………………………….. I: THE BITE OF BRUSSELS
I’m back for what will be my third time in this city;
Staying in the same room and same Hotel for comfort,
While watching Belgian lives undulate.
For there is a sense of ease to these streets, crowded
As they are: yet they lengthen; as dreaming cats will
On carpets: their concertina of fur and flesh celebrates
Some secret self, to which anyone else is not privy,
And just as each cat owner is skivvy to their feline
Commands, I obey the rules of this place,
Where there is seeming happiness at each corner.
It is a low rent Shangri-La beyond borders
That Brexit has set to convey
Now, which is what I feel as I sit here, despite
Having found the Express Supermarche,
Which sells the best ham and cheese rolls in the world:
The soft brioche bread, Gouda and mayonnaise
Become transport to a divine state of being,
One for which all of joy’s flags rise unfurled.
That and the lick-thin Croky crisps, which bare
None of the fat or stodge of the British,
And the spinach and feta in filo pastry, coupled
With the passionate kiss of fresh juice, compensate
In their way for the form of divide I am feeling,
As if the separation of souls could be salvaged
By the sensations aroused through produce.
And yet I feel satisfied, I daresay, as I cross
Under the parked arch of a digger.
As the steep streets bow to the river,
I have been falling through holes for some months,
Seeking a new underworld. Erdos as Orpheus?
Hardly. And yet, in that tumbling, the knife edge
Of toil twists and blunts, stabbing into my side,
As I strive to refocus my purpose; living as I am now,
For no-one, apart of course from the face
That I see staring back. It is at the cusp of time’s
Chaos. The skin is marked. Its not mottled.
But aging awaits. Its in place. So I chase a chance
Of happiness here and unclaimed by love,
Play the poet, talking to this page, like the woman
I would share this city with, somewhere else.
In some alternative world, where flavour is not
Compensation. And where my fresh bite of Brussels
Is something to savour and where these lone moments
Become a dream we can wake to in this exercise
And in walking in and around mental health.
II: EVEN THE TREES
The trees seem wiser here, perched
On a near vertical bank by the river.
One, as with Pisa’s tower seems to
Completely defer to the stream:
Bowed, as if pushed into an uncaring act
Of persuasion, in which the need to succumb
Is not sanctioned. Instead it represents
Angles’ theme. Which is to grant fresh perspective
And shape the visible world, while referring
To some other surface, where reality itself
Seems to fold. And where the light we think
Graced is simply granted by shadow;
Sent and intended to dazzle, so that man
As last slave to nature can be finally bound
And then sold. Only these trees know the truth
In this most reflective of cities. They point perhaps
To man’s new dry drowning and to baptisms
So bitter that as the water is stained each bank scolds.
And so I am in Belgium once more but stay
On the same long street by one river.
I have left the ghost of Jacques Brel in his Quarter,
And my sad search for sin to the young.
I am holding onto the day while claiming residence
In small hours. I have not explored. Yet the safety
Of dissecting domain feels sun sprung. I choose
To remain part adrift, while foregoing the roams
I am no longer in the habit of taking, despite seeing
Each streets charged by others where I can imagine
The lives fully lived. So this is not a Solipcist’s slant,
Or a Suicide’s act of removal. It is not escape,
Or defiance, or even contrariness; its a gift.
Received alone. Sent alone. Enjoyed or endured,
Free from reason. My taste is torn instead
By this climate as I bite down on breath
Tanged by tears. I wish to transform
And emerge as a butterfly with the burden
Of just what to become. As such, here in Brussels,
I see both the end of it all, and of fear.
IV: AU REVOIR
I return on the train with my back towards Britain,
Watching Europe leave me, just as we have left it.
Or, betrayed it. Or, worse: conceived a form
Of deluded diaspora in desertion, divorcing a culture
For a racist return and knife twist.
How damned we are; the deal done on our
Execution. Ashamed to be English I attempted
Schoolboy French when I could; reduced
By my age, and yet gratified by the Belgians
Who conversed in the language in which
I write this verse: Foreign goods, that extend
Beyond the brioche to reveal an exercise
In refinement, while here the lowest common
Denominator finds new levels of tastelessness.
What’s referred? Certainly not the sweetness
Of their jams or the culinary glaze of their burgers,
But something else, more persuastive. As our stale
Cheese moulds, theirs cure curd to unleash
A richness in rain as well as in sweltering weather.
As the known world bakes, undigested
Squats the political carelessness of our cooks;
Which must be why we revere cooking programmes
So much, as they display pride and product.
We are not even what we watch, though.
We’re blinded as we no longer know where to look.
This used to mean deeper in. But now,
Man’s murk masks the mirror. Brexit, feared friends
Is the blister made of bastards and blood.
You’ve been hooked. And so, as with all addicts,
You’ll burn inside the heat of indulgence,
Either with regret, or reflection of all that still haunts.
Just as the world I knew turns to ghost, and I return
To the great British graveyard, loving the lost sense
Of belonging. The past itself is a poem,
And the future a scripture that thanks
To our disbelief, may soon taunt.
David Erdos October 18-20th, 2021