Long rows of cloth,
the city’s riches, whiten
in damp sunlight like claw
marks scraped on the land. Bister
hardens, blue slate glitters
on canted roofs. Wind-blown leaves
flaunt their silver petticoats.
This plain, so painfully flat –
one feels the sea’s approach.
Floating like scum on fertile water,
a thin scurf of wall and roof,
steeple or mill, and rising up,
St. Bavo’s great mass,
size of a thumbprint –
all this dwarfed by the sky –
giant clouds, vestiges
of smoke and bruise, swelling to
some cataclysmic tumble –
the fullness of which we are
only the smallest part.