“The Situation” – Arno Van Vlierberghe

Cabaret Wittgenstein is happy to publish an English language translation of “De Situatie”, one of the poems featured in Flemish poet Arno Van Vlierberghe’s début, Vloekschrift (2017). It was translated by Jonathan William Beaton.

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2016_12_27_16_29 — The outstretched hand — The non-world — Liberal nostalgia

2016_12_27_16_29. Finally, having arrived at the crossroads, we could see The Situation materialising. The political, economic, cultural, social situation. The nice houses emptied. The conference rooms, too. The cinemas. The party headquarters. The temples. This is the current time of writing. This is what we have to work with. This is, in brief, The Situation. It is at this moment – this one, indivisible moment – that I feel truly at home, a paid-up member of the most beautiful non-world that today has to offer. One with the indefatigable God-and-Fatherland voices. I.M., your outstretched hand is not mine. What is The Situation? Not factions but transactions. My brain now a stock market, a transfer zone where little becomes nothing. My work, my home, my nest. The organisation around me swells, contracts, encloses me like an amniotic sac where growth is still permitted. All around me the waste of the past century. A bundle of energy, alone in a space. What is The Situation? The poem as dialogue, an Arno that doesn’t want to talk.

Me, work – Anguish Language – The new barbarism – My resources, my tools

What is The Situation? And why should we shut it down? All that is solid melts into PR. Me, work. Dismantling the institution, in search of a community. Find more institution. Of course. Institutions, notions, people bent on power. Of course. The new barbarism. In brief, The Situation. My resources, my tools. Also The Situation. Heroically and ridiculously I march to work. Left-right-left-right-left-right, all charged up and full of potential, strategically shambolic. I don’t know yet what I’ll do. Play it straight like the others, why exactly I don’t know. To not be afraid anymore? Mindlessly and guilelessly buy what’s still left to buy. It’s gradually getting dark and hard to breathe. What is The Situation? Not work, but occupation. Hunting in a field of extreme power dynamics. Stretched and blind, I move through the 24/7 in search of respite. In search of slumbering resistance. The economically robust family. A war of my own, entirely mine to lose, to give up deferentially to a tangible enemy. I wish I had something hopeful to say, something useful. The predictable consolation I feel as member of a powerful set-up, worn like lubricated livery, a flag for parading, ragged but acceptable. Impatient capital, wait for me! I’ll be your sentry. There will never be a better now! To ra-di-ca-lise! What is The Situation? No one’s left, no one’s left and I’m alone, I’m alone now.

Praxis of love – Resumption of movement – Only echo – Exit

What is The Situation? It is almost morning and I’m standing at my post. Pondering the early aesthetics of war, corporate infighting and the sputtering blood that keeps me going. My breathing calm, my muscles warm again, my mind clear again. You in the centre would do well to mind your heads. There will never be a better now. The words and their echo are as ever they were. Hardly perceptible in the tumult of the city. In all our factories and in all our offices and all the stations and all the prisons and all the hospitals. Now only echo, and then no more. What is The Situation? With proud chin and head held high, I strangle my workplace. Bury it, leave it behind. What do you see now? It’s morning and I shred my skin on the world around me, mercilessly, coarsely. What do you see now? Forgetting in the rhythm of our bodies what movement was. What do you see now? That all your thinking in this world will be my thinking. That all your belief in this world will be my belief. What do you see now? The power of speculation, the power of difference. What do you see now? Cold intimacy, disguised as praxis of love, wiped away by a new wind that blusters through our history. What do you see now? A wedding, the street and the institution. What is The Situation? What is our duty? Radical empathy. What is The Situation? I forfeit the community that never was. What is The Situation? The forlorn vitality of an Arno. I won’t smooth my edges. Not for you, not for me. What is The Situation? I’m becoming impossible.

The goodbye – Radicality of Love – Centrophobia –Panic

What is The Situation? Why should we shut it down? And how? The words waft in from every dark corner. I have a proposal. Let’s usher in a new beginning. Not consecution but contradiction. Movement and stillness. Order and disorder. Light and darkness. Look closely and say what you see. A linguistic virus, fruit for the future. Believe in betrayal. In immobility, non-existence. Believe in terror. Desertion, courage, doubt, and what else? I see the prevailing facts for what they are and admit nothing. I honour. I believe. I want. Let’s begin with an indisputable fact: yes, it was ‘me’. My body is ready, drenched in the perfume of the past. I am taken up by the rhythm I didn’t know I lacked! I sing a song that closes the ranks, I believe in the fruit for the future that is the poet. What is The Situation? Think of the beginnings, the rhythmic resumption of movement. I don’t know yet what I’ll do. Anxious, cautious, driven, able, alive. I stand at my post and I sing: let the panic melt away.


Arno Van Vlierberghe is a Flemish poet born in 1990, based in Ghent (Belgium). His work has appeared in several Dutch literary magazines. ‘Vloekschrift’ (2017) is his first book of poetry.