Tom Hengen

Pirates & Slaves U know

Tom Hengen

Poem writer


I’m Tom Hengen and was born in Luxembourg on 15 December 1973. I have lived most of my life in Dudelange, but I was living in Aberystwyth on the mid-West coast of Wales and studying English and American literature there for 4 years until 1998. As I was an active participant in the vibrant local poetry and music scene, I got exposed to all sorts of different types of creative expression – whether literary, musical, or artistic, which I have tried to absorb and process in my very own personal style, I think, and which has resulted in the long poem, Explorations in C.

One aspect that flows into my writing here is the struggle which living in between two different cultures can become: on the one hand, there is the home culture, which you have distanced yourself from and are only an occasional visitor to. On the other hand, there is the sense of strangeness that comes with living in a foreign culture, which can always only adopt you to a certain extent. In that way, I refer to the concepts of travelling and exploring, thereby marrying the sense of belonging to both cultures, and neither at the same time. Deprived of a more traditional sense of rootedness or homeliness, the traveller turns to friendship and experience to make sense of the world and remain open to it. Ultimately, the writer as traveller-explorer hopes to leave a track on the road we travel, both as a testimony of our passing and a homage to the people we shared our time with.

Pirates & slaves
Pirates & Slaves
Commodify yourself,
your words never echo your thoughts, let the drums roll,
and drown yourself
in pretence.
You resent the world around you, denying it what it denies you; pirates and slaves,
you know,
pirates and slaves.
by Tom Hengen
The turtle series
(from Explorations in C) I
i was a turtle
and swam twenty
thousand miles
it took me years
some say
the best years
of my life
adolescence is way
back in some
indefinite ocean
where i crossed paths with whales and
sharks and
i have now come back
to lay my eggs
white and fragile
buried in deep sand
at this time of the night
there is only darkness,
storms are coming in from the sea and nothing but fish are out there now i crawl out of the water
and creep across the beach breathing becomes a pain
Watch the turtle now
i need a minute to fill eternities, to share with you
the stories of ancient rhythms,
of a tribe of global mongrels, and visions as bright as the night
brothers and sisters,
we are floating through the C,
this infinite territory,
hugging the forgotten angels
of the memorable invention of now
our importance is as subjective as love and as real as pain
The voice within is dead now, the voice without hardly more alive, it is time now for departure, it is time now for rain.
It is time now for time, it is time now to walk out of this garden, to swim out into that ocean
that is used to breathing fire,
she never cared for those who cannot swim the darkness of burnt memories.
Her grandfather worked the steel, her father the printing machine, now she makes offerings
to the whales and the ruins.
with the homesick turtle.
The ruins left behind will come back to life
With the forthcoming rain, I love you, but as for now, It is time.
The turtle reaches new depths below a raving surface.
She swims in the mythical river, where storms can’t touch her.
In this fleuve tranquille that makes us orphans, the turtle will show the way,
we will see it when it wants us to see it.
Travellers like us know the emptiness and promises of this road.
What we leave behind generates
the hope for new arrivals,
never to know the masks we discover in this carnival that is the night.
We are members of the ancient tribe,
our stories will speak for us, when time has long taken its toll. The turtle survives to copulate with the magpie, bearing a truly human friend with a truly human mask,
with eyes so free;
and a shell so strong;
with a language of pictures, and visions so real;
with wings so powerful, and a will to steal.
Another tale she has spun now.
One more time, chance may have it, This tour de force will be her final one.
Another twenty thousand miles With thunderstorms and flashes, Putting the hammer to hot iron Shaping destinies in raging fires That illuminate the soul of a turtle Whose eggs have brought forth life.
The C is home now
For creatures vulnerable as babies, Relying on an atheist’s prayer
To swim past sharks unharmed.
by Tom Hengen