Poem by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

People of the desert

You swell with pride, you always imagine yourself up the highest tree,
every morning you take vanity from the cupboard, you polish it
until it blinds the other, you fly but your wings overshadow,
what good is beauty if you can barely look at yourself.

You are penny-pinching, your purse always spotlessly clean,
you long for wealth and are not averse to theft, even if it stealing is
usually for some other reason; in search of happiness, would you pull
it out from between someone else’s ribs, hold it up like a trophy.

You struggle with the desire of all desires and fantasize yourself touched,
you suffer from bullishness, your eyes sometimes see red
and then you lose again, most of all you want to declare love,
you want to say: I am smitten with you, and for that to be echoed.

Often you suffer from envy, you want to suck out the heart of a mortal
like a honeycomb, you want to lick the sweetness and then know
how to live, you always want what many eyes desire, you want to be
beholden and for you to be the only one, the universe, and admiration.

You gorge on the juiciness of prosperity, you are so greedy
that you often choke, blood trickles from the corners of your mouth,
you only feel sated when you are stuffed to the brim, when you
have half a deer in your stomach and still yearn for the next meal.

There is wrath inside you, it eats away at the frame like woodworm,
every now and then you plot your revenge, you are good at that,
you string a rope and hope the mortal stumbles, falls on the cobbles,
that you’ll feel better, your angry face is red and feared by all.

Anyone allowing laziness to lead them will never reach their
destination, you trudge through this existence, you are lazy and often late,
you simply enjoy slowness, you like to make your entry into the day
at a snail’s pace, to take everything slowly and sometimes turn back.

The desert dweller suffers from the chaos of intemperance, he does not see
that he is the yoke, the beam in his own eye; we all have sin inside of us, this is
what you need to know, whether you are falling or flying: there’s a bottom to every
well, a ceiling to every sky, so you will tumble, endlessly and scramble up again.

Translated by Michele Hutchinson

For Opera Forward Festival 2021, author and poet Marieke Lucas Rijneveld wrote ‘People of the Desert’, a new poem about the seven deadly sins.