Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations: The expat edition
Goethe in Venice
Strange the things that happen out of
the blue. A roof-tile plunging, its graceless
ricochet. Why strange?
talk fills the arcades
vying with abstraction for a vacant place.
the lido at midday, vaporettos,
rubbish piled on the shore. Sleep
comes garlanded in sedatives, rewinding
the brain’s unwitting documentary.
Indescribable rattlings and scrapings.
Years pass. Lying awake one april night
amazed, you calculate the odds,
each wrong step confronted with a
sense of ending. it has no name.
expecting any day now to find a skull
on a beach to enlighten us.
Others also. In the ingenuous photograph
they are all still smiling, as though
they’d simply misplaced something
that sooner or later is bound to turn up.
Santa Maria dei Monte
Broken ground, potshards, a grid plan worked out
with austere lengths of measuring-tape arrayed across
a muddy complexity. What’s known? A theme
emerges, develops, suffers its dénouement each time
we go beyond the surface of the problem.
“A lifetime seeking to take the tail into one’s mouth.”
Men and women lived here once, staked their
fortune on a landscape of degraded artefacts. Their
ceremony was merely a ceremony, like their god,
their sex, their system of economy: the wrested meeting point
of provenance and things acquired by accident.
How would they have imagined us to be? Sifting
their bone-ash: old television shapes wrestle
in the stalking house at the end of the mind. each
conjunction, each fragment leads us further and further
astray – who can say if we will ever complete the task or know
what its purpose was meant to be?
Une danseuse ne pleure pas sur scène
In the herebefore, playing to dismantled houses:
the Bora in Trieste, mist in Venice, in sienna
rain. i go down to the beach and watch
seagulls, empty bottles washed up and empty
messages inside. the desire of others for mass
communication. And have the fittest survived?
We rehearsed our grudge on the long dreary
mid-winter ride to Far Rockaway, refining and
paring down. “Man is not born free or good.”
So you say. Shedding the years of unreality –
untidy, inefficient, obscure years performing our
one safe act under cover of publicity. A blank
slate of sky behind glass and the sublime and
idiotic crowd turned to face us. Crab eyes glittering
under ledges; a carcass washed up on the last tide.
On Henrik Galeen’s Student of Prague
The aliens had just invaded, it was the soundtrack
from Les Misérables. We were leaving the airport,
wind full of sub-zero static. A woman with black
and white skin in the shadow of the moon, reappears
from a John Cassavetes film or reminds of Hapsburgs
and Mitteleuropa. It is in the nature of mirrors
to strike a bargain before the fact, without witnesses.
Last night I dreamt about you, you were completely
real – grasping at the idea you lived and that it was
necessary. Cried, then, at the first star above the roof-
tops to fade. It was that very same Étoile of the
unknown soldier, the Star Hotel, where I’m sitting
and writing this because it’s cheaper with better rooms.
Outside, floodlights over the sidings and freight yards,
a suit coat hanging on a wire fence in rain. Dreaming
of a cellist in a charcoal blouse, bruised inner thighs –
saying it was found out “from consciousness,” being
seen, heard, felt, smelt or tasted. Or staring and
listening in a bed in nowhere. Is it easier being dead
for a reason? Memory by imagined navigation.
Their eyes were open like ours, it was impossible to tell.
Reversing the roles. Behind everything a simple
yet remote promise hangs. It is a ghostly music we are
always waiting to be soothed by, that never comes.