“Level 4: Brussels” by Susana H. Case

Susana H. Case


The metro and the underground streetcars
are shut down, every station, the soccer
match cancelled, Johnny Hallyday’s songs
rescheduled for spring, because who can get there.
The authorities advise: shelter in place, and
the market held on Sundays is not this Sunday, brick
and mortar stores locked. A man in a big jacket
walks around the city with a bomb
beneath the cloth. Even he is anxious, or, maybe
he’s a ghost now. No one knows.
Three tourists photograph themselves
at the Grand Place, in front of soldiers, next to
a Christmas tree, because what else can tourists do,
but wend their way to a few bars that are defiantly
still open.
Each big jacket is a suspicion.
It’s November, the first snow flurrying; anyone out
is wearing a big jacket. Who will wrap the pretty gifts
piled into holiday displays? Who will eat the food
spoiling in the shut-tight bistros? Manneken Pis,
little bronze man, still pees in the fountain’s basin,
Maybe he’ll save the city again.
He can dress as the mayor in a fur-trimmed cloak.
Streets are sealed behind the Hôtel de Ville.
Hardly anyone is there to point and laugh at him.

Poets Respond
November 29, 2015

[download audio]


Susana H. Case: “This poem is a response to the virtual lock-down of Brussels as a response to intelligence suggesting an imminent (level 4) threat. It recalls the myths about the main symbol of Brussels, the little statue called Manneken Pis, who has saved the city before, some say, by peeing on fire and who is often dressed in fanciful costumes.” (website)

Rattle Logo