Johanna van Fessem – Populus Alba

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First we flew, like the storks on the nesting wheel in front of the farmhouse, after landing

flapping their large wings, bending back their long necks, rattling their pointed beaks.

But we sang.

We cycled and sang

flying beneath the forest trees in the shade, swift arrows of sunlight streak over us,

tires swoosh on the tarmac, freedom, morning, sunrise, Laudate…

Fast, faster, the wind pulls back our hair, pulls us back, but we don’t stop;

only for lunch

at a dolmen; three of the capstones lost, two collapsed inward, one serenely holding fast.

On the edge of the moor it stood, the moor now growing potatoes, now a church spire on the horizon.

The moor had been wild and treacherous, soft soil, spongey underfeet, hidden pools, will’o the wisps.

We made an offering of cherries for forgotten ancestors, thanked them for our life, our genes.

Still we sang Laudate.

In the heat of the day, trees and cows and houses become flat packs. Now we don’t fly, we sigh. We travel through a shoebox landscape, two dimensions in a shrill white light, neither forest nor moor. This is Le Plat Pays, divided and curved through by dikes like flatworms, one after the other, dried up reeds and bullrushes at the seams. The wind is hot, the saddles are torture, slowly the sun travels along the copper dome. Gratefully we drink water, Laudate echoes, but inaudable.

As the red sun bends towards evening, the road bends gently towards the last village of the day, where we will find shelter. Tarmac sings softly under our tires, White poplars on each side rise high above our heads, shedding coolness, speaking in tongues. While we seem to stand still, they swiftly pass us one by one, sixty on each side, like domino stones, but not falling, like Greek columns rising from the ground. The many eyes on their trunks notice, follow, let us go. We are flying again. Populus Alba. Laudate…..

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