Two poems from Passport, Nine Arches Press
In Catholic Belgium, the norm
is to have a crucifix hanging
in every classroom. Ours
is broken and lies in bits.
It looks like a gun someone
has been ordered to surrender.
No one mentions it.
I’m the one person in my class
not fleeing war or tyranny.
They accept me, even when I say
I’m only here for love. We bond
over coffees we buy each other
and the language we’re slowly
making our own.
There’s a cobbled path that leads
down to my Dutch language school,
its stones a Babel of coloured granites.
In class I watch a man who’s just
registered for lessons try to get
through the big glass doors.
One is wide open, the other closed.
By instinct or experience
he tries the locked door first.
They say Belgians are born with a brick
in their stomachs, such is their love
of property. It’s taken us until now
to have a few thousand of our own.
I’ve brought little to the buying
of this place, but I do have a brick.
It’s deeply stamped Radcliffe –
the brickworks (that no longer exist)
that made the red blocks
of the 1930s semi I called home.
My rough brick won’t sit flush
in these fine walls. Still, I lay it down.
Richie McCaffery divides his time between Ghent, Belgium where he lives with his Flemish wife and the UK. He has a PhD in Scottish literature from the University of Glasgow where he was a Carnegie scholar. Richie is the author of two poetry pamphlets – Spinning Plates (HappenStance Press) and Ballast Flint. In 2014 Nine Arches Press brought out his first collection Cairn and in 2018 his second collection Passport. His essays on poetry have been published in places such as Studies in Scottish Literature, Etudes écossaises, Scottish Literary Review and The Dark Horse. His poems have appeared in journals such as The North, Oxford Poetry, Ambit, The Times Literary Supplement and Magma.