I actually remember my Dad refer to the story in conversation, so, of course, I asked
him what it was so he would have to tell us his version. I thought the Little Dutch Boy
was so lucky because he so young had found not only a function but saved the whole town.
‘So that’s what it meant to be Dutch’, I thought, and went around looking for leaks to plug.
When I finally got over to Haarlem many decades later, it was my wife who discovered
that there was a statue there, so, of course, we got on the bus and rode way out to the edge
of town and as we went I asked the bus driver “what is the origin of this story of the Little
Dutch Boy with his finger in the dyke?” He told me that Americans kept coming asking for
this Little Dutch Boy so finally they put up the statue out at the dykes at the edge of town
so they would have some place to send those persistently pesky Americans with their ideas.
Then I felt I really knew what those Dutch people were really like. Very Practical. Very Polite.
So the internets tell me that “Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates” (in English) is one of the
earliest sources of the story of the Little Dutch Boy with His Finger in the Dyke where it is
the story within the main narrative that echoes the 19th century theme of you too can vault
to success, rags to riches, shoe shine boy to millionaire, perseverance and, yes, spit polish
you too can make a fortune, you know we all want to save the world, save the world. Yes.
But the waters are rising all around us. They send for the Dutch aqua-engineers to come
to New Orleans, to come to Manhattan, to come to, yes, that’s right Boston, Massachusetts.
As I’m researching the Little Hero of Haarlem I see on the yahoo scrawl how this great ice flow
came off Greenland and besmirched with Greenland volcano ash floats farther south than
almost any of the previous ice flows which the scientists know because they have been finding
ash from many millennia of ice bergs as they drill the bottom of the Atlantic so they know, you
know how far the ice made it far into the past. It’s the warmest July of the warmest year ever
on record and the biggest ice berg is farther south that ever before and I’m looking for the dyke,
a place where I can put my finger to repair the great earthen hunk that keeps the sea from flooding
our home, our only home.
James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.