Tram 11, a poem by Herman de Coninck


Tram comes. Tram goes. Going: a young Zairean
humming huskily with baby, plenty of time,
intimate with each other, in public
yet still alone. The tram looks on.

Tram comes: a Moroccan woman tries to quiet
her whining little tatty boy. The more she shakes him,
the more syllables fall from him.
Until an Antwerp woman's ta-ta-ta

brings him to himself. And to all of us.
Ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling through the town.
Public transport civilizes us, makes us festive,
maintains our confusion.

Herman de Coninck
Translated to English by Cedric Barfoot and Sonny Williams.

Way back in 2007, that was me reading Herman de Coninck's poem on stage in front of more than a few people.