bible belt
the reliable utilities
the commemoration of the dead
the ailing meritocracy
the bildung
the mistrust of the eastern bloc
old men with mail-order brides
the social security
the hitler jokes
the patronizing
the thin walls
the omnipresence of arnon grunberg
the glass ceiling
the consensus
the glorification of malleability
the norm
the worship of unattainable physical beauty
the polemic
the postmodernism
the somethingism
the populism
the calvinism
the capitalism
the nihilism
the hedonism
the sexism
the nationalism
the existentialism
the atheism
the exoticism
the veganism
the feminism
the activism
the relativism
the objectivism
the pragmatism
the hoarfrost
the ground frost
the black ice






the blackness of the hole


black holes are weird
black holes are the strangest
objects in the universe


a planet or star has a surface a black hole is black so black a black hole doesn’t have a surface
a black hole is an area a hole in space an area where matter is
compressed and
catastrophically collapsed




that fatal collapse concentrates an enormous quantity of mass in a very very very small area
the gravity in this area is
very black and strong
so strong nothing can escape it
light almost always escapes but not from a black hole objects
that fall into black holes break everything
that falls into the black hole breaks everything
that falls into the black hole is stretched to breaking point


once an astronaut came too close to a black hole he was sucked into it he was torn apart by the
superhuman enormity of the gravity in the hole let that be a lesson to us nasa said we can’t see
black holes but we believe in their existence just like we believe in Jesus nasa said we believe the
black hole because the black hole does things to matter because the black hole does things to
stars because the black hole does things to the solar systems in the vicinity of the black hole the
black hole doesn’t think about it the black hole acts according to its nature


the hole is an area in space
the hole is black
the hole is catastrophically collapsed matter
a gravity grave
the hole is often surrounded by disks of matter
the disks rotate in a vortex around the black hole and get god-awful hot



Radna Fabias

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, was published in 2018 to universal acclaim and went on to win an unprecedented five Dutch and Belgian poetry prizes. Habitus will be published in English by Deep Vellum / Phoneme in September 2021.

More about the author →

Translated by David Colmer

David Colmer is an Australian translator who lives in Amsterdam. He has won many prizes, including the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (both with novelist Gerbrand Bakker), and most recently the James Brockway Prize for his translations of Dutch poetry.

More about the translator →