Eine                   Schere              verwandelt
ein        Pferd          in       ein          Einhorn
Ein          neuer     Name            verwandelt
einen    Mann    in     einen       Hochstapler
Ein   Ereignis   wird    zu   einer  Erzählung
Ein             Zebra            verliebt          sich
Ein           Selbst            bewegt            sich

I am a Matryoshka doll.
Carved like a familiar figure,
painted by an artist’s hand.
A set of personalities of
decreasing size, placed one
inside the other. My outer
layer is a man. A man like
any man. With a wife, a
house, a daughter, a cat.
And a window that looks
out onto the world. Open
my first two parts. You’ll
find the next man nesting
inside. A darker one now.
Old and shabby on the corner
of a street. Open him;
you’ll find a one-eyed king.
Inside the king, a rock star.
Inside the star, the man
with glasses you once met
in a nightmare.
It began the day my
mother bathed me and
noticed my skin was paper
thin. Be careful, she said
jokingly, the world will enter
you without warning. Creep
right through your pores.
I felt the bathwater slowly
mix with my blood. Soapy
material streaming through
my veins, my mother’s
words nestling
in my brain,
becoming thoughts, my
own personal thoughts.
I realised I was permeable.
From that day on I started
noticing how everything
could seep in. Words, people,
colours, time, gods
and money.
It began with me learning
how many cells we’re made
of, how constantly we
change from shape to chaos,
from chaos to shape.
Flocks of dust, dancing in
the sun. How foolishly we
mistake steadiness for truth.
Who am I?
I told you. I am the lonely
man standing at a window.
Seemingly trapped in an
ordinary day. My wife behind
me in the room, me
looking out with my fixed
perspective on the sun. But
look again, look well. I am
the man who outsmarts
life. Who knows nothing
confines you to a single
story, except your own
narrow mind. The man who
looks out on the street and
knows he could be anyone
walking down there.
Anyone he wants. Identity
is a matter of persuasion.
Convincing the world of
who you are.
Do I exist?

Yes and no. I sprung from
the hope that escape is
possible. That inside us
others nest. Every day we
can open and transform.
I am not some – but everybody
longing for a different
colour, a new life, another
wife. For unsteadiness. The
longing and all the fear that
comes with it.
I left my window that day
and became a man passing,
but never there, a reflection
in your sunglasses,
a vague spot in the corner
of your eye. A man floating
far above the concrete
roads of careers, mortgages,
whining children. I could be
the brother you never had,
the friend you needed,
the father you wished for,
everything you lack.
I am the one standing next
to you on the picture you
never took.
Maybe I should say I’m not
the man. I am his secret.
I’ve become that one
word you’re looking for but
never find. Indescribable.
Completely normal from afar
but when I approach you’ll
notice something wrong.
Something crippled. Out
of balance. You’ll notice the
flimsiness of my skin. The
paleness of my complexion,
disturbing, almost glowing.
I am a hole within a hole.
Avoiding the first one you’ll
step into the next and slide
down and never hit the
ground. I am a one man
wonderland. Interchangeable
from head to toe.
Destined to be opened.
Constantly falling apart.
You can’t fix me.
I am closer than you
think. Although I know
you would never admit
that, instead of one, you
have seven hearts beating
and often a stranger is
gazing through your eyes.
You wouldn’t admit to the
constant changing of your
mind. And for nothing in the
world would you admit how
you wake up at night to a
different name and face and
the vague disappointment
when in the morning it’s
just you. I don’t blame you
for mistaking your body
for a self. A face for a mask.
It’s a nice way of looking at
it. Wrong but nice.
I am the lizard behind
your temples.

All the heroes you wanted
to be. And the murderers
too. I am the threat to truth
and trees and family lives,
to everything rooted. If
you would listen I’d teach
you how to lift your feet
and vanish. But I know you
won’t. You look and point.
You try to pull me down to
street level, like a child
jealous of its kite for being
up in the sky. When you
have pinned me down, you’ll
realize I’ve left you behind
with nothing but a lingering
‘what if?’. What if I’m right?
Long after I’m gone you’ll
pass the houses with my
picture. Asking random
people whether they know
me. I guarantee you they’ll
all say yes. Everybody recognizes
someone made of
clouds. Although they won’t
recall specific details. And
they’ll recall a thousand
different names. You’ll easily
track me, but find me?
The other day when I was
staring out of the window,
I turned to my wife. Look,
I said to her, look how the
leaves have started falling.
What I meant to say was:
I know you know I’m lying,
I’m not who I pretend to be.
What I also meant to say
was that it doesn’t matter.
Leaves fall and people lie.
You don’t revolt against the
changing of the seasons.
What I meant to say was: It’s
all right. Let’s stay this way.
I could be happy.
She misunderstood.
Took my remark for a sudden
interest in nature. She looked
at me with loving eyes when
she should have looked away.
I am the man standing
behind his window. Diamond
shaped, reflecting all of you.
A man,
in a man,
in a man.

Marjolijn van Heemstra, 2011