vrijdag, mei 19, 2006


I killed time by walking as though boredom is a bomb waiting to go off
once motion stops.

I began with short forays, circles around neighbourhoods with the
spirals outward growing gradually. You could be utterly ignorant of
history and still wonder through timeless unfamiliarity, overcome by the
senses – Albert would’ve had to page through a myriad of history books
and start each jaunt knowing precisely where he planned on ending up
simply because that’s how he went about travelling. But I was content
to move in a dreamlike sequence, imagining history without the facts,
piecing it together from the stories I imagined overhearing,
conversations I couldn’t understand in family-run cafés, butchers,
cheese mongers and tobacconist shops.

Infatuation has a way of weaving its way into every moment, every sight
and sound, every impression and no matter how far I walked, I was
dreaming in this web about a future with Anastasia spent here – that I
barely knew her or her habits made little difference as I tiled together
a mosaic of future moments walking those same streets, the moments and
sights and experiences conjured up from an imaginary future with no
basis in reality, no matter the wishing or dreaming it were already so.

I tried to rationalise that this was simply a temporal experience,
following temptation, morsels of Anastasia left like crumbs throughout
the day to nibble on. I knew at the bottom of the barrel there would
nothing left eventually – in love we are like little lab rats doing the
predictable in order to enforce the norm.

There was only walking and dreaming and when once noon had come and gone
I knew it would be time to head back to her flat, that she’d already be
awake, drawn gradually back to consciousness by coffee with a tiny shot
of anisette.

And when I returned, there was no cause for further dreaming because
there I was, living the very dream I’d been walking through – a punctual
kiss and back to the business of waking for already I was learning that
nothing could be forced upon her and it was better still to leave the
hints and suggestions to her lest those dreams start leaking from my
head out of my mouth and into her ears and the entire hideous charade
was exposed.

zondag, mei 14, 2006

Battle of Pavia

The Battle of Pavia was a continuation of the Italian Wars which began in 1494. Renaissance Italy was divided into several rival states, hostage to European powers, principally France and Spain. Swiss mercenaries held the balance between two great civilizations, that of the south and that of the north. (A relic of this historic position is the continuation of the Pope's Swiss guard down to this day.)

Francis I, King of France, in alliance with the Venetians, had achieved a hard-fought victory over the Swiss cantons at the Battle of Marignano, near Milan, on Sept. 13-14, 1515. This fiercely-fought battle excited all Europe, was referred to as the "Battle of Giants," and represented the first serious check suffered by Swiss arms, due largely to combined arms tactics by the French and their used of large numbers of relatively modern cannon, although the Swiss were only moved to retreat when the Venetian army arrived on their rear on the second day of the battle.

In 1525, Pope Clement VII became alarmed at the control of Naples and Lombardy by Emperor Charles V. So the Pope formed an alliance with the victor at Marignano, Francis I, who returned over the Alps with a new army of 26,000 French, Italian, Swiss, and German soldiers. The campaign began brilliantly with the capture of Milan and Francis' triumphal entry. Marching on to Pavia (20 miles south of Milan), Francis dawdled in laying siege to the city. The Habsburg Emperor retaliated by sending a 23,000-man Habsburg army under Fernando Francisco de Avalos, Marchese di Pescara, to support the 6,000-man garrison in lifting the siege.

from wikipedia....

zaterdag, mei 13, 2006

Pacing The Bird

One afternoon we were walking and as we walked she started telling me about this Parisian girl named Amélie Hélie, a singer at the beginning of the 1900s. She was nicknamed the Casque d’Or for her lengthy, golden hair. The leaders of two rival bands in the neighbourhood, the Corsican Leca and his rival, Manda, both fell in love with her, madly, brutally. Their competition for her eventually grew into a big battle one day on this very street, rue de Haies. A big battle with knives and guns. They were arrested and then appeared before the magistrate. The magistrate keeps badgering Manda about why the battle grew in the first place, refusing to believe that it wasn’t over neighbourhood territory, but a girl. Manda said something to the magistrate like, we fought each other, the Corsican and me, because we love the same girl. We’re crazy about her. Don’t you know what it is to love a girl?

So what happened I asked, thinking the magistrate saw the logic of the explanation and let them free to fight some knightly battle for the girl’s hand. We both had stopped walking and were simply standing off to the side of the street as passersby dodged us.

I think Manda got life and Leca got many years and they were both deported off to hard labour.

Hmmm. Magistrate frowns on violent demonstrations of love?

Something like that, but worse still, after all of this…she paused, waiting for me to light her cigarette. A friend of Leca, seeking revenge for his comrade, stabbed Amélie one night in the club where she sang. She didn’t die, but she could no longer perform as a singer. She’s buried at Bagnolet. Sometimes it isn’t sufficient in life not to let yourself fall in love because letting someone else fall in love with you can have equally damning consequences.
Who Are These Fuckers And How Did They Get Here?

Albert says the judge was lenient. We had a little joke in the court room. Either that or she was trying to find the motivation for my seemingly random anarchistic and criminal act. What are you dreams, she asks me at the sentencing. I gave her several different scenarios. To tread water until my limbs grow too tired to tread anymore and I drown. I thought I was being clever. She shook her head. Are you still finding this a joke, she asks me, incredulous. No, it isn’t funny at all your honour, I sincerely don’t have any dreams. Not dreams that would be rendered coherent in an incoherent society anyway, your honour.

You said that? I took another swig of the pint, these repetitive motions were all part of communication in the world Albert and I were sitting in. He nodded his head enthusiastically. So what did she say?

Nothing for a minute. Silence. Summing me up in her head. Clearly she was impressed by me in some indefinitive way she was quickly trying to calculate. Would it be more helpful if I told you it was my dream to be the guy who assembles display furniture all day long at an Ikea factory outlet mall? Then her eyes were like little slits, comprehending I wasn’t taking my sentencing seriously at all. What did I care anyway. I know the maximum sentencing guidelines. I wasn’t a murderer, I hadn’t committed a violent felony. Four years maximum, free food, regardless of how shitty it might be, the experience of prison, time to work on my book, I could have gone on all afternoon about the exciting possibilities a small prison sentence would have afforded me.

By then, the judge wasn’t interested in any of my answers. She’d tried a tact, tried to be humane. Inexplicably, while my public defender representative turned white with incredulity, she became almost jocular, leaned over the front of the bench. Too ambiguous, she stated, nearly inaudible and very slowly as though I had some sort of learning disability rather than genius.

How about an interpretive dance, done with feeling and emotion, I offered. But the game was over. She slammed the gavel down, suddenly impatient and poof, sentencing was on. Do you know how many times I told that fucking story to my cell mate? How many variations, how many different tenses, different languages, different angles I’ve created that story into, sheerly out of boredom?

He pinched out his cigarette with an annoyed look on his face. I’ll tell you something Witold. It wasn’t as bad as you might imagine jail to be. No rapings, no beatings from prison guards. A lot of long hours with nothing to do. It drives some people crazy but for me, it was three years to think

dinsdag, mei 09, 2006


...But this is a good time to reflect on how dusty,
scarred by worn sandals, dirty between the toes, grime
on the calloused soles, the apostles' feet would have been.
And mind moves on to worse: old winos stumbling along,
unwashed, their long nails thick as horn, shoes wrong-sized, broken.
And not just winos — anyone homeless, who has to keep moving all day
with no place to go, even if shelter at night
gives them a chance to bathe their blisters, must know
week by week an accretion of weariness, once-good shoes
grown thin...

— from "Feet," by Denise Levertov

more poems by Denise Levertov