Saturday, October 12, 2013

You will not have trouble

finding her.

In Frank Auerbach's Euston Steps
she is sitting with her back to you
on the bus-stop bench - 
her hair is the way it looked like,
each brush-stroke 
a distant memory.

after the night of broken glass
thousands of Jewish children 
come to England - memory 
breaking at each station, they come 
to the arms of strangers - 
Bernd Koschland, then 8, Bavarian,
"didn't know the language 
except one sentence" in English,
the only one his parents taught him,
before they became only memory: 
"I'm hungry, may I have a piece of bread?"

They always came
from the arms of strangers
how much of parents 
did they know at eight, at six? 
Was memory stronger for them
than distance growing? - 
after just a few months 
in a local Swansea school, 
when his father telephoned him 
on his birthday in June 
– Henry Foner ('little Heini' of the postcards)
remembers the call, he had stood 
in the hall of the Foners' home
in the Sketty – his father continued to speak,
but he had already forgotten his German.
From then on, all his father's postcards to him 
were in English -- in them tears were 
always two sentences deep.

In Auerbach's Euston Steps
the rail station is becoming concrete, 
is becoming platform -
two steps, three steps, 
bewildered, "that's what I wanted to show,"
Meisler said, years later, in the sculpture 
that he did for the Liverpool Street station
- "disorientated, tired...bewildered children
coming into wartime England,
not knowing a word of the language."
On the platform, saying goodbye, 
the last thing his father told him 
- before letting him go - 
was "Whatever happens, study, go 
to university."

I am more certain it is her
- she who'd let him go, every year
becoming memory, becoming 
distance - who is facing the other side 
- "It all feeds in," Auerbach relented - 
she has a suitcase in front of her, 
the one she had packed for him, in which 
"I had some things for wearing immediately 
and then on some items my mother 
had stitched a red cross in the corner 
for later use [always, love is a letting go, two steps, 
three steps - memory is pain 
in the arms of strangers] and some items 
like tablecloths and sheets were for use 
when I was grown up."

Frank Auerbach's Euston Steps

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The blindest wish: A Pantoum

The blindest wish I ever made 
(I thought there'd be no tomorrow!)
lightly I said, I did not wait:
"May I know no more sorrow."

I thought there'd be no tomorrow
or I would have wished for grit,
"May I know no more sorrow"
what could be falser in ev'ry bit?

I would have wished for grit
that comes slowly, at last, at length
- what could be falser in ev'ry bit
to ask for more than bits of strength

that comes slowly, at last, at length
- as more days, more evenings fade,
to ask for more than bits of strength
is the blindest wish I ever made. 

(thanks to Eytan fox and Gal Uchovsky)

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Garden of Earthly Delights - Panel III

The bridges - tightropes so tense
they'd break - go from dark
to dark

from behind sharp cliffs
there is light - always withheld -
not of the sun but of the crater, Burn! Burn! like kindness
of countless rocks, of regrets later
turned red-like, turned
- by the gnashing of teeth -

the horned-nuns,
the brown-beaked guards
an' the white-capped musicians
call out to them - arrows as sharp
as sin, and as thin - pierce their ears

they hear things:
the world is an anatomist's table
earmarked for bloodless curiosity
- because, only the past is red, red
would have been munificence in this world,
would have been life

here, ladders for years lead up to acacia trees,
long since dead, each rung
a harpoon
a bone

here, the strings of the harp - do they now 
mourn? - run through the heart - do they 
now make music in fire and brimstone? - through the guts,
and where fingers break - heartstrings,
played in the dark
are only hissing snakes

an uncertain dice is cast,
naked, their heads are compasses
- you never know what it takes
to be saved - sometimes mirror, sometimes gold, now south
an' now west, the dagger's plunged
in the white of their hands - Hell is the Impossibility 
of Rest - and, in their stomachs, inventions gone wrong,
gone cold, rats with sore intentions
flutes that make no
sound, that only gnash teeth

they always walk - death is never a sound sleep - but their feet
are boats and blue water is never deep, walk on ice then
is that what it takes? - till ice breaks, what fall
could be colder when the blood is the first to freeze,
iced-tears you cannot weep
yet cannot keep

the die is cast, the lantern's lit -
but it spits out only war, it spits out
only the dead - for the second time -

only the colour of the past is red
- red would have been kindness in this world -
for the last time, when they, barely seeing, grey, take a bow
hell is this world
right now.

Hieronymus Bosch's 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' (circa 1490-1510)