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Memories of Europe

-- By Dr Ramesh N. Rao

Cologne, Germany

It couldn't be the same city
bombed out, broken
only the towers of the cathedral spared
to witness the Rhine choked up,
burdened by burning, bruised barges...

Two hundred trade fairs a year
the city fathers of Cologne boast now
and trains arriving and departing
every twenty seconds...

No reminders of the past
to tourists as they shop on Hohe Strasse
no pictures, no memorials, not a token piece of debris
to tell the Kolsch drinkers that
hell was here in their fathers' times

Groeninge Museum, Bruge, Belgium

Masterpieces by the Flemish greats
Van Eyck, Weyden, Goes, Gerard David...
Giving us John the Baptist's head on a platter
blood gushing out his neck

Another martyr to Christianity
drawn and quartered
the four limbs of the hapless believer
tied to horses headed in four directions
resolute soldiers ready to whip their steeds to speed

One more, Cambyses, skinned alive
neat, long incisions on his right arm
and his belly
the Lord's name on his lips
pain and fear in his eyes

German speaking parents
with two children a boy and a girl
doing the rounds dutifully...
the boy all agog, asking questions
of a reluctant father
the mother, concerned,
holding tight her little girl's hand

"This should be an adults only museum", I joke
and they smile in relief
the burden of educating their wards
lightened for a moment...

The Angel Cafe, Maastricht, Holland

He sat by the window
nursing a dark Leffe
as the rain turned to mist
and the lights bounced off the puddles
on Vritjof Square

"Another one", he signalled the bartender
keen more on continuing
his love talk on the cell-phone
than keeping the customers refilled

He was leaving next morning
to go back to his boys
and their routines --
treats, litter boxes, cat-chatter...

One more Leffe
and he would leave the city on the Mues
the carillon bells of St. Servaas
the sex and coffee shops
at the corner of Brusselstraat and Grotestraat
and Dutch girls on bicycles...

Originally published on Thursday, November 25, 1999.

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