‘Set out from Ghent
though I thanke God for it, I do hate this towne.’
Hugo Claus, from The Sign of the Hamster
“How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix”
Title of a poem by Robert Browning
Ghent was once the big city of textiles
and true to that, it’s where my life
began to come apart and fray.
It was also the city of good news –
I work in an archive with newspapers
but nothing ever happens to me.
At the end of the day my fingers
are black like I’m a mechanic of words
tinkering with something I can’t fix.
My hair has started to fall out
as if it just can’t bear to carry on
being party to my thoughts.
One day I woke early, in the dark,
pulled a black jumper over my head
and I still seem to be pulling.
Who’s to say that when my mood
plummets, it’s not like the crow
swooping down for something it’s seen.
That crow’s plumage, too, is often
so black it seems to my eyes blue –
despair softening to melancholy.
Here I’ve learned that where water finds
the most resistance, it sings. The geode
only sparkles when it’s broken open.
Ghent is also a city of boats and canals
but it takes a dirty little dinghy
to reach the best yachts in the harbour