Uit: Corelli’s Mandolin
‘Only my finger,’ replied Stamatis.
‘And how long have you been deaf in this ear?’
‘Since as long as I can remember.’
Dr Iannis found an absurd picture rising up before his imagination. It was Stamatis as a toddler, with the same gnarled face, the same stoop, the same overmeasure of aural hair, reaching up to the kitchen table and taking a dried pea from a wooden bowl. He stuck it into his mouth, found it too hard to bite, and crammed it into his ear. The doctor chuckled, ‘You must have been a very annoying little boy.’
‘He was a devil.’
‘Be quiet, woman, you didn’t even know me in those days.’
‘I have your mother’s word, God rest her soul,’ replied the old woman, pursing her lips and folding her arms, ‘and I have the word of your sisters.’
Dr Iannis considered the problem. It was undoubtedly an obdurate and recalcitrant pea, and it was too tightly packed to lever it out. ‘Do you have a fishhook, about the right size for a mullet, with a long shank? And do you have a light hammer?’
The couple looked at each other with the single thought that their doctor must have lost his mind. ‘What does this have to do with my earache?’ asked Stamatis suspiciously.
‘You have an exorbitant auditory impediment,’ replied the doctor, ever conscious of the necessity for maintaining a certain iatric mystique, and fully aware that ‘a pea in the ear’ was unlikely to earn him any kudos. ‘I can remove it with a fishhook and a small hammer; it’s…”
Louis de Bernières (Londen, 8 december 1954)
Uit: Circling My Mother
“Am I purposely creating difficulties for myself, a situation of false conflict, so that I can be tested and emerge a hero? There is the chance that I will not be able to leave the dazzle of the first room, to resist the intoxication of these paintings, so absorbing, so saturating, so suggestive of a world of intense color, of prosperous involvement, of the flow of good life and good fortune. There’s the chance that I will forget to call the therapist. I do not forget, but my experience of the first paintings is poisoned by the fear that I will.
My mother has no idea that her ninetieth birthday is coming up. She has no notion of the time of day, the day of the week, the season of the year, the year of the century. No notion of the approaching millennium. And no idea, any longer, who I am. Her forgetting of me happened just a few months ago, after I had been traveling for more than a month and hadn’t been to see her. When I came back, she asked me if I was her niece. I said no, I was her daughter. “Does that mean I had you?” she asked. I said yes. “Where was I when I had you?” she asked me. I told her she was in a hospital in Far Rockaway, New York. “So much has happened to me in my life,” she said. “You can’t expect me to remember everything.”
My mother has erased me from the book of the living. She is denying the significance of my birth. I do not take this personally. It is impossible for me to believe any longer that anything she says refers to me. As long as I remember this, I can still, sometimes, enjoy her company.
The day before I go to the Bonnard show, I visit my mother. It is not a good visit. It is one of her fearful days. I say I’ll take her out to the roof garden for some air. She says, “But what if I fall off?” I bring her flowers, which I put in a vase near her bed. She says, “But what if they steal them or yell at me for having them?”
Mary Gordon (Far Rockaway, 8 december 1949)
Uit: African Diary
“I can’t say it actively preyed on me that my impressions of Africa were based so heavily on a series of B-movies made in California more than half a century ago, but when a personable young man named Dan McLean from the London office of CARE International, the venerable and worthy charity, asked me if I would be willing to go to Kenya to visit some of their projects and write a few words on their behalf, it occurred to me that there were some gaps in my familiarity with the Dark Continent that I might usefully fill in. So I agreed.
Some weeks later, I was summoned to CARE’s London offices for a meeting with Dan, his boss Will Day and a rugged and amiable fellow named Nick Southern, CARE’s regional manager for Kenya, who happened to be in London at the time. We sat around a big table spread with maps of Kenya, while they outlined what they had in mind for me.
“Of course, you’ll have to fly to the refugee camp at Dadaab,” Will observed thoughtfully at one point. He glanced at me. “To avoid the bandits,” he explained.
Dan and Nick nodded gravely.
“I beg your pardon?” I said, taking a sudden interest.
“It’s bandit country all round there,” Will said.
“Where?” I asked, peering at the map for the first time.
“Oh, just there,” Will said, waving a hand vaguely across most of east Africa. “But you’ll be fine in a plane.”
“They only rarely shoot at planes,” Nick explained.
This wasn’t at all what I had had in mind, frankly. By way of homework, I had dutifully watched Out of Africa, from which I derived the impression that this trip would mostly take place on a verandah somewhere while turbaned servants brought me lots of coffee.”
Bill Bryson (Des Moines, 8 december 1951)
Old man in the crystal morning after snow
Old man in the crystal morning after snow,
Your throat swathed in a muffler, your bent
Figure building the snow man which is meant
For the grandchild’s target,
do you know
This fat cartoon, his eyes pocked in with coal
Nears you each time your breath smokes the air,
Lewdly grinning out of a private nightmare?
He is the white cold shadow of your soul.
You build his comic head, you place his comic hat;
Old age is not so serious, and I
By the window sad and watchful as a cat,
Build to this poem of old age and of snow,
And weep: you are my snow man and I know
I near you, you near him, all of us must die.
Spring has returned! Everything has returned!
The earth, just like a schoolgirl, memorizes
Poems, so many poems. … Look, she has learned
So many famous poems, she has earned so many prizes!
Teacher was strict. We delighted in the white
Of the old man’s beard, bright like the snow’s:
Now we may ask which names are wrong, or right
For “blue,” for “apple,” for “ripe.” She knows, she knows!
Lucky earth, let out of school, now you must play
Hide-and-seek with all the children every day:
You must hide that we may seek you: we will! We will!
The happiest child will hold you. She knows all the things
You taught her: the word for “hope,” and for “believe,”
Are still upon her tongue. She sings and sings and sings.
Delmore Schwartz (8 december 1913 – 11 juli 1966)
A man rakes leaves into
a heap in his yard, a pile,
& leans on his rake &
burns them utterly.
The fragrance fills the forest
children pause & heed the
smell, which will become
nostalgia in several year
“Have you ever seen God?”
-a mandala. A symmetrical angel.
Felt? yes. Fucking. The Sun.
Heard? Music. Voices.
Touched? an animal. your hand.
Tasted? Rare meat, corn, water,
An angel runs
Thru the sudden light
Thru the room
A ghost precedes us
A shadow follows us
And each time we stop
Jim Morrison (8 december 1943 – 3 juli 1971)
Uit: My Life and Hard Times
“Old Aunt Clarissa Beall (who could whistle like a man, with two fingers in her mouth) suffered under the premonition that she was destined to die on South High Street, because she had been born on South High Street and married on South High Street. Then there was Aunt Sarah Shoaf, who never went to bed at night without the fear that a burglar was going to get in and blow chloroform under her door through a tube. To avert this calamity—for she was in greater dread of anesthetics than of losing her household goods—she always piled her money, silverware, and other valuables in a neat stack just outside her bedroom, with a note reading: “This is all I have. Please take it and do not use your chloroform, as this is all I have.” Aunt Gracie Shoaf also had a burglar phobia, but she met it with more fortitude. She was confident that burglars had been getting into her house every night for forty years. The fact that she never missed anything was to her no proof to the contrary. She always claimed that she scared them off before they could take anything, by throwing shoes down the hallway. When she went to bed she piled, where she could get at them handily, all the shoes there were about her house. Five minutes after she had turned off the light, she would sit up in bed and say “Hark!” Her husband, who had learned to ignore the whole situation as long ago as 1903, would either be sound asleep or pretend to be sound asleep. In either case he would not respond to her tugging and pulling, so that presently she would arise, tiptoe to the door, open it slightly and heave a shoe down the hall in one direction and its mate down the hall in the other direction. Some nights she threw them all, some nights only a couple of pairs.”
James Thurber (8 december 1894 – 2 november 1961)
The judge, who lives impeccably upstairs
With dull decorum and its implication,
Has all his servants in to family prayers,
And edifies _his_ soul with exhortation.
Meanwhile his blacks live wastefully downstairs;
Not always chaste, they manage to exist
With less decorum than the judge upstairs,
And find withal a something that he missed.
This painful fact a Swede philosopher,
Who tarried for a fortnight in our city,
Remarked, one evening at the meal, before
We paralyzed him silent with our pity–
Saying the black man living with the white
Had given more than white men could requite.
Dead Men To a Metaphysician
If they were shadows walking to and fro
Upon a screen you call reality,
Then, when the light fails, where do shadows go?
This boy enigma rapes philosophy.
But if they really occupied three-square,
And now are only shadows on a screen,
How can the light still cast a shadow there
From shades of shadows that have never been?
Such questions are a mimic pantomime
Of ghosts to utter nothings in dream chairs,
Myopia squinting in a mist of time,
An eye that sees the eye with which it stares.
Your light too clearly shows the ancient stigma
Of questions solved by posing an enigma.
Hervey Allen (8 december 1889 – 28 december 1949)
Light Up Night in Pittsburgh
Zie voor nog meer schrijvers van de 8e december ook mijn vorige blog van vandaag.