Friday, May 28, 2010

384. Under The Waves Stays With You My Heart

Unter Die Wellen Bleibt Bei Dir Mein Herz

Frau Elena Proschkow, 92, remembers her first husband, her abiding true love, Kapitaenleutnant Hans-Christian Meier, commander of the submarine U-263, lost at sea on November 9, 1942.

O Christian
how it all comes back --
I can see you now
so young, so eager,
so resplendent
in your tailored uniform,
your dark eyes gleaming,
your shy lovely smile,
the proud glances of your father,
the apprehensive eyes of your mother,
and, there, both laughing and fearful,
little me, three months pregnant
with Johann, our firstborn,
the child you would never see.

I weep now to remember;
I can see it all so clearly
even now, after sixty-eight long years,
like a photograph, like an image
burned into my brain;
you, my darling husband,
you, the best of all men,
on the night before you went to sea
for the last time, never, never
to return to the warm bed of love.

We had been married two years
and your parents had made
some initial old-fashioned fuss,
but you, my dear, had insisted politely,
with the hidden steel of a German officer
(I think they were a little afraid of you),
and I loved you all the more for that.
Christian, you made me so happy!

Father had an eye for a pretty girl
(yes, you smiled when you told me!)
and your mother soon capitulated
when she saw how much I loved you.
O Christian, Christian,
in those early days, we were
so happy together, so proud!

The degenerate filthy French
had been soundly trounced,
and the cold treacherous English
were left snarling on their island,
as the new Germany, under Adolf Hitler
became triumphant!

The shame and the stain
of the First War had been erased
(in which my father fell, as you know)
and the German nation, reborn,
was holding a lamp to the world:
Kraft durch Freude, Strength through Joy,
a bulwark against godless communism,
a shining example of will.

Do you remember, my darling,
that day we first met?
You were a young lieutenant
and I was a girl with the BDM,
(a Gruppenleiter, you never knew that!)
and we were lost in the crowds,
all the celebrating thousands
cheering for Goering and the Fuehrer:
that was June, after the fall of France,
such a day of heartwarming pride!

I was pushed this way and that,
lost one of my shoes, such enthusiasm,
and you, my dark-eyed knight,
came to my rescue, plucked me forth
from the surging multitudes;
you carried me off for coffee and cakes
at the Adlon Hotel. Such class!
I fell in love immediately.

The courtship was exciting,
but correct and approved,
and we were married within six months
after the usual blood tests
and racial examinations;
I thought my heart would burst
with sheer joy. O my darling!

The War continued for some reason
although it was perfectly clear
we had already won. The British
behaved very badly, in my opinion,
but you fought like a lion, naturally,
gaining a Knight's Cross (First Class!!)
followed by well-deserved promotion.
Then came your first command.

When you were away at sea
I would pray for you each day.
In one corner of my little room
(we had had to move to your parents'
after the cowardly bombing began)
I had a picture of the Sacred Heart,
and in another, the divine Fuehrer,
and with my arms outstretched,
I prayed to both of our saviours.

Keep my Christian safe!

Such joy whenever you returned!
I would rush headlong to the docks
(along with your mother and father,
now my dear friends, lovingly united
in our adoration for YOU, dear Christian)
and you would hold me in your strong arms,
there in full view of your crew,
who were lustily cheering and smiling,
waving their caps, even whistling!
My dear, how they loved you ...
but never so much as me.

Then came the attack on Russia.
We were surprised, but understood
these swine were the real enemy,
the Bolshevik dagger at the throat
of western civilisation: the foul
English, blind to decency and reason,
continued their useless resistance,
and you, my dear, punished them
remorselessly. Your name was respected.
I was proud to be your wife.

I noticed with concern how
haggard you had become; with each
successive homecoming from patrol
you became more withdrawn, less
enthused for the dream of Greater Germany.
Naturally, I restored your patriotism,
even when you were snappish and surly,
but I was a bit taken aback, darling,
when you removed the portrait of the Fuehrer,
and once (almost) I had the feeling
you were about to strike me:
silly, silly -- my imagination!

America (negroes and mongrels!)
came into the war, and the bombing
became much much worse.
They are such hateful, despicable
opportunists, everybody knows that,
bought off by the British and the Jews;
they came in for the money, nothing else.
Can't they understand anything?
The Bolsheviks want to destroy civilization!
Only Germany can prevent disaster.

Strange news is coming from the East
which I can't believe: the BBC
is spreading vile propaganda
about German actions in Russia.
These people will say anything.
They also say that the Jews,
having been removed for their own safety,
are being eliminated. Nonsense.
Our enemies will go to any length.

I worry so about darling Christian .....
At this point Frau Proschkow broke down and was unable to continue. The news of her husband's death shortly before the birth of their first child is something she still cannot discuss. There is evidence that Frau Proschkow entered into a liaison with an American sergeant after the conclusion of hostilities and was thus provided with food and, it would appear, cigarettes and nylons which she was able to trade on the black market. Charitably, one must assume that this was done to protect her young son Johann. This relationship seems to have led to a breach with her late husband's parents. In 1955 she married a prosperous factory owner named Werner Proschkow with whom she lived amicably until the death of Herr Proschkow in 1970. Johann Meier-Proschkow is now a senior executive with Siemens in Munich but was unavailable for comment. Frau Proschkow lives alone in a tiny apartment in Berlin surrounded by photographs and memoribilia of the early 1940s, most prominent of which are citations from the BDM and a large studio photograph of her first husband in naval uniform. He looks remarkably young.

-- BDM- Bund Deutscher Maedel - female equivalent of the Hitler Youth.
-- Gruppenleiter - group leader

383. Love in LA

When I first met you, darling,
you were an awful little bitch,
spoiled, living on Daddy’s money,
there beside the swimming pool
with your full, your bouncy little tits
contained in a scant bikini,
and you treated me like some
Mexican gardener, ordering me
about like a peon, so of course
I stomped out, angry, incensed,
past the jacarandas and the BMWs,
but you came running after me,
said you were not that kind of girl at all.

There was no way your family
would allow us to get together,
so we had to meet in out-of-the-way places:
burger bars, shopping malls, Starbucks.

I had a little car, a Rondeo.
You winced when you saw it.
Never mind, it moved, we went
skimming along the coast, laughing,
in love with life, so giddily
in love with one another.

We talked about everything,
your parents, my parents,
the total unfairness of life,
and then we kissed and hugged,
and you let me put my hand on your breasts;
trembling, I squeezed them ever so gently,
my whole being in my fingertips,
and once, only once, you touched my cock.
We were in love. Anything could happen.

Why did you do it? Why?
The first I heard was when my father said,
you know that girl you talked about,
she went and killed herself. Pills.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

382. North Cider, South Cider, Rest of Ireland

The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit – a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age. The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live.

-- Éamon de Valera (New Yorker, returnee, scholar, rebel, felon, Taoiseach, President, old man, corpse, transformed national icon) from a speech made on Irish Radio on March 17, 1943.

People laugh at the innocence of de Valera these days, and of course they are welcome to do so, but in my never sufficiently humble opinion, I think -- no, I know -- they don't have a clue where he's coming from. He may have been prudish in sexual matters, painstaking and upright in even the smallest financial transactions (thrifty, too), appropriately dressed on all occasions, and in many other ways a man of his time and its notions of respectability. But politically he was a dangerous radical, quite implacable, ready to employ violence if need be to bring about his unbending dream of an independent Ireland. Because of the rigidity of his character and his overweening belief in his own righteousness this was not always a good thing for the people around him (Michael Collins immediately comes to mind) and not always a good thing for Ireland either. His inflexibility caused a great deal of conflict and dragged us into a civil war over the Treaty in which former comrades within the IRA ended up hunting and killing one another in a war that could and should have been avoided. Like De Gaulle, even Robespierre, he was one of those authoritarian Great Men who identify themselves with the State at a time of overwhelming duress and will brook no opposition. But out of misery sometimes ... sometimes comes redemption.

But what about modern Ireland? Freedom becomes a habit, a thing one takes for granted. A free nation goes off in different directions, no longer focussed on national grievances or the humiliation of foreign occupation. Different lifestyles come into play. New difficulties swim out of the depths, raise their ugly heads, problems entirely of our own making. How we cope with them is the measure of the country we have become, now that the older generation that bequeathed us the Free State, then the Republic, have gone on to their grumbling & complaining final rest -- de Valera among them.

So what is Ireland like in 2010?

It's bloody hard to explain. It's a meritocracy with recent family overtones and less recent historical undertones. The class system, like America, is largely based on income. Kids who finish school and go on to university get jobs and make careers while the kids who drop out at 14 and hang out in the neighbourhood end up on the fringes. Family connections (it's a small country) can definitely help get you into a job; lack of them can also freeze you out. During the 1990s there was a huge economic boom which made some people incredibly rich and their kids got used to living on Daddy's money. At the same time the working class kids bounced around from one dead-end job to another and got caught in a world where the big money came from drugs and criminality. This is very evident in Dublin. The big distinction in Dublin is the River Liffey -- Anna Livia.

I wrote a poem below (Anna Livia) which simply talked about the river itself, and not what it does to Dublin City. The river runs through the centre of the city and acts as a kind of border-line, not quite like the Berlin Wall, but in local perceptions somewhat similar. The North Side is essentially working (now non-working)class: hard-scrabble, tough neighbourhoods, old houses, what we like to think of as the 'real' Dublin -- two guesses where I'm from -- with a heart and a soul, the part of the city where all the young fellas came from in the past who dropped everything and went out to fight for Ireland. Could be there wasn't all that much they had to drop: restricted lives and boring jobs, provided they had one. This is where Leopold Bloom lived, next to the church (dull stroke on the strike of nine) in Eccles Street.

North Cider/ South Cider was a clever ad by Bulmer's last summer -- a cider-making company who'd figured things out.

The South Side contains the Old Viking city, the University, the leafy Georgian squares, the government offices, the museums, the quiet avenues, the settled civilised side of the city. This is where all the 'outsiders' settle, coming up from the country and from foreign parts like you wouldn't know what. They've taken over the city in their upscale spreading suburbs. The rock stars and Hollywood celebs go further south to Killiney on the sweeping Italianate hills overlooking the sea. It's beautiful. It's expensive. It's so cool. The North Side (inner city) is turning into a slum. So that's what's happening.

This is just a lead-in. Sorry. A fellow Northsider -- now living in Spain, strange how we can feel so passionate about the place yet choose to live elsewhere -- sent me this. It's a parody, sure, of all the things I've been talking about above. It's no more than a joke, yeh? Trouble is, it's not that far from the truth ....



NAME _________________________

NICK-NAME ____________________

GANG NAME ____________________

1. Deco has 0.5 kilos of cocaine. If he sells an 8 ball to Vinno for 300 Euro
and 90 grams to Tomo for 90 Euro a gram,what is the street value of the rest of
his hold?

2. Anto pimps 3 brassers. If the price is 40 Euro a royde, how many roydes
per day must each brasser perform to support Vinno's 500 Euro a day crack habit?

3. Whacker wants to cut the kilo of cocaine he bought for 7,000 Euro, to make
a 20% profit. How many grams of strychnine will he need?

4. Christy got 6 years for murder. He also got 350,000 for the hit. If his
common law wife spends 33,100 per month, how much money will be left when he
gets out of the 'Joy?
Extra Credit Bonus: How much more time will Christy get for killing the
slapper that spent his money?

5. If an average can of spray paint covers 22 square metres and the average
letter is 1 square metre, how many letters can be sprayed with an eight fluid
ounce can of spray paint with 20% extra paint free?

6. Liamo steals Eamo's skateboard. As Liamo skates away at a speed of 35 mph,
Eamo loads his brother's gun. If it takes Eamo 20 seconds to load the gun, how
far will Liamo have travelled when he gets whacked?



(if longer, please continue on a separate sheet)


DADDY'S COMPANY___________

1. Julian smashes up the old man's car, causing x amount of damage and
killing three people. The old man asks his local TD to intervene in the court
system, then forges his insurance claim and receives a payment of y. The
difference between x and y is three times the life insurance settlement for the
three dead people. What kind of car is Julian driving now?

2. Chloe's personal shopper decides to substitute generic and own-brand
products for the designer goods favoured by her employer. In the course of a
month she saves the price of a return ticket to Fiji and Chloe doesn't even
notice the difference. Is she thick or what?

3. Rolly fancies the arse off a certain number of tarts, but he only has
enough Rohypnol left to render 33.3% unconscious. If he has 14 Rohypnol, how is
he ever going to shag the other two-thirds?

4. If Savannah throws up four times a day for a week she can fit a size 8
Versace. If she only throws up three times a day for two weeks, she has to make
do with a size 10 Dolce et Gabbano. How much does liposuction cost?

5. Alexander is unsure about his sexuality. Three days a week he fancies
women. On the other days he fancies men, ducks and vacuum cleaners. However he
only has access to the Hoover every third week. When does his Sunday Independent
column start?



Name: Paddy/Mary _________________________

1. If Paddy Joe Murphy drove a Massey Ferguson through PaddyJohn's turnip
crop at 10miles an hour. What colour was Paddy John's tractor?

2. If John Joe likes Mary and Mary likes Paddy, how much is a pint of stout
in O'Brien's at the crossroads?

3. Paddy Joe Mahoney has 25 sheep, 10 cows, 12 hens, a cockerel and 6 geese.
John Joe has 12 sheep, 18 cows and 12 pigs. How much does Paddy Joe offer to
John Joe for a dowry for Mary?

4. If it takes Sarah Jane 40 minutes to cycle 12 miles to O'Brien's on the
crossroads for the ceilidh and it takes Mary Murphy 40 minutes to walk 2 miles
to O'Brien's, which girl will end up in John Joe's hay barn?

5. If Paddy Joe's prize hen can lay 4 eggs every morning and his other hens
can lay only two each the odd morning, which one will he have for Sunday dinner?


Yerra! Whoever wrote this knew first-hand what he (possibly she) was doing. This harks back to the ill-printed circulars and pamphlets handed out in the same old familiar streets 2-300 years ago on pain of Transportation. Cantankerous wicked people, they keep coming along, God Bless 'em entirely! Siochán leat.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

381. Ithaca

Death is now a welcome guest
When I am laid in earth, may my wrongs
Create no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me … but ahh, forget my fate.

-- from the libretto to 'Dido and Aeneas' by Henry Purcell

The chainlink fence prevented and defied all access
so you had to walk hundreds of metres up to the gate,
sweating in the sun, but as the suitcase, thankfully, had wheels,
it was no big deal; the same hundreds of metres back again.

You get used to these things: world travel is basically
one inconvenience after another: people scrambling through
windows on Indian trains, scrabbling, losing their grip
falling under the wheels, screams. The old grandmother
collapsing suddenly upon your lap on the bus in Guatemala
who turns out to be dead, eyes open, dribbling on your knees.

Afghanistan. No, we don't want to go back to that,
to that young lad dying in my arms. Allah … Allah… Allah ….
his last moments spent with an infidel Ferenghi. His eyes, his eyes
fixed on me to the end: pleading, darting, then frozen glassy still:
poor poor young boy, I held you, carried you into your death.

Some things you simply remember, others you cannot forget.

An iron ramp led into the bowels of the boat, which was
rocking and swaying, even on a very sheltered harbour tide;
there came angry shouts, brilliant smiles, the usual Greek confusion,
as passengers come stumbling aboard like sheep, and me
among them: this battered old tub will sink and drown us all!

When setting out upon your way to Ithaca,
Wish always that your course be long,
Wish for many adventures, many good stories.
And let there be many summer mornings
When with pleasure and with great delight
You leave a harbour for the very first time.

In a stink of diesel fumes and alarming shudders
we departed the harbour, farting on all cylinders,
and left behind Patras and the Peloponnese,
and all of Greece, as troubled now as in ancient times,
with its pride, corruption and underpaid military,
almost (but not quite) Balkanized,
a summer playground for backpackers,
for pallid northeners with better salaries,
our EU partner who cannot pay their bills …

But I have seen Greece in a far different light
after emerging from Turkey, across the minefields,
(Idiota! Did you not know the risk? No, I didn't)
but I knew instantaneously I was back in Europe
after pleasant then precipitately rather unpleasant
relations with the Turks ( a small matter of a smuggled car)
when they wouldn't let me leave, I left anyway.
I didn't know about the mines. Obviously.
The Greek customs guys thought it was great,
clapped me on the back and plied me with ouzo.
One in the eye to the Turks! I actually liked the Turks,
far more stable than the Greeks, a bit ponderous,
Oriental, Muslim, but solid, not so excitable.
I love Istanbul. Been back several times since,
no hint of that phantom car on an expired passport.

It's so good to be young, you know?
No matter how stupid you are you still survive,
unless, of course, you don't. Happens.

But do not rush your journey.
Better that it should last for many years,
And that when you moor at Ithaca at last,
An old man, enriched by all you have gained,
You do not expect Ithaca to give you further wealth.

Here on this boat, snorting, plunging and struggling,
we passed by the coast of unknown secret Albania,
home of the greatest criminal gangs in Europe, recently
spreading their tentacles into Italy and even beyond,
a total plague not unconnected to the KLA or KSA,
whatever, that crowd NATO supported against Serbia.

But that was a couple of wars ago:
after a while, you lose count of wars.
Vietnam is simply fading into history,
all the deaths, the wounds, the pychological damage,
all the aging warriors, the damaged surfers
surviving on drink and pills. Well, they will soon
have a new bunch of veteran friends
from Afghanistan and Iraq. It will never end.

I lay no claim: I have no claim to lay.
I believe in freedom.
I believe in travel.
I believe in all countries open to all men.
I don't like war. I've seen it.
No thanks.
I believe in a rollicking great shag.
I believe in friends and family.
I believe in little children,
in desperation, love and honesty.
I believe in ... things that disappear
(well, fucking won’t be one of them).

You do not expect Ithaca to give you further wealth.
For Ithaca has given you the journey.
Without her you would not have set your course.
There is no more she can give.


The quoted poem is from Cavafy, an Alexandrine Greek (1863-1933), and it's my own rather doubtful translation.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

380. Anna Livia

Old lazy lizardslither
you come swiftly softly down,
concomitantly coiling
on your way to Dublin Town.

Here be a bridge, be water,
be people walking, talking
in a rapid half-sung dialect,
warbling inta mobile phones.

Half-heard tones of sub-aqueous
subterranean splendour, raise
the heads of sleeping river gods,
Lugh the Lord of Light, hidden spirits
within ancient aching stones.

(picture: Jack Yeats, "The Liffey Swim")

Monday, May 03, 2010

379. Kanzanji (a Japanese riff)

We got out there with the wind rippling rippling through the rice fields, so frail, so bending, so outstandingly beautiful, light green, dark green, hints of yellow ... Teruo said we needed some sake ... there was a shop by the side of the road with the Noren down, the split curtains across the door, a sure sign the place was open ... we poked our noses in ... Irrashaimase! Come in, come in! ... Mama san grinning behind the counter ... local boys from the Fire Brigade, red-faced, smiling, happy, been there for a while from the looks of them ... paid for the first couple of flasks and that was the last time we put our hands in our pockets ... Gaijin san, the hell you from? ... huh, what, ah who cares? ... pretty soon the place was reeling ... Mama san like a nutbrown berry, three teeth and a battered kimono ... Papa san's feet slightly showing, sleeping it off under the counter ... the roar and the heat of the lads ... Here for the fireworks are you? ... Well, yes. ... We know the best place to go, we'll take you, have another why doncha? Still early ... won't start till dark ... are you drinking or what? Me, I went out for a piss ... seemed to take half an hour, not pissing just getting there, aww Jayz that felt so good! Trees, woods, where the hell am I? Listen, listen, listen ... follow the noise. Claps and cheers, the prodigal returns, I come through the door, try to do a bow and fall flat on me arse. The lads go into hysterics. Where did you say you were from? ... Have a drink, gaijin san! Thanks, thanks and thanks again ... but then the shades of the Japanese night descended, descended in slow darkening spirals almost as though the freshening wind was bringing the darkness in from behind the mountains. Time to go. The boys rose almost as one and we rose with them ... out into the rapidly falling dark. Sticks were placed in our hands. Snakes! Poisonous snakes all along the narrow mountain trail! The lads were battering the bushes, laughing themselves silly, falling down ... the snakes, being sensible, stayed well away from us ... so up up up the mountain and down the other side ... and then the whole lit-up glory of the lake was there right before us ... people crowded crowded on the other side (not knowing firemen, not knowing our mountain, possibly also terrified of snakes) ... and the fireworks began! Crack -- boom! Explosions all over the sky, the oohs and ahhs from the other shore ... red, gold, purple, yellow ... crack! ... again and again and again. We sat by the water's edge with our mouths hanging open ... holy Jeeeeeeeezus!! Sat by the water's edge jarred into some semblance of sobriety ... and then with a glance and a grin both Teruo and I tore off our clothes and dived into the waters of fierce flickering reflections ... God, it was cold, but so fresh, so pure, so beautiful ... so silent when you went under and so full of colour and explosions when you came up again! Ha - hooh! I think we both went a little bit mad that night and it wasn't just the sake. It was ... it was just something.