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Inna my heart

‘There was a negro murderer in the jail, who had killed his wife; slashed her throat with a razor so that, her whole head tossing further and further backward from the bloody regurgitation of her bubbling throat, she ran out the cabin door and for six or seven steps up the quiet moonlit lane. He would lean in the moonlit window in the evening and sing. After supper a few negroes gathered along the fence below – natty, shoddy suits and sweat-stained overalls shoulder-to-shoulder – and in chorus with the murderer, they sang spirituals while the white people slowed and stopped in the leafed darkness that was almost summer, to listen to those who were sure to die and him who was already dead singing about heaven and being tired.’ (W. Faulkner, The Sanctuary)

 *

The more I read this passage, the more I fall in love with the beautiful brutality of it and the way all these folks succumb to their fate (as they see it); propping themselves up on its flaking, painted spokes. Can’t help but wonder, tho: how come so much spirituality can’t stop that hand from slitting that throat? Sing. Prop yourself up, best you can; sing the pain away. And I think of a song I repeatedly catch myself singing:  Lord I want to be like Jesus (and the next line goes:)  inna my heart.

In heart but not in deed? Oh well, I guess it’s the thought that counts?

None or a brilliant one

Whitney blue red body July 2014SAM_1029

 

the human face is my fiercest nightmare, there are layers and layers, I’m afraid to work my way through them, there are dungeons full of secrets in the psyche

 

we bleed

we are revolutionary

we run through wet streets

we masturbate

we talk about it

we drink out of the same glasses

we fuck each other

we are three, we are four

we are five and two

we are full of colours

we are old blue pale photographs

we moan

we learn

we are together

we are separate

for there is none or a brilliant one

our hips bounce

we slide into lives

we are erudite libertines on everlasting oil paintings

 

swim in our seas, swim in our seas

 

(adapted from Seraphic Addiction, the first independent publication by one of my former creative writing students, Laura Gentile. Painting, Untitled, (copyright © 2014), by L.W. Eden, who says of the piece: ‘My painting is about the body and its Sinneswahrnehmungen. That’s why I drew it with my hands – not with a brush  or with some other tool –  and that’s also why I didn’t opt for realistic colours. It’s not about real appearance  – whatever that means – and more about the perception of your own body’.)

“Reality”? Offstage

Having finished Coetzee’s Age of Iron, my intertextual feelers now doing overtime: I establish links to Toibin’s Testament of Mary, his The Master, to Derrida, to Hegel and to more scholars/writers than I need mention here as I pursue the link to history (history…) as gendered narration. History. Memory. Life. Death. Re-member. Forget…

Another side step to take a closer look at the tender underbelly of our thoughts and deeds: shadows clot, giving contour to the light, qualifying (resisting?) Reason:

the undecidable is not a clean break it is a quick leap between two opposing possibilities but that touch (Cixous, 2004:11)

the subtle fabric of textuality tenders its thinking network, holding the lips of the wound together by means of signifying subterfuges (op.cit., p111)

I return to history; to slippages, to subterfuges, to the stories that got away and like Coetzee, I must ask: who holds the camera?

I allow it to change hands:

‘I tell myself my grandfather, who died six years before I was born, was a good husband and father. I tell myself I visited my grandmother during the last three years of her life. I ask her if her name was changed to Julia in the 1940s. I ask her if she really hates dad or just resents him for trying to finish the house. I ask her how she survived the death of her first born. I tell her how beautiful she looks in those photographs with the white gloves matching the purse. Were those shoes red? What colour was your dress?
(…)
I imagine grandmother and I are sitting in her living room next to the kitchen. A huge wooden table stands in the middle of the room, almost touching the hip-high cupboards. The wood of the furniture is dark and smooth; the morning sun drowns the room in light and heat and makes the cupboards shine. The portrait of André, her husband, hangs on the wall next to the old television set with its two antennae trying to reach the ceiling.
The sofa is not covered with an old blanket and the radiator does not stand next to it to keep her warm in winter. The corner of the room is not filled with a mountain of clothes which have not been ironed or washed in a decade. There is no bread crust under the table fighting with dust balls to occupy the last red tiles in the room. Millions of dust particles do not dance before my eyes in a ray of sun. It does not smell of rotten food and dampness; the heavy green velvet curtains are not loaded with nicotine. There is tea on the table, a delicate teapot and matching cups with golden rims. The air is filled with the sweet scent of cookies baking in the oven. My grandmother opens the lid of the teapot and I can smell peppermint escaping in thin threads of fume.
I talk to her and ask her how she met her husband, how they fell in love. I ask her how she survived the war and how she managed to cope with her husband’s cancer. Did she miss him much? I ask her if she feels alone. I ask her to forgive me for not having visited her in her new flat. I ask her – many things.’

 

Not Coetzee, not Toibin. Not a Nobel Prize winner but one of my creative writing students – Sophie Gitzinger –  exploring the underbelly of history, facts, identity, of time, of the concepts that push and shove around a higher order (if such it is), and about which we artists and scientists (love to?) bicker. I learn a lot from my students. I learn a lot from so many who purport to have little to say. You’re wrong. And I love pointing that out to you!

 

(photo by Joan Barbara Simon, copyright 2013)

under my skin: The Nothing Caper by Amy Jo Sprague

Someone once said of me: ‘this is writing from which I stand back in admiration’. Now it’s time for me to pass on the compliment:

 

‘It came in the night. We were all sleeping in the creaky house and I woke to it lifting my sheets; it made my nightgown bleed. My doll saw it all so I ripped out her eyes the next morning before breakfast. Then it started coming in my dreams, and I thought a monster was asleep beneath my bed, gathering my things. On the scratchy carpet where the sun comes in, it branded my skin with its tongue, so I gave it my voice. Mother and father swallowed it up.
They found me in corners and closets and they didn’t hear their words running from my mouth. I didn’t know so I swallowed the words whole; they fed me spoonfuls of aches that echoed deep into my belly, burning my insides until it dulled.
I began to sweat them out my pores like a broken fever. I washed and raked my skin when I saw them in the mirror. They curdled and clotted the mainstreams of my heart as I took their pieces and ate them. I choked and spewed out a doll that didn’t have eyes. Her messy dress had burned away so they stitched her a new one and kept it inside, and I ran away, hungry.’

 

The Nothing Caper, by  Amy Jo Sprague

 

 

King doth come: who’s gonna clear up the mess?

DSC01124MA14449842-0002

I was told that The Lord’s Prayer and the text below, Prophets of the Streetlife, have a lot in common… Work it out for yourselves. Brain slobs and/or fundamentalists, back off. I don’t care what you lot think.

Religion and politics: a bunch of rapine, gavel-banging bigots, as the best a nation has to offer in the way of cultural diversion? You tell me… And diversion from what? You tell me…

Give us this day our daily bread  tho the Lord should know we’ll only have time for him once our basic needs are satisfied, but what does the church say about the basic need I keep referring to and which has the dim up in arms? They will insist on mistaking my sincerity for shallowness. Can’t help them. I’ve often wondered why and how the colour purple is at one and the same time the colour of sensuality and the colour worn by top-ranking clergy…

Give us this day our daily bread: watching holiday-makers befall the breakfast buffet once. Had the urge to collude with the hotel to bar their entry a day later. See how long it’d take them to get worked up. Then let them in, only to  discover: a single rasher of bacon, an egg, the corner end of a baguette and a cup of cold tea. All those hungry mouths – and fists – will have to work something out… Hidden cameras filming the rest, peeping deep  into the true heart of our kind.

At times they tell us: think (i.e.: reason), at times: believe (i.e.: don’t think). Most of the time we only believe we’re thinking, or think we believe… and behind it all the permanent attempt to mask the mere finger puppets we all are, hungry for reasons to believe anything at all… Won’t take Their finger out without a fight. Maybe I should be flattered by so much attention: seems like I’m worth fighting for after all!
Still have to clean up your own mess.

Till the next time. Yours, Tatar.

*

There she stood, hiding; the mother without child, the voiceless woman full of anger. Her smoked nails hammered her evaporated heart snivelling in the grotty kitchen of disaster. Her face, depleted, cauterised. Her eyes wheezed shame at what she knew would happen to her daughter, again and all over again.
Candelaria was a child with a lost childhood, a girl with volcanic bruises, ache squawking in her voice, apocalyptic rages and the teethmarks of her father on her breasts; a child whose nipples hardened when father’s fungous tongue licked them whilst she cried, bled, whilst he totally ignored her. Candelaria’s father had taught her how to fuck. Her mother had taught her how to swallow and how to quench scars with make-up. Scars that could never be silenced.
She was sitting on her chair, a butterfly without wings, the rouge on her mortal cheeks accentuating the surviving beauty of her face seeking the remains of her soul in the grey mirror image. Her black olive eyes smelled the scotch in her father’s mouth, and their lobotomised stars drowned like despairing coins in forgotten fonts. His torturing footsteps she could hear, his collapsing breath she could feel and she had stopped begging for mercy long ago, fleeing behind the lie that it was Eligio swashbuckling between her legs in order to get wet, at least, wet at least.
Mother overheard that violent bed of guilt, sputtering back and forth, sick sweat dripping, the rainy sough echoing through the daughter’s stolen body of gold. Next time I will do better, thought mother. Next time I will help her, take a pan. She knew she would not have the courage, but the illusion would calm her down, her conscience, at least her conscience.
Candelaria urinated fruitless spermicide, her mildewed brothers and sisters, before she reapplied the lipstick which had stained the maggoty nails of her genitor. In the glistening streetlight she could be free; she learned how to laugh on stigmatising streets where succulent condoms and paradisiac joints withered like the concepts of innocence and purity.

(from Prophets of the Streetlight, by Laura Gentile, published in Until Forever Becomes the End.)

Illustration by Jean-Paul Clayette

Laura Gentile replies:

‘The bruised skin of the inner nature next to the graved conformity of human surfaces. Her colourful body amputating itself from enslaving dictations, finding herself in the perversion of the cross’ silhouette, becoming flesh, getting hold of her soul by getting rid of the cross’ devouring burden, to find divinity in her proper features, unscrutinised, un-flagellated, de-victimised, humanised. She can grasp herself with her senses without the need to believe in something higher than herself, she can get there by herself, with her hands, her heart, her mind, not with a cross, in her case. Your honesty is a needle awaiting the reader in its detail.

I think it’s crucial to be able to have the choice of identification/acceptance or of deviation and an alternative quest for the self. What if it can’t be found where it is ‘supposed’ to be? We must tear ourselves from symbols that de-humanise us or constantly remind us that we need to be punished, that we need to walk with aching shoulders and that death awaits us in the end: where and what is human life in all this?

The cross you chose is very interesting; part of a mechanism (not humanism) attached to and controlled by a chain, holding it at arm’s length. It is so unnaturally smooth, basically the knife did a good job here, the surface looks ‘perfect’, no sign of blemishes. For me, it looks like an instrument of penetration that can be grasped, turned upside down, like a weapon that sends untrustworthy invitations, its double in a human form: unprotected, vulnerable and emotionally forced to be pinned down. In a sexual context, when it comes to the father (why use a capital f for where there is a father there is a mother), the cross as a photographed phallic symbol seems to be omnipotent and ever-lasting, always ready, always hungry. The way the woman in the painting gives pleasure to herself using her hands/fingers in this case, assuming the same position/form as the cross itself whilst she ‘drowns’ them (her hands).

(Hands as symbols of action. His are nailed. Hers are free to roam… She may and does act whereas all he can do is die…)

Are her hands free to roam because his are nailed or are his hands nailed because hers are free to roam? Either way nails are seeking and creating scapegoats and they play a very violent and senseless blame-game. Only when they succeeded in cornering human flesh onto a cross do they hold ‘it’ up high, in ‘exemplifying’ torment and death, not in life and action. What is this passion we speak of?’

Sex, lies & promises: for better or worse?

Fidelity is an illusion. I have always cheated on my wives, and they have all cheated on me. Women lie. Men lie. That’s life. I am very faithful, but not as far as sex goes. Sex is part of life and it’s as natural as breathing. Don’t ruin it with false morals or too much thinking.

Don’t get attached, for I will not love you. I don’t love anyone, apart from my children. Women have broken my heart too often, I refuse to love any of you. Any more…

I can swear anything you want me to: on the head of my children or my mother or put my hand the bloody Bible if anyone asks me to swear to something, what do I care, I’m not a believer. But if I give you my word… ah! My word…

These are your best days. Live them to the full. I see my ex-wives and loads of women over fifty, they still have the desire, but their best days are done. I even give my ex-wives tips on how to pull a bloke on the internet cos they don’t know how and it gets harder the older you get as a woman. You, you are in your prime. Live without regret.

The first thing She does when She gets in is to check the sheets. For stains. For ruffles. The first thing I do once my ladylove leaves is to do the sheets. Pull them straight, or at least Her side, and maybe leave the bed unmade so it looks as if I’ve just got up. I keep my ladylove on my side of the mattress. Get her not to wear any strong perfumes or creams and that stuff. I want to smell you, not some high-tech lab that lines its pockets with all your female complexes. She’ll check the sheets. I’ve been loving and lying for decades, so let Her.

I can feel the tension between you and You Know that you’re not even able to retain behind the wall of your teeth when you talk about the two of you. It pours out of you like a gas. It’s purely thanks to your decent upbringing that the two of you desist from bashing each other. And it’s all to do with sex. Sex is the most destructive, the most creative force in the world. And I, I spread the good news, like Jesus. I say Love, but nobody wants to listen. I threaten them, their old established values that they blindly hang on to like a flea on the backside of some beast. I threaten their world order. People are so afraid of change, I’m amazed we’ve even made it so far. And in their fear, they will lash out and crucify me. Blot out my light with their broad reproachful shoulders, flagellate those whom I have redeemed till they bend, till they bow, unable to seek solace in a promised land, which is none other than this one. Right here. Right now. I must die. And you, you, too, will kill me. One day. One day you won’t need me anymore. I’m just a palliative. You will move on. And I will die. On the inside.

(from Carmina’s Burana, Take One, in The Red Room)

 *

You cannot love a man for all your life.

But you can live with him. You can live with him whilst you love him, though sooner or later, that love will fade to irritation and putrefy to hate. The art therein is to wait.

Wait… Till hate has healed to indifference, then you will find him livable once more,

beyond love,
beyond hate’s horizon;
from the better,
to the worse, to the:
oh well, I guess that’ll just have to do.
For it will, you know.

How courageous are you, daughter of mine?
How needy?
Or greedy?
How steady, or ready to go it alone,
if you believe yourself to have outgrown the love that made you bloom
before it made you wither?

A man should
never
be your reason to be,
so let him be; let him stay around,
on the periphery.

This ring
on my finger?
Take a good look.
Been there for centuries.
It’s on my finger, right?
Not in my mind…

Daughter of mine, your skin still so smooth,
not splattered
with mildew
like mine.
You have so much time…
so much…

Your hands…
your pretty, dainty hands. Where’s your ring?
Oh, that’s right, you have never wanted one. Your mother took hers off, too, after all those years, tho the bloody thing refused to budge and after grease and spit and nothing else would do, I had to get an old pair of pliers to cut the thing in two.
You have never wanted one,
have you?

Daughter’s daughter,
darling,
you think you don’t
need him.
Maybe not,
only you can tell.
Cover my desiccated hands with your freshness.

What was I saying?
Ah, yes….

But you know, men?
They’ll always be around.
That’s the problem,

so might as well learn
to live wiv em.

(from Genderlogue, in The Red Room)

*

When my gran comes with this old time talk about how good we wimmin have it today and she can’t understand why so many relationships split up cos hell, they had it real hard back then but they’re still together. They had a long day’s work and still had to come home and cook and clean and boil the shit out of nappies whereas today all we do is buy and throw away. We live in a throw away society, she bemoans, and we’ve thrown away an eye for what really counts. She says we’re spoilt! I say gran, by all respect, if you’ve got the right to vote, had people fight for your right to vote and then you get it after all this time, fool for you if you don’t use it. I say I can’t imagine a slave staying on once (s)he has the right to be free, but she says the comparison ain’t valid, a husband’s not your master, and I’ve been spending too much time in the wrong company that much was plain to see. A husband’s not your master, I say? Great, we agree that we’re equals, then? I say, if he can fuck around, I can fuck around. These here are modern times. And she says, you don’t have to stoop as low as they do. You gots to keep your dignity. And watch your language! I say, where’s the dignity in that, grandma? Well, she says, if you can’t take it, his womanising, cos they can’t help it, it’s in their nature, then get out, but don’t stoop as low as him; all those years of schoolin n still so stupid, child? Always make sure you can walk with your head held high. God gave you a brain and it’s not between your legs and it’s not just there to keep your ears in place, so use it. Who’s he foolin around with, then, grandma, I ask. Is he foolin around with a sheep? Is he foolin around with a dog? If he’s foolin around with another woman, then isn’t it in our nature, too? If you’re a whore, alright, she says, but I don’t want no whores in my family. If God had wanted men and wimmin to be the same, He’d have made em the same. He didn’t, so don’t you think you can do better. They’re one half and you’re the other half. Make sure you’re the better half and not no whore. I ain’t no whore, grandma, I’m just a woman. A modern woman. I want to say, with needs, but I know better. A modern woman, are you, she snorts. Well, don’t be. Be an intelligent one. And hold your heddup!

(from Mut@us)

Crucifixio meets Haven

I don’t mind admitting: I’ve got my issues with the church, like I’ve got my issues with anyone/thing it takes you less than ten seconds to see through.

I keep re-assessing the joy-to-pain ratio of acts done in the name of the Lord. You can imagine the rest…

All the same, there’s been some impressive thinking and writing I’d register on the Joy side of the ratio. And we don’t need to turn to the Bible, the great philosophers and theologians to find it. Kent Beausoleil. His true name and it fits. He’s a priest who hasn’t lost touch, who seems to be working out his own ratios, and finding conclusions which, quite honestly, leave  even a know-it-all like myself silent for a minute or two. And Bill Johnston. William Thomas Johnston, to be precise. A grand-sounding name befitting his depth of vision and consequent judgement of our times. Two different takes on the soul in search of what has been promised. Are they really so different, I wonder…

Bill Johnston is right up there along with Amy Jo Sprague, Penny Goring and Matthew Temple in my books and I’ll be returning them all more than once. What you have here is an abridged version of the opening of How to Serve an Unholy God.

How indeed to serve an unholy God? Is Crucifixio a response? Or Regrets?

And what if the real question’s not how to, but why: why at all serve an unholy God?

Desire. Desire. We do not desire a thing because we deem it good, but deem it good because we desire it (said another wise man)…

 

Crucifixio

The bright light pierced the color shards of glass bathing the wooden pew in front of me with colors that brought joy.  Songs of rapture filled the air while smells of perfumed incense enveloped me in mystery.  A young American boy from the 1960s surrounded by family, surrounded by community, looked over the wood of that pew and encountered strange men and women doing strange things, saying strange things, and a boy’s heart was filled with wonder.  My heart, filled with bliss, felt love.
Years later, as history met experience, as prayer met spirit, as faith sought understanding, this outward manifestation turned inward.  As the many sufferings of life changed bliss to anger, and wonder to hurt, the mystery became me and the me who did not understand rejected family, rejected faith, and found an ache planted.
The endless see-saw of love’s pursuit and life’s reality pierces the soul, and the heart wounded, compassionately sees at once injustice’s hold, and loves freedom, while the seeker’s hand firmly grabs the cross forever kneeling, forever praying, forever reaching out to mystery as mystery reaches out to me.  I collapse, catching belief, catching me.

Regrets

Over a hospital tray
of uneaten Jell-O,
maternal death looming,
I ask my mother of regrets.

Calmly
through oxygen haze
and medicine drip
she says ‘no’.

Later at home, posthumously,
I feel the lie.

Seven delinquent kids regrets.

Cigarette asphyxiation regrets.

Married at 19
regrets.

I
am regret.

And the empty liquor bottle tips.

Kent Beausoleil, published in Shaking Thoughts.

Available at:
Smashwords  Amazon US   Amazon France   Amazon Germany  Amazon UK

 

The town in which I was born was poorly named. The town was known as “Haven.”

I have been told the night I was born every woman with child in Haven miscarried with the exception of two. Some early in their pregnancy, some even unaware of their condition, merely bled. One woman died in the passing of her unborn baby. Another child was born dead and misshapen, with varying accounts of the extent of its disfigurement. Only two babies that night ever met eyes with the world. One, deemed Azalia, was said to be born chubby and laughing with a full head of blonde hair. I was the other.
With only two midwives in the town of Haven, and those off tending to clients able to pay, I was born of a mother alone in our single-room shack. She pushed me into this world onto our bare wooden floor, standing on her own two legs. She cut my chord with a carving knife from a drawer and wrapped me in a thin blanket. As a child I’d overheard it said that I was born bald, with a sickly appearance, pale and thin and lacking the breath of life. My mother held me through the night convinced she would have to place me beneath the earth in the morning. After weeping until she nodded off with my body resting on her chest she awoke the next morning to the sound of my weak crying.
Perhaps the memory of those days, blurred as they are, have been tainted by the effect of nostalgia, but in as many ways as I can recollect the time spent with my mother was filled with joy. We shared a small one-room house. As a child I had little and was put to every task I could accomplish as soon as I was strong enough to achieve them. I helped with the cooking, scrubbing the wash of others in exchange for firewood, smearing the many chinks and cracks in the walls of our home with mud to seal out the frigid wind.
I still recall the night I returned to our excuse for a home with arms full of dung to burn when I found my mother had finally succumbed to the pox. As a bastard I had no one left to care for me and the people of the town, fearing I would bring the illness into their homes, turned me into the street.
It was my first night huddled in the blackness of an alleyway that a man came to me. I was pulled from my sleep, my face forced into the mud and my breeches ripped from my backside. I pushed myself from the ground with my arms and as the man raped me I cursed him.
I cursed him with every foul word a boy of that age could know. I cursed him in the name of every god, creature and evil spirit. I cursed him in a tongue I did not know I possessed. I cursed him and he stopped.
I heard snapping sounds and gurgling then, and when I spun around I saw Leone. Leone was a tall man with a thin build, fittingly cruel eyes as dark as his hair, and what I saw to be an unaccountable strength with a large, heavy, red-headed fellow at the end of his arm. He held the man a foot aloft and in one hand he had the large man’s throat. The man died fairly silently as Leone increased his grip, driving his fingers into his neck and when the man fell away he still held a handful of throat in his grasp.
I thought surely I would die as I watched my uncle drop the chunk of flesh and lick the blood from his fingers but he merely said “come with me, boy” and, seeming to have no choice in the matter, I did.

Bill Johnston, adapted from How to Serve an Unholy God.

More from the great man here

The aim of the game: (when trust is more important than honesty)

Hardly has he entered me but he expels an anguished cry of elation. With the single thrust of penetration, the act was over. Just as I had feared. Just as he had feared.
– Kill me!
He hides his face. Insuperable shame. Hatred.
– Please, just kill me…
I run my hand along his spine, my eyes closed. My body, likewise. My mind searching for what to say in response, and deciding upon silence, for some requests are not amenable to a positive answer.

A day later, we make love again. He is sitting on the edge of the bed as I straddle him. He lasts three or four thrusts. Wait awhile, he breathes-lessly into my face. We’ll do it a second time. He thrusts and thrusts, but there is no force behind it. Wait awhile. I need to get a little bit harder…
I don’t like the position and tell him such. Down on all fours, I spread my legs. Raise my ass…
But his soft willy won’t stay anywhere. He stuffs himself into me. Slips out. Stuffs himself in again.
Wait awhile, he breathes like a man performing hard work, his hips chiselling away at me, but I feel hollow inside.
– No!
I pull away.
I will not wait! You fix that hard-on, then, maybe, we’ll try again.
Okay, he husks, rubbing, rubbing himself.
I won’t look, but I can hear it, the slosh of his semen, dabbling with my juice.
– Just wait a little bit. Just a little bit longer…
He talks to himself, to his penis, like a coach to his team before the match. It doesn’t take long for me to detect that change in the quality of his voice. I seize the opportunity to stop his hand, gently, with my own, before, or as it seems to me, he rubs himself raw. There is no recrimination in the language of my touch. It simply lets him know that I know:

game over.

 

– Tell me something?
– Shoot.
– You said you always have at least two women, right?
– Correct.
– So, there must have been another woman apart from your wife before you met me, right?
He smiles
– Where is she now? What happened to her?
– I saw her yesterday, we went flying and then for a meal…
– You don’t sleep with her anymore?
– Nope.
– And you expect me to believe that?
– Yep. I’ll show you a picture of her. (He shows her a photo of her in his cell-phone) and there’s her… (a different photo) and her… and she’s nice… and I really like this one…
– How do you manage?
– What?
– To juggle so many women?
– Piece a cake.
– God, you don’t mind admitting all of this to me?
– Why should I?
– Does your wife know?
– Why should She?

I, Tatar, am faithful of the heart, if not of the body. Don’t try to change me. It is my only weakness.

– I don’t want to get involved in your private affairs, but you’ve pulled me in so I’ll speak my mind. Have you told You Know straight to the face that he’s a lousy lay? You should’ve told him from day one that he was lousy. He might have made more of an effort.
– He’s making an effort now…
– Too late. He’s lost you.
– I’m inclined to think that there’s a woman out there, somewhere, who wants exactly what He’s giving. But that woman sure as hell ain’t me.
– Then get out of it!
– You’re not just with someone for the sex!
– What else?
– Well, for the companionship, etc…
– Get yourself a dog. Companionship, fair enough, but without the sex, your relationship is dead. It’s just friendship. Sooner or later you’ll leave him. And he knows it. I made the mistake of telling my wives about my mistresses, you know, in a moment of trust, like this one now. It spoilt everything afterwards and they always threw it back in my face. Don’t ever tell You Know about me. Ever. Maybe he’s keeping a mistress, too. Or he should. That way you get to save your life together and enjoy those bits of your relationship which do you good. If he lets you know or you let him know, then the trust is out the door. You need trust if a relationship is going to work. Trust is more important than honesty.

 

(adapted from The Red Room)

Good old days (2) (Die Wo)

Those who went along with it, those who didn’t

Those who collaborated, being obliged to

Those who thought they were forced to

and gave themselves airs and graces

Those who raised their arms

Those who clenched their fists in their pockets

Those who shouted victory and came out unscathed

Those in it for the business and who made a profit

Those who did it, bowing to orders from above, and who got taken in

Those who did it for their wives

Those who were too young to enter the SS and now begrudge those who were old enough

Those who were big and blonde and dyed their hair brown

Those who were in the party

Those who were angry not to have been able to join the party and who now thank their lucky stars

Those who returned

Those who did not

Those whose return gave us joy

Those who should have stayed where they were

Those who were in the (and thus put up) resistance

Those who were in the FFI: forces françaises de l’intérieur

Those who successfully accomplished a mission

Those who believed themselves to have done so

Those who had to believe they had done so

(…)

Those who have a flag

Those who don’t

Those who have two

Those who have always had two

Those who burn one of them from time to time…

 

 

My translation of a poem by the Alsatian artist Germain Muller, talking about the identity dilemma of the Alsatian during the occupation. In French it’s called Ceux qui (those who). But it’s originally an Alsatian poem and in Alsatian, it’s called Die Wo (which is also German). Notice how it points a finger yet leaves enough room for self-interrogation? It’s easy to say what to do when you don’t have to. Easy to judge. I like to think I’d’ve been one of the nice guys. Guess I’ll never know…

Did you know that one of the devil’s grandmothers is Alsatian? So the saying goes.

 

And here’s another video of Alsace-Lorraine 1871-1918. Couldn’t believe my ears; there’s God Save the Queen in there! For those who speak German, read the comments on YouTube. Seems like the matter of our identity is far from settled? Those who’ve bothered to comment (Deutsches Reich) are mostly shouting for the return of Alsace to Germany. Fabien Kiefer smells a rat:

“you’ve obviously had your brain torn out and replaced by bald head, mustard and cold sweaty socks in ugly Doc Martens. You’ve probably got the face of a pitbull and wear the ugliest gear that reeks of beer. Of course. I know who you are and it makes me want to throw up.”

By the way: in the 1990s 70% of the French avowed to being racist. Does that make being racist a defining characteristic of being French? Course not! It can only be a characteristic of those who were asked, can’t it? But Alsace, my dear Alsace; one of the ‘brownest’ regions in France, I’m told. ‘Browner than your arsehole!’ someone once said to me. And I know a fairly well-known local painter whose name actually only contained one S, but he added another, to show his admiration for that ranting little man with the moustache and only one ball…  Ach, redde m’r nimm devon!

Good old days (1) (if you were lucky enough not to be there)

 

I’m from Alsace in North East France, as you know (meaning: as I’ve told you, even if some of you’ve never heard of the place before). We’ve been pushed around a lot:

A typical citizen in their late 80s at the end of WW2 was born French, became German in 1870, French between the two wars, German again in 1940 and French once more at the end of his life. By the end of WW2 most people didn’t speak French, but were suddenly forced to. Propaganda machine on full blast: c’est chic de parler français. Chic. And Mandatory. The same teachers who had taught in German during the occupation now obliged all the pupils to speak French.  No wonder we’ve got a complex. Many just refuse to talk about it. In Alsatian, we’d say: redde m’r nimm devon. There’s a term for this kind of large-scale cover-up, I read the word somewhere: obscurantism.

I suppose we all develop our own strategies for dealing with a tricky situation, don’t we?

At the end of the war, some used the Nazi flag to make their local costumes. Very nice cotton. Excellent quality…

redde m’r nimm devon…

The good old days? The clogs of our childhood were the poor man’s shoes: village roads were made of dirt and often littered with the manure of the cattle on their way down to the fields. Clogs were robust. Clogs were cheap. The wealthier wore leather shoes. And of course there were still those who had no shoes at all…

Ach, redde m’r nimm devon.

French mums, they’d go to work (still do!) and think there’s something wrong with you if you didn’t. German mums, then and now, tend to stay at home and think you’re a bad mum if you don’t. It’s their Nazi past. Or should I say: nasty? Keeping women in their place, under control and their pockets empty.

Ach, redde m’r nimm devon!