Becoming Belgium: A Poem

Friday, May 13, 2016 - 12:21 pm

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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is a Haitian American writer and recent emigrant to Belgium. She was the first Rhodes Scholar of Haitian descent and earned a Masters in English and French literature from St. John’s College at Oxford University. Nadine received her PhD from Indiana University and an MFA in Fiction from the Whidbey Writers Workshop/Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. She is the author of a poetry chapbook, An Invisible Geography. Her fiction has appeared in Haiti Noir, edited by Edwidge Danticat, and her nonfiction was published in Becoming: What Makes a Woman, edited by Jill McCabe Johnson. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Radcliffe Quarterly, International Herald Tribune, and other publications. You can find more of her writing on her website

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