Wednesday, November 10, 2010

404. panta rhei

Ettore Schwartz, Triestine, inveterate smoker,
smiles contentedly, snuggles into the couch
and analyses himself, at odds with the expensive
acolyte of Adler who sits, seriously, out of sight,
just there behind his head. This is rather nice,
thinks Italo Svevo, for this is the name he employs
when he writes his excellent unappreciated novels.
I really must have a word with my English teacher
muses Ettore Svevo, and so thinks Italo Schwartz,
as both, acting as one, reach for the next cigarette.

I cannot imagine what was going through Benjamin’s mind
there on the dusty platform, surrounded by yellow hills,
in one of those dreary arse-end towns (I’ve been through it)
every country seems to have. This is worse than most,
also, not helpfully, in Spain. Might as well be Chihuahua,
with the same hayseed police, smelling of wine and garlic,
mostly of themselves. Like mongrel dogs they smell your fear.
But suicide? Sorry, my dear, you gave up too easily.

Franz Josef was a thick-headed limited old brute
but not the worst of the emperors by any means.
Nobody thinks or even cares of this crusty old character
who went through so much personal heartache, who can
actually know what went through his dreams at night?
His wife, one of the most beautiful women in Europe,
was flighty, horse-mad, and refused to sleep with him,
his only son and heir shot himself with a 17-year-old girl,
and the Hungarians and Czechs never left off badgering.
Then Franz Ferdinand, whom he never liked, got himself shot
and the whole ramshackle Empire blundered into War.
At least, poor dodderer, you never lived to see the end.

Simple advice; when a young girl offers you adoring blowjobs
and you are a middle-aged man, married, and also happen to be
the President of the United States, you should reach deep
into yourself, balancing the pleasure against the consequences,
and say, Why not? You never know when you’ll get the chance again.

I met Bob in Hawai’i when I was driving a taxi for Charley’s.
He was new, I’d been around, I was set up as his Driver Supervisor…

Stauffenberg should have made sure, staying behind
until the final moment of detonation, sacrificing himself
and not racing back to Berlin. I do not question his courage,
which had already been proven, only his judgment, his thinking.
Room was needed, the briefcase moved, and Hitler lived.
I wonder what really would have happened: perhaps not much.
The real heroes, or victims, were Hans and Sophie Scholl.

The first thing, Bob, is you’ve got to stop drinking and driving.
OK, boss. Next thing is don’t lock the doors, let them get out before
they pay. What if they don’t pay? Bob, if I was your customer,
I would definitely pay. Everyone in the company looked askance
at Mad Bob, everyone but me, maybe because he called me boss,
and did some of the things I told him. Some of the things.
Bob had had a bit of a … chequered record in Vietnam.

O turn aside and no more weep
Upon love’s bitter mystery …
Fergus rules the burning cars.

You never loved me. At night, darling, in the darkness,
You would allow me to hover enter it in, you would
grunt and shift your hips, sustaining an angry passing joy,
and then you’d race, sticky from me, to the bathroom.
I lay behind you, dazed, exhausted, thinking this girl
wants to marry me, and if she does, her burst of spread-your-legs
will come to an abrupt skidding end. I could foresee
years of tightened lips and frowns, blanket disapproval,
and while thinking on these things, a monkey came through
the window, scared the bloody hell out of you. He was a young
hungry chappie and I laughed. You carried on so loud I knew
for sure I would never marry you. Tight body and tits to die for,
but downturning lips and that glint in your eye. No thanks.
I need a relaxed little girl, a good cook, ready with a smile.

Bob started to tell me his weird jungle stories
so I sent him out into to the bright lights of the city
which was a mistake: the garish night-scenes of Honolulu,
where the Mahu boys down on Hotel Street, bored and horny,
would fling themselves, baritone, at your crotch,
and you’d hear the polite pop-pop of handguns, soft sounds off,
as people settled their economic and personal differences.
At four in the morning you’d steer around the bodies,
most still alive, lying still, with pale goose-pimpled thighs
under a lightening sky of pale pink and streaks of purple,
and you’d take the dregs of the battered drunk young sailors
to their grey steel ships, bobbing bobbing in Pearl Harbor.

When she was young, you know, she was a tremendous beauty,
the toast of Edwardian London, Hove and the Isle of Wight.
It’s said that the Old King came out and saw her one morning
and brightened up considerably, asked her in for a spot of tea,
and said, My Word, what a sight for sore eyes, etcetera,
that kind of thing, and died, coughing, not very long after.
She preened and pushed out her chest, not inconsiderable
even then, fluttered her lashes over deep violet eyes, behaved
like the stupid bitch she has been ever since. In Wimbledon
in the late fifties, her garden  adjoined the dank collapsing
collection of bricks my immigrant poor young parents were renting
from the dying Mr Bannerjee, and she would appear fully dressed
with a damn parrot on her thin left shoulder and say (to me),
Kindly desist from making those distressing noises, as I refought
the Battle of Britain with plastic Spitfires and Messerschmitts,
and the sky was white or grey, with a menacing hint of rain. 

Theo had been to Poland, France and Russia with the victorious
Wehrmacht and reckoned it had been pretty good, except. of course,
for the last bit, freezing his balls off in Khaboroshtny, Khonovreshnyev,
something anyway with a fuckin Kh. Bernd (they all called me Bernd)
then I know we lose the war. Fuck Hitler, says Theo. One good thing,
in the Army you never must listen to the verdammte Propaganda.
But in the Rheinland, 1923, I was young boy maybe seven or eight
und die Gebrueder Meerschlag haben mich wie ein junges Maedchen
gedresst mit tennis balls als tits, eine Bluse und skirt, ja, langes Haare
mit ein Wig, dann in the Park hineingeschleppt, und die verdammte
French Negertruppe an mir gekommen sind, Hallo, hallo! Kommen
die Bruder from out die Buschen mit knives from butcher und machen
die Neger zick-zack kaput! Blut! Everywhere blut, blut! They say go, go!
I run. I laugh, ha ha. War not so good. In the beginning, champagne.
In the end, no wine, no beer. Only piss, ja, piss and dirty water.

Theo grins sardonically. Theo is my pal.
Bob is also sort of a pal but he worries me.
Mr Bloom is a thoughtful Jew, miles and miles from Trieste,
nestled, unsettled, under the gaze of doddery old Franz Josef:
K.u.K, Kaiserlich und Koeniglich, Coocoo, Kakka.
The world turns. On its axis. Not much choice.

At dinner parties, journalists back from war zones are occasionally asked what it was really like. Perhaps the most accurate answer would be to rape the hostess, murder the host, cut the children’s throats and set fire to the house, without any further explanation.

On his deathbed, Ettore calls for another cigarette.
This, he thinks, will really be the last one. The Last Time,
I don’t know. Benjamin thinks of the best way to die.
Stauffenberg, his mind ticking, looks down from a cracked
airplane window, sees the damp fields of Germany mutely yearning,
helplessly spread below. Soon I’ll be in Berlin. Soon we’ll all be
in Berlin, more a metaphor than a city. I was going to speak about
Bob and Honolulu. Bob arrived from Saigon as it was known then
after three years in Leavenworth, one of those maximum security
prisons where God-fearing white Americans send  unruly minorities
to moulder,  to grow old and crazy, die. Seems Bob had shot and killed
his Platoon Sergeant, some redneck hillbilly with a drinking problem,
stitched him across the chest, brrrppp, brrrrpp, brppp, oops, dead,
and said, I’m gettin the fuck outta here. They called it in on the radio
before the Cong wiped them out, every single last little lonely one,
and that was the end of Bob’s platoon. Bob, who was large and loony,
hijacked some poor (God-fearing) little chaplain in a jeep, rattled
his brains, and turned up with his papers at Tan Son Nhut, the airport.
First they sent him to Leavenworth and then they sent him to me.

I fell in love with Molokai. I used to go there once or twice a year
just to get away from the nyah-nyah shite of Honolulu.
There were no hotels, no cranky tourists, no grinning Japanese,
only ill-dressed locals in battered pickup trucks, a third of whom
were gay, gently fondling your balls (chug-chug went the motor),
softly sighing as the message of polite rejection sank slowly in.
They would bring pakololo to your campsite, bottles, slyly chide you.

In life you meet all sorts. Life, people, ding-ding, all that shite.
Bob was doing great until he murdered one of his passengers.
It was the night shift, I reckon the fucker deserved it, you’d almost
not want to drive on nights of the full moon, whatever people say,
the loonies would come out in squadrons. Some sweet little girlie
cracked my mate Jimmy’s head with a hammer, fractured his skull,
he’s never been the same since, tho’ not scintillating to start with.
War zone. That’s how, dear friends, I paid for my Masters degree.
The PLO, come to think of it, were doe-eyed lovely young men,
not a bit like the tattooed hard chaws in the well-trained Provies,
offhand little ‘do’s’ with both sets reduced me to trembling jelly.
I was never really a soldier, more like a civilian in uniform,
and I don’t like getting shot at. Sorry. Could be a personal thing.
One of those bullets smacks home and no more poems. I know.
I can see that hopeful glimmer in your eye.  Patience, please.
There’s always traffic accidents.

Ettore got banged up in a traffic accident, around 1927 or 37,
not great with the dates: his old pal JJ had helped to make him famous
in France, followed by the furiously blushing snobberie of literary Italy,
and he died in bed, which is generally a good thing, longing for the last,
that very last and final cigarette. Ah, such bliss (puff) to be alive ….