The On Being Project

Becoming Belgium: A Poem

Not with my first bite
 of luscious chocolate
 or sitting at a terrace
 watching others drink
 some 300 beers,
 the nectar of monks
 for relentless gray winters.
 Not in my language class,
 where I struggled,
 rules without reason
 strange guttural sounds
 broken verbs.
 Not as I navigated the maze
 to a laminated card
 that declared me a resident.
 Not during rain without end,
 that threatens
 to smother the sun.
 But then
 broken glass
 gagging smoke
 a dark subway tunnel
 silent, except
 for the cry
 of a baby handled
 by strangers
 as mother folded stroller
 filed quietly with others
 to the exit.
 In that silence
 a litany of pain:
 Waterloo, Ypres, Bastogne, the Ardennes,
 Leuven twice burned,
 the Congo not forgotten.
 And now, fresh scars:
 the Jewish Museum of Brussels,
 Molenbeek, Verviers,
 Zaventem, Maelbeek.
 There is a silence
 that always
 if we listen.
 In that silence
 I am

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