Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Poetry Jam #3: The Munich Poems

At long last, I'm nearly done with my efforts to publicly document my European vacation, a project long delayed and marginally relevant so many months past. Revisiting the experience has been, for me, a source of inner smiles and fond memories. I don't happen to have a view of the Alps from my window, so it was wonderful to have occasion to dwell on the vistas impressed upon my brain. Describing natural beauty is not, unfortunately, my greatest strength as a writer, and so the images remain mostly in my head, and the words of my memoirs are written mostly to serve as a trigger for them. One day they will invent a cyborg enhancement that allows me to project my memories directly into the reader's head, and on that day, I shall duly blow your mind.

If I want to be a completist (and boy do I ever) then I really should include all the writings I created on that fateful trip. It's time for the five poems I completed in various moments of inspiration to see the light of day, and take their place in the David Miller Canon.

It is very exciting to get to decide what goes in my own canon.

The poems are called The Munich Poems, which like all great names is partially inaccurate. The first was written in Greece, and the fifth was written in Paris. The middle three, however, were written over the course of two days in my hotel room in Munich, and the third of these was set down in the midst of an actual "psychotic rage-a-thon," as remarked upon elsewhere. In spite of the disparate geography, it always seemed to me that "The Munich Poems" would be a great collective title, and since I do not often come up with great titles, it seemed pretty obvious what I had to do.

All five of them, sad to say, are downers. The truth is, I have never made much effort to write happy poems, because happiness is self evident in nature. When you're happy, you can't say why, and you haven't done anyone any good by trying. On the other hand, I have long been convinced that all great works of art are always somehow melancholy: indeed, it is sorrow that is the foundation of creation. That's not to say there isn't plenty of room for joy in beautiful poems. Just not in these ones.

As always, I'll give a little bit of analysis and self-critique at the end, for those who are into that sort of thing. Mostly myself, I guess.

Ionian Dream

I want to tell you, darling
What I'd lost, I almost found
Standing right before my eyes,
And then again, to no surprise,
It was gone
And I barely even cared

So let me tell you, darling
What a wreck you've made of me,
With your softly laughing eyes
And your unintended lies,
It was wrong
And I barely even cared

What you gave to me in all those times
And what you took from me,
What you said to me in all those nights,
Look what it's done to me,
I still talk about you when I think about her
When I think about you
When I think about you,
I still can't get over
What you did to me in all those nights
And why I'm lame today,

I want to tell you, darling,
I've been close so many times,
Been rejected out of hand
And then again, to no surprise,
I think of you
And I barely even care,
What kind of way is that to love?

לעולם לא עוד

When people died by bloody hands
We said, "never again,"
We worked so hard with all our hands
To make the killing end,
We held trials, we made speeches,
We laid wreathes upon their graves,
And the bravest stormed the beaches
On the longest summer day

When people turned their heads away
It happened once again,
Until it seemed like every day
A million lives would end,
But the monuments and ruins
Are still standing where they stood,
Humble monuments and ruins
Of decaying, painted wood

When people carved memorials
They said, "never again,"
And when they carved them on the walls
They prayed, "never again,"
And the prayers went to heaven
Where they echoed in the sky,
But the people kept on dying
And no one could tell us why

When people walked the ancient road
And saw those words again,
And even further down the road
The flowers in the sand,
What could any do but shudder
At the number that was lost?
Feeling guilty for our brothers
And the dreadful lines they crossed


I see with my internal eye the secrets of a man
And hear his thoughts like whispers in my brain,
There's nothing he can hide from me, I'm sure you understand,
So make this easy, make your secrets plain,

It's only my obscenities, my skeletons,
You'll find when you are deep within,
You're better off as ignorant, indifferent,
And trust me when I say I love you,
I can keep you out of here
There's nothing there for me to fear,
And you'll be happy for my wall, my barrier,
You'll only hurt yourself in trying,

You underestimate my skill, my power over you
Cannot be kept, no matter how you strain,
If you love me you'll be honest, or I'll force it out of you
So listen, listen, please, just let me in your brain!
I am tired, you are tired, there is nothing gained by fighting,
And I love you, so you mustn't keep me out,

You'll only hear my horrid thoughts, my darker self,
If I should let you come inside,
And while you are omnipotent, to other ones,
I have the strength to keep you distant,
I can keep you out of here
But even so I want you near,
So don't endanger our romance, your sanity,
You'll only hurt me when you're crying,
Baby, please stop trying,

I cannot be denied, my love, to know just what you think,
But if you must, then surely I will die,
And even though the sun will rise I know my heart will sink
As your attitude is nothing but a lie,

I would never lie to you, but I cannot tell the truth,
Not the whole truth, but a part of it, to you,
I know you are not satisfied
But I'm ashamed of what I am inside,
I'm scared to let you in my mind,
I'm scared of losing you,

I'm scared of losing you.

Psychotic Rage-A-Thon

I felt like a fool in the crack of hell
With manic brain, and fevered brow
And the impulse of a frightened child
To run from all the monsters' smiles,
Singing songs that made me scream
In pitches high and imperceptible,
I was unable to be seen
Or heard, I was a rotted vegetable
In a slowly stinking gourd,
I tried so hard to pray the Lord, but
I felt like a fool in the depths of hell,
And all for that infernal smell,
And damn myself for going there,
Damn myself, myself, myself, myself.

Broken Wing

I met a broken little bird I couldn't keep from dying,
Because she didn't know she couldn't fly
Like the other little birds
In the trees and in the sky,
It broke my heart to see the bird and watch her trip and fall

I thought that I would take her home, I put her in a box,
And carry her back to her mother's nest
With the other little birds,
But her mother wasn't there;
I looked and saw that little bird, and saw her breathe no more
In the corner of the box

I met a broken little bird, I couldn't save her life,
Because she didn't know she couldn't fly
It was her destiny to die.

Hoo boy, where to begin?

The Ionian sea is really very beautiful, as seas go. I found myself there in somewhat surprising circumstances, with substantially more time for self-reflection than I had expected, and an Ionian dream was the result. I imagine we all long for timeless things, and the world transpires to make them impossible in the end. At least the sea will always be there.

The title of the second poem is "Never Again." I had it translated into Hebrew, and I don't know how it's pronounced, and I like it better that way. I think it speaks plainly for itself.

Poem number three is actually a spontaneous manifestation of a story that's been bubbling in my head since 2005 or so, concerning two people with super human powers and profound insecurities. Having meant to write it for years, I was seized suddenly with the desire to write one particular scene, and thought I might experiment by putting it in verse form.

I set the fourth poem in a different font because, in my journal, it appears in drastically different handwriting, with heavier, slanted letters and a few stray scribbles. It looks out of place because it is: unplanned, unwanted and almost purely emotional. The result is a mostly unorganized line blob. If I had to guess why I'd written it, I'd say I wanted something to feel ashamed about; something to hit me across the face and remind me that my life wasn't that bad, so quit whining already. I remain convinced, however, that hell is full to the brim with drunken Germans and tuba bands.

The last poem was inspired by a person I met on the tour, quite possibly the single most self-destructive personality I have ever known. If there was an awful, awful decision to be made, given enough time (ten minutes?) and enough wine (not a lot, and yet so much) she would make it. Nobody wants to see a stranger in such a state, and whenever our paths would cross I'd find myself amazed she'd lived as long as she had. I think she thought of me as a friend, and I can't say I wasn't, but I also knew I had nothing to offer her.

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