Saved from the Flames

This is a serious poetry forum not a "love-in". Post here for more detailed, constructive criticism.
Post Reply
dedalus
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1933
Joined: Sat Sep 02, 2006 3:51 am
Location: Ireland/Japan

Saved from the Flames

Post by dedalus » Tue Jul 06, 2010 7:37 pm

Excerpts from Granddad's Diaries
(the bits Grandma couldn't find to burn)

In my younger days I'd gape
at famous people: I was a fool,
when I think about it. I’d forgotten
the old and everlasting rule
that nothing, nobody lasts forever.

Too many friends
having topped themselves,
not very well, hardly
artistically, often with rather
messy consequences

I thought, I felt, well ...

My dear! Have you seen
what a train can do to a human body?
Grotesque! I had to identify
Emil in his various pieces.
Only his signet ring was conclusive.

I thought, but thinking
in those days, as in any day

was not encouraged … I harboured doubts,
let's say, as to whether literature was the path
to tread, waiting for my mind to be pure or totally dead
among many high-strung fine-featured females,
who never once, not once, were seen naked and beguiling,
and who had no intention ever, never,
of becoming naked, or of being beguiling,
as they could have ... so easily done, the bitches,
by sliding happily, gloriously into bed,
by being nice to you, making the whole world
in a moment ten thousand times better.

They carry around their god-given bodies
nervously, without an ounce of comprehension:
words, words, so many words instead.

The mustachioed pale-faced gentlemen
held delicate scented handkerchiefs
to their bony twitching noses, ultra refined,
leaving no echo of the sweat the blood and stink
of Arminius, of the looming Nazi hooligans,
who were coming on, like Werner.

He came up to me at the ‘Babalanka’
one of these forgettable but fantastic
cosy places we used to love in Berlin:
fizzy very bad champagne on the tables,
young girls pretending to be loose and wild
while thinking about Papa, of their riding lessons
on the weekend. Hello, Jew.

That’s what he said. I was so incensed,
amused, I let him believe it. After that,
throughout all my outrageous spying forays,
he protected me. He thought I was a Jew homosexual,
not one but two counts against me. He was
visibly startled and in spite of himself, impressed.
After the war started, not long after,
the Yanks, the Irish, pushed out the boat of neutrality
while the Brits, Canadians and the rowdy Australians,
and even the quiet New Zealanders (all three),
swiftly skedaddled. I was able to pick up
some used furniture on the cheap. The Germans
were not keen on the idea of war. It was obvious
they hated the whole idea. Um Gottes Will,
they said, downing liters at the local, Was soll denn
das alles sein? (the fuck’s this all about then?)

So, no enthusiasm. None whatsoever.
I was scribbling all of this happily down
and sending it out through US embassy pouches
thanks to Nick and weird Oklahoma Julie
because the so-called Irish embassy was run by
one of our very own anti-British fascist manqué,
a total blinkered idiot, so shaming, you didn’t
even want to go to the receptions. But I did

occasionally, so that’s how I first met Hermann Goering.
I’d brought a wee tin whistle and that's what got him going.
I played a few tunes, a jig, a reel, and then a plaintive air
and the fat fucker just went berserk, mouthing off
about Aryan purity and asking me up for the weekend,
so I went off to his place up at Karinhall. My God!
You wouldn’t believe the luxury this fellow lived in,
wall-to-wall paintings and tapestries and sculptures
and the whole bloody house lined in marble. He was
on his best behaviour, slapping me on the back,
bad-mouthing the English, saying the Irish were so pure.

Idiot. The fuck he knows about the Irish.
Anything that happens outside of Germany,
these people simply don't have a clue, I mean,
look at Ribbentrop: he says “Heil Hitler” to the King.
Then he hates England because the English laugh at him.
I laugh at him too. That’s normal. Even the Germans
want to laugh at him but that, of course, is not allowed,
Strengst Verboten! not in a land where an unguarded remark
can send you straight to prison. I'm sorry I bought
the furniture; I really think I ought to leave.

I got back to Berlin and who’s sitting in my room,
there in the chair at the foot of my bed, but Werner?
The hell you doing here, I say, pass over my pajamas!
I have message for you, Bernd, you must send please.
O God, that’s how it started. Neutrality, I’d have to say,
went out the window. The Americans got chucked out
in ’41 after Pearl Harbor, the Irish stayed on. Not many.

By then we knew what side we were on. Oh, but listen,
must tell you! Must tell you about the time I met Herr Hitler
and taught him a few words of Irish, Conas ata tú,
which I hope, you know, he took with him to the grave
along with Eva Braun. He could have turned to her
in their last moments, smiled and said: Conas ata tú?
How are you? How are you? How are you?
She'd have had no reply, she never did, I only met her
the one time and it was Hermann who introduced us,
and after that to some sly sarcastic little dwarf,
a very nasty little piece of work who faded out of the picture
after I’d challenged him to a foot race: a name with “b” or “g”.

Werner was gobsmacked when I left for Sweden
so casually in the winter of ’43. You could still do that then,
even after Stalingrad. The truth hadn’t quite hit them.
I met him after the war in Hamburg, running a bar on the Reeperbahn.
People like Werner never go under, they just bob to the surface
while others are dying in droves all around them. They flourish,
eat well, screw and drink. He looked at me cagily, benevolently,
still thinking I was a corkscrew Jew so I pretended to kiss him,
but his smile went rigid when I whispered in his ear.
Crooks (this is the good thing) don't write books.

dogofdiogenes
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 342
Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 11:53 pm

Re: Saved from the Flames

Post by dogofdiogenes » Wed Jul 07, 2010 9:07 pm

Hi d,

I read it through and couldn't really go anywhere with it. I just feel confused and the problem with anything written about the Second World War and the issues around the Holocaust is that there's a lot of it and it takes a really keen central image to pull it off. I couldn't find that here. It starts with a good idea but this just gets lost-some serious paring needed here and you could make use of the idea of fragments and fragmentation of memory.

Good luck and thank you

jacq :D
I never give explanations-Mary Poppins (Management in the NHS-rewritten by Nightingale F,. original by Hunt,.G)

clarabow
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 637
Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2010 12:52 pm

Re: Saved from the Flames

Post by clarabow » Thu Jul 08, 2010 2:42 pm

Interesting idea, although it came over as a ramble rather than as snippets from someone's diary. Does it matter - well no, but the ramble seems to go from Emil, to women, o war from the beginning to the end of war and inbetween but without any connection to the first part. No matter - as there is some good stuff in this and it tells a story of sorts, and some of it - the characterisations I found very good. I think you need to cull some words here and there; maybe decide if this is a ramble or a diary because the thoughts in the latter would probably be more concise, more daily? and of course would fill volumns as 5 years and more of a diary would be a lot of writing.

You do say excerpts of material retrieved from Granma's burning hands so I guess you have covered yourself to an extent. The other thing about writing a diary is that it would be very private and written from the perspective of I
and I am just not sure if it quite captured that? Maybe it needs to be written in the present tense throughout? As his thoughts would be written in the present, even though he might refer to things in the past - see some suggestions below

Excerpts from Granddad's Diaries
(the bits Grandma couldn't find to burn) -

Thursday 5th, and she has just reminded me
in my younger days I'd gape at famous people:
when I think about it, I was a fool.
I'VE forgotten that old and everlasting rule
(that) nothing and nobody lasts forever.

This week has been a week where too many friends
havE topped themselves, not very well,I might add,
hardly artistically, often with rather messy consequences
I feel, well ...

I asked my dear - has SHE seen what a train can do
to a human body? Grotesque! I had to identify
Emil in his various pieces. His signet ring was conclusive.
I think but in these days, as in any day, thinking
IS not encouraged … I harbour(er) doubts,
(let's say,) as to whether literature IS the path
to tread, waiting for my mind to be pure or totally dead
among many high-strung fine-featured females,
who never once, not once, were seen naked and beguiling,
and who had no intention ever, never,
of becoming naked, or of being beguiling,
as they could have ... so easily done, the bitches,
by sliding happily, gloriously into bed,
by being nice to you, making the whole world - do you mean by being nice to ME?
in a moment ten thousand times better.

They carry around their god-given bodies
nervously, without an ounce of comprehension:
words, words, so many words instead.

The mustachioed pale-faced gentlemen
held delicate scented handkerchiefs
to their bony twitching noses, ultra refined,
leaving no echo of the sweat the blood and stink
of Arminius, of the looming Nazi hooligans, - suggests 1933 - 35?
who were coming on, like Werner.

He came up to me at the ‘Babalanka’
one of these forgettable but fantastic
cosy places we used to love in Berlin:
fizzy very bad champagne on the tables,
young girls pretending to be loose and wild
while thinking about Papa, of their riding lessons
on the weekend. Hello, Jew.

That’s what he said. I was so incensed,
amused, I let him believe it. After that,
throughout all my outrageous spying forays,
he protected me. He thought I was a Jew homosexual,
not one but two counts against me. He was
visibly startled and in spite of himself, impressed.
After the war started, not long after, - 1939/1940?
the Yanks, the Irish, pushed out the boat of neutrality
while the Brits, Canadians and the rowdy Australians,
and even the quiet New Zealanders (all three),
swiftly skedaddled. I was able to pick up
some used furniture on the cheap. The Germans
were not keen on the idea of war. It was obvious
they hated the whole idea. Um Gottes Will,
they said, downing liters at the local, Was soll denn
das alles sein? (the fuck’s this all about then?)

So, no enthusiasm. None whatsoever.
I was scribbling all of this happily down
and sending it out through US embassy pouches
thanks to Nick and weird Oklahoma Julie
because the so-called Irish embassy was run by
one of our very own anti-British fascist manqué,
a total blinkered idiot, so shaming, you didn’t
even want to go to the receptions. But I did

occasionally, so that’s how I first met Hermann Goering. 1941/2?
I’d brought a wee tin whistle and that's what got him going.
I played a few tunes, a jig, a reel, and then a plaintive air
and the fat fucker just went berserk, mouthing off
about Aryan purity and asking me up for the weekend,
so I went off to his place up at Karinhall. My God!
You wouldn’t believe the luxury this fellow lived in,
wall-to-wall paintings and tapestries and sculptures
and the whole bloody house lined in marble. He was
on his best behaviour, slapping me on the back,
bad-mouthing the English, saying the Irish were so pure.

Idiot. The fuck he knows about the Irish.
Anything that happens outside of Germany,
these people simply don't have a clue, I mean,
look at Ribbentrop: he says “Heil Hitler” to the King.
Then he hates England because the English laugh at him.
I laugh at him too. That’s normal. Even the Germans
want to laugh at him but that, of course, is not allowed,
Strengst Verboten! not in a land where an unguarded remark
can send you straight to prison. I'm sorry I bought
the furniture; I really think I ought to leave.

I got back to Berlin and who’s sitting in my room,
there in the chair at the foot of my bed, but Werner?
The hell you doing here, I say, pass over my pajamas!
I have message for you, Bernd, you must send please.
O God, that’s how it started. Neutrality, I’d have to say,
went out the window. The Americans got chucked out
in ’41 after Pearl Harbor, the Irish stayed on. Not many.

By then we knew what side we were on. Oh, but listen,
must tell you! Must tell you about the time I met Herr Hitler
and taught him a few words of Irish, Conas ata tú,
which I hope, you know, he took with him to the grave - post 1945?
along with Eva Braun. He could have turned to her
in their last moments, smiled and said: Conas ata tú?
How are you? How are you? How are you?
She'd have had no reply, she never did, I only met her
the one time and it was Hermann who introduced us,
and after that to some sly sarcastic little dwarf,
a very nasty little piece of work who faded out of the picture
after I’d challenged him to a foot race: a name with “b” or “g”.

Werner was gobsmacked when I left for Sweden
so casually in the winter of ’43. You could still do that then,
even after Stalingrad. The truth hadn’t quite hit them.
I met him after the war in Hamburg, running a bar on the Reeperbahn.
People like Werner never go under, they just bob to the surface
while others are dying in droves all around them. They flourish,
eat well, screw and drink. He looked at me cagily, benevolently,
still thinking I was a corkscrew Jew so I pretended to kiss him,
but his smile went rigid when I whispered in his ear.
Crooks (this is the good thing) don't write books.

David
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 13716
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 4:40 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Saved from the Flames

Post by David » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:29 pm

I liked it, but I enjoy a good ramble. Some great walk-ons, and some cracking lines.

Cheers

David

clarabow
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 637
Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2010 12:52 pm

Re: Saved from the Flames

Post by clarabow » Sat Jul 10, 2010 11:38 am

Just another thought if you had memoirs instead of diary the poem would fit and work better?

dedalus
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1933
Joined: Sat Sep 02, 2006 3:51 am
Location: Ireland/Japan

Re: Saved from the Flames

Post by dedalus » Sat Jul 10, 2010 5:51 pm

You must remember this ...
a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh,
the fundamental things apply.

And when two lovers woo,
they still say, 'I love you', on that you can rely,
no matter what the future brings.

Moonlight and love songs, never out of date,
hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate,
woman needs man, and man must have his mate,
that no-one can deny .... !

It's still the same old story,
a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die,
the world will always welcome lovers

and poems like this never try to change
anything, they just tell a story
more or less in the order things happened.

Lovely
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 2195
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:37 am
antispam: no

Re: Saved from the Flames

Post by Lovely » Sun Jul 11, 2010 11:59 am

Holy of holy the first lines.

You are seeing correct.

Approaching depth

coffeedodger
Productive Poster
Productive Poster
Posts: 50
Joined: Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:34 pm

Re: Saved from the Flames

Post by coffeedodger » Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:12 pm

While I agree with others that there is enough of interest to want to go all the way with it, I don't see much in the way of poetry here. It reads as what it is.....extracts from a diary and while there are some nice visual images to be gleaned from the two stanzas beginning 'the mustachioed pale gentleman.....', much of the rest is straightforward prosaic storytelling. Nothing wrong with that as such, but inevitably it does ramble off in various directions because it isn't written within a framework of economy and allusion that for me distinguishes poetry from prose. There is much more that distinguishes the two of course!

Poetry imo., is about much more than arranging paragraphs to look like stanzas so although I can get something from it in terms of its portrayal of a person's wartime experience, I end up feeling rather 'short-changed' in the poetry department. Therefore rather than being moved by the content I end up feeling ridiculously grumpy to not have a poem delivered to my brain cells on a poetry forum!

Post Reply