A Poem Of Reference

I was on a deserted promontory, looking out to sea, and some words from Tomas Tranströmer’s long poem, Baltics, came to me:

I looked at the sky and at the earth and straight ahead

and since then I’ve been writing a long letter to the dead

on a typewriter with no ribbon just a horizon line

so the words knock in vain and nothing sticks.

There a few things in this poem that I can relate to. For instance, speaking of his grandmother:

I remember her. I would press close to her

and at the moment of death (the moment of crossing?) she sent out a

thought

so that I-a five year old-understood what happened

half an hour before they rang.

The same thing happened to me with my grandmother, although I was eighteen years old at the time, feeling the presentiment at two o’clock in the morning. We got the call around eight o’clock when her son, my uncle, found her, dead in bed as he took her usual morning brew in to her.  We were later told that she had died at around two.

The poem continues:

Her I remember. But on the next brown photo

the unknown man-

dated by his clothes to the middle of last century.

A man around thirty: the vigorous eyebrows,

the face looking straight into my eyes

and whispering: ‘here I am’.

But who ‘I’ am

there’s no one any more who remembers. No one.

Among my family history material I have many such photographs, frustrating, maddening, unidentifiable. Of people who exist now only as anonymous phantoms, suggesting a link, offering connections, but withholding their secret confirmation for eternity.

And there is one final connection. The poet ends by speaking of the old Jewish cemetery in Prague:

where the dead live more packed than they were in life, the stones

packed packed.

So much love encircled! The tiles with their lichen-script in an unknown

tongue

are the stones in the ghetto cemetery of the archipelago folk, the stones

raised and tumbled.-

The hovel is lit up

with all those who were driven by a certain wave, by a certain wind

right out here to their fates.

I discovered Tranströmer’s poem a number of years after I had visited that cemetery, speaking of it in my own poem Prague, Late November, which has featured on this blog. It begins:

A crystal cold

falls sharp

upon the city of towers,

upon the Jewish remnants

of an age-old struggle

keeling and succumbing

in the dawn and the dusk.

Hurdling prostrate beggars

we bridge the rolling river,

crawling for solace

to our procured holes,

tasting the cuisine

with the blood and the dust.

How did I end up in that cemetery on a freezing, cold November day? My wife took the kids to school one wet, Monday morning. When she got back she said to me: “Guess what? When I passed the travel agents on the way back I saw something advertised in the window. So I went in-and we are going to Prague next month.”

From then on, whenever she offered to do the school run, I would say “No-I will take the kids. We can’t afford for you to take them!”

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Marriage Snippet

My wife won’t let me grow a beard. I’ve had the same haircut since my schooldays, (though it is getting progressively thinner), and I wanted to do something different.

Jen: “You’re not growing a beard!”

Me: “Why not?”

Jen: “Because you won’t suit one.”

Me: “How do you know until you see me in one?”

Jen: “I don’t like beards.”

Me: “It’s my chin!”

Jen: “Well if you grow a beard then I’m going to grow one too.”

Me: “That’s not fair because you’ve got a head start on me.”

Death or divorce, take your pick.

The Northlore Anthology Debuts. Jackdaw Smiles.

My long-awaited copy of The Northlore Series Volume 1: Folklore arrived today. Just as I was fearing it would be delayed by the Bank Holiday Monday, it was actually delivered today on a Sunday. Who’s ever heard of that before?

In my impatience it seems to have taken forever, but the anthology is now available on Amazon. I have a story included in it called And The Snow Came Down, in addition to a poem entitled Mara, My Love. The book is an eclectic mix of poetry and prose, with some good illustrations too. The book itself looks and feels great-the cool cover design was inspired by Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, for you music aficionados in the know.

It is available on Kindle also, but books like this explain why I am such a bibliophile.

I’m quite proud to have my work included in this collection, both my poem and my very first published fiction. For anybody who would like a copy, I include the Amazon link below.

Happy Reading! Don’t feed the animals!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Folklore-1-Northlore-MJ-Kobernus-x/dp/828331002X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432493496&sr=8-1&keywords=northlore+series

To View A Mockingbird

Earlier this week we went to the opening night of To Kill A Mockingbird at the Lowry Theatre. The Lowry is in Salford. I always think, a little irrationally, of Salford as Manchester. But Salford is Salford, separated from Manchester by the river Irwell. Some think this fact important, not least half of the local football fans.

But anyhow, we are neighbours.

image

I must have have been attending the play with the only two people in the audience, if not the world, who have not read the book: my wife and a friend. So I gave them a brief synopsis on the way, checking in the rear view mirror for the slightest hint of any eye-rolling, telling them that I would ask questions afterwards. Hard task master that I am.

On reaching the theatre, I asked my wife what the name of the family cook and housekeeper was. I figured that ‘Calpurnia’ was unusual and exotic enough to either stick in her memory, or be totally beyond her recall. Her reply gave me something to greet the usher with as she took our tickets at the door:

“Hi, this is my wife. She is very cultured and has read the book six times. She would like to know who is playing Pocohontas?”

I received a dig in the ribs ( from the wife, not the usher), and we took our seats. Thankfully, the play was true to the book, the cast members even reading passages from paperback copies throughout. I guess if the book is considered such a masterpiece, why risk changing things? The only thing added, quite effectively, was a folky soundtrack by Phil King, who sang several pieces accompanied by acoustic guitar and harmonica.

The child actors were good, and the guy who played Atticus deserves particular mention. It was a great production, and the courtroom scenes were quite powerful, with Atticus addressing us, the audience as the jury. He convinced me. When poor Tom Robinson was found guilty I was tempted to jump to my feet and demand a retrial. Either that or another drink.

At the end, my friend took a surreptitious snap of the cast receiving deserved acclaim.

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Feeling like he had broken the law, this is the first time that he doesn’t want a photo credit on my blog. No problem, Derek.

One last little connection on the late journey home: what do you think we listened to on the car radio? Why, Wake Up Boo! by the Boo Radleys, of course. If you don’t understand this, it is high time you read the book. And remember: I will ask questions.

And keep those eyes still.