The Queen of the Belgians

The Queen of the Belgians

Commemorating Astrid’s death
The Belgians made a postage stamp
That my father prized, for her face
Like my mother’s, Thirties-beautiful,
Serene around its edges.

I’ve got it in my album now
A thing handed down, like advice,
For me to find in the face
Of a queen at Europe’s edge
What it was my father found.

Queen Astrid, that my father
Put in an album for her face,
Is puffed into my thoughts by love.
It stands there like the heart of all I know.
I am the age my father was.

-Douglas Dunn
From ‘New Selected Poems 1964-2000’,
Faber and Faber Limited, 2003, p. 12.

I like to think that Douglas Dunn worried easily away at this image of Queen Astrid’s face, bringing it up again and again in each verse, turning it this way and that until he landed unexpectedly on what he could never have imagined he was looking for – the realisation that he is turning into his father. Had he, of course, set out to reach that conclusion he may have never got there. This unmechanical repetition, newly thinking the thought each time it reoccurs, slowly heightens the meaning that emerges. When the poem finally takes an unexpected turn into the culminating image of the poet as his father, this image is amplified by a chorus of Queen’s faces.
-Jonathan Burrows, A Choreographer’s Handbook, Routledge, 2010, p. 11

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