Bruegels' Mad Meg vanquising foes, real and imagined
Scenes of the old City Center and Elfde Gobod on Torfbrug
It was hard leaving Romania.
Plans between the three of us –flights, life details, schedules can tricky.
We don’t worry about the details.
We do what we can do.
We take what we can get.
Which tends to be a yearly trip.
Into a mystery.
But we never know where its coming.
Rob had been in Romania for days, exploring the Transylvanian myths, learning about Vlad the Impaler, exploring Dracula’s castle, as I was going to do with him.
But Easter was late, pushing break well past the Spring.
Our last night, Rob and I talked into the evening, wandering from 15A to Graden of Eden and back to the Intercontinental for more drinks at the hotel bar.
A few hours later, I made my way to the airport.
The plane full of Romanian handball players horsing around on our flight to Poland.
All those black and white sweat suits, like the Olympics all those years ago.
When Nadia was king,
catapulting through history.
Perfect 10 in ’76.
Silver medal in Moscow 1980.
Obsolete at 23.
Leaving her country in ’89,
Months before the Revolution.
"“Romanians have a saying, 'Not every dog has a bagel on its tail,'”
“ It means that not all streets are paved with gold. When I began my career, I just wanted to do cartwheels.”
Romania left us wondering,
Feeling the same way.
Running away from New York, Bruce Benderson found himself there making new friends, doing a few cartwheels of his own.
“Of course, a blow job given in friendship isn't the most arousing, but it stays in the memory longer,” he wrote after a short stay, tracing the outlines of a new novel, The Romanian: Story of an Obsession.
The feeling lingers.
Sad to leave it.
I thought looking at the handball team on the flight,
Talking about Nadia with coaches.
Snapping photos of each other.
Leaving me to dream on the way to
Alive and bawdy.
Sex and art on the edges,
As a good city needs,
High dancing with low.
People sleeping in the train station.
Spray paint on the walls:
“Leave us alone, signed the girls.”
“Vulva La Revolution”
History here there.
An migration mix.
“I feel good. Going back to Romania to see my mom,” noted a friend at the station,
On the way to Antwerp from Gare De Nord.
Reading Master and Margarita,
sympathy for the devil.
Moscow Magic realism.
Just outside a majestic train station in the Antwerp.
High art and low.
Building on each.
Off to Ruben’s House.
And the Museum Mayer van den Bergh.
Bruegel the Elder’s Dulle Griet, or Mad Meg, a figure of Flemish folklore, a 1563 oil-on-panel.
A collective memory,
Inside and out.
Real and imagined.
a looming reality or a bad dream,
a collective memory or a fantasy.
Her sword drawn.
In Lives of the Netherlandish Painters (Het Schilderboeck, Amsterdam 1604) Karel van Mander, described, “the composition's main character - an armoured witch-like figure armed with a sword, cutlery and money-box - as: "a Mad Meg pillaging at the mouth of Hell", although he gave no clue as to the narrative or meaning of the picture… There is a madcap, topsy turvy feeling to this apocalyptic work of religious art, personified by the deranged Griet who returns from (or advances toward) the mouth of Hell. Some art scholars have interpreted the work as the Breaking of the Seventh Seal, as foretold in the Book of Revelations - the last book of the New Testament.”
After encountering her, I am lost.
Past a Cathedral,
Into the vine covered Elfde Gobod on Torfbrug.
Just a coffee please.
Past a bookstore.
Past red lights,
Workers in windows.
Walking Roberto Bolaño’s Antwerp,
“I wrote this book for the ghosts, who, because they're outside of time, are the only ones with time… time isn't the only thing that matters, time isn't the only source of terror. Pleasure can be terrifying too, and so can courage.”
Contending with something else,
A feeling that accompanies Roberto:
“a secret sickness called Lisa. Like all sicknesses, it's miserable and it comes on at night.”
And even during the day.
Back to Brussels
Onto the subway,
Back to the street car.
Meeting James for a final drink off Subway Louise.
Before making my way back home.
I already miss it.
Passing through as so many others have done.
“One time we played a concert in Antwerp, Belgium. At least I thought it was Antwerp, Belgium. Turns out it was a Stop 'n Shop in Wisconsin somewhere, but it was fun man.”
Suns up, and off we go, through Warsaw, West, West, West.
Back to Brooklyn.
See you next year Jamesy!
Time for a Tyskie and pierogis on an unexpected layover in Warsaw. The road offers countless surprises. Sometimes good, as long as I make my flight.