II : Wandering
continued along the banks of the Dear
and marveled that its poisoned waters supported life—here a common moorhen pulled itself out
of the water and perched, its tentacle-like yellow legs
gripping some unknown protrusion at the water’s surface
next to a battered and curled strip of corrugated sheet
metal that rose from the water, anchored in the canal,
it seemed, for no good reason. I was on a nice
walking path adjacent to a long narrow stretch of grassy
field -- a rare feeling of unoccupied space in Artevelde
-- a perfect spot for wandering foreigners and local
dog-walkers. The back side of a building, a high
brick wall painted red on the opposite side of the
grass, had been used for an interesting commentary:
someone had painted a huge noose (an ancient symbol of
the city) depending from the top of the building.
At the bottom of the noose, attached by a smaller rope,
or perhaps by its own skin, hanging limply from a point
at its mid back, was a sallow looking dog.
An elegant bridge crossed the canal in a low angular arch with side railings of swirling wrought iron. At each of its corners was a sculpture growing, tree-like, from a tall column. The column might become a humble looking woman or a pair of boys near the top; these supported on their backs other people and cows and horses, or two people in a row boat, the weight and mass of carved stone exploding toward the top of each piece like a crown of broccoli. I did not recall any of this from my days in Artevelde. Perhaps I had never walked these rounds.
left the Dear and chose again random, narrow
streets. On one house was an intriguing
display: five square boxes framed in black wood
and fronted in glass were lined up in a row, mounted to
the glass bricks on the side of the building.
Inside were neither saints nor virgins. The first
held a selection of slender stones standing on their
smooth, rounded ends. The second in the sequence
offered pinecones resting in the slightly dimpled backs
of white cotton-ball sheep. The third held an
assortment of garlic heads, filberts, and swirls of
dried grasses. Four dwarves with long pointed hats
holding implements, lanterns, and pipes stood in the
fourth case. The fifth was nothing but a thick web
of shattered glass, as far as I could see -- either the
work of vandals or the pure genius of the artist.
On the way back to the hotel I saw the French recording
artist, Serge Gainsbourg, in a shop window. Actually it
was a ceramic figurine, a rather grotesque
representation of Mr. Gainsbourg in an aqua
leisure suit, on sale for 32 Euros.