High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Hans Dorrestijn: Brussels-North
© Lidia Postma
© Lidia Postma © Lidia Postma
Poetry Week 2020

Hans Dorrestijn: Brussels-North

The Poetry Week is the celebration of poetry in Flanders and the Netherlands, taking place from 30 January to 5 February. In 2020, the theme is ‘The future is now’. Because we believe that children are the future, every day we present a Dutch children's poem in English translation. Today: Brussel-Noord (Brussels-North) by Hans Dorrestijn.


In Brussels station you lost your
parents. They screamed desperately from the train
but you couldn’t hear the time
and the place where you had to be.
Then all you had was your old cat.
You pressed her firmly against you
as you walked. Twilight was falling
and you looked for a hiding place
in an abandoned factory on an industrial site
far from town. When you fell asleep
the cat lay right up against you. That night
you started awake, your arms empty.
You hadn’t cried for your parents and your little brother
but in this godforsaken darkness
you sobbed aloud and called her name.
You groped your way through the hall and found
the window shot to pieces.
There was nothing: no light, no wind, no sound,
no cat. The end of the world
seemed already over. You knew the immense
darkness full of hangars, rusting sites,
puddles, bodies, lorries, cranes
and more and more tears came.
You didn’t know if you were looking south
or north, so didn’t even know
if you were really looking in the direction of Naarden
where, far away your house must be.
Your warm light house with your young brother
who would still be lying in the garden
right across the path to the shed,
his face hidden by ground ivy and wall.
His arms loose with the palms
upwards as if he were pretending
as you used to do
to frighten each other. Then it was peace.
Rutger dead, Puss gone, your parents roaring
eastward on a train.
Wars are lonelier, less exciting
than in war films.

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