A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Thanksgiving today. Soaked with sleet.
No sun for six days — six is the Devil’s number.
I have looked through this window,
at these American skies for 5 times 6 years.
This is my third garden. The first two blossomed in Belgium.
Where there is no Thanksgiving. Where my father is buried.
Where I was raised and raped.
Where I worked. Where I had five lovers, but loved only one.
Where I gave birth to three children.
A blond son, a dead daughter, a blond daughter.
Two trees grew in my first garden. Because of North sea winds,
they fused into one trunk. It wounded them at first,
that rubbing together — the frailest tree losing sap for months,
a lucid sap that glued them to each other at last. I saw it
as an omen for my life.
I give thanks for the lowlands in Belgium. For Flanders,
her canals and taciturn skies. For tall ships on the river Scheldt.
For coal pyramids in Wallonia. For the color of hop,
and the hop-pickers’ songs. For Antwerp’s
whores who woo sailors in six different tongues.
Six is the Devil’s number. My grandfather and a farmer
killed six German soldiers and threw them in a Flemish moor.
I can no longer give thanks for that: I ask mercy.
Before I die, I’ll plant a larch by that moor —miserere—
I prayed six times for the death of my Jew-hating father,
I ask mercy for that also: it’s Thanksgiving today.
I give thanks for my son and daughter, for the man I still
love — who taught me a new language.
For this garden’s trees.
When I left for this vast continent,
I stole a leaf from a tree behind Apollinaire’s grave
sand from the river Scheldt, an inch of barbed wire
from a Concentration Camp near Antwerp, but
no weed, not a seed of it, growing from my father’s ashes.
In Belgium, the day is almost over. A new millennium
already wages its merciless wars: miserere.
A jacaranda grows in my garden now, and two olive trees:
one for my son, one for my daughter —
and far from a moor in Flanders, I still pray Miserere —
but for America now. For America.
Copyright 2018 Laure-Anne Bosselaar. An earlier version of this poem appeared in The Hour Between Dog and Wolf (BOA Editions 1997).