Saturday, November 6, 2010

Remembrances & Writings: Again Boxing Backwards


It is an indication, I guess, that I’ve never thought much about my own posterity that I’ve almost never bothered to date any of my poems or other writings—much less try to get them published. On the other hand, though, I have kept them all; in boxes, in folders, one of which I unearthed the other day.
Within, I found a clutch of poems from long ago. Several of these have pleased me more now than they did back then. I have, therefore, been posting them at a couple of writers’ groups that I’ve joined on Facebook, or as notes on my FB profile page.

But this one I’ve decided to post here instead. It is almost unique in being dated. Adding to this distinction is the fact that the source of its inspiration is documented. Its writing was provoked by an article in Time magazine about a German actress and chanteuse named Hildegard Knef (or, in America, sometimes, “Neff.”)
Being neither much of a cinema buff, nor a fan of European saloon tunes, sung in languages I can’t understand, I’m sure that I’d never heard of her, although she was apparently quite a phenom in Europe. A quick googling of her name just now, disclosed that she was in the United States around the time of the Time magazine article, promoting a movie and/or a book. But I was not able to uncover anything that really clued me in on the nature of her celebrity, such that it gave rise to the kind of frenzy indicated by the excerpt from Time that serves as the poem’s epigram.

This poem is finally distinguished from all others in being adorned by two photographs (as shown above)—the one on the left being the portrait of Kneff from the Time article. The one on the right was meant, I’m quite sure, to illustrate the poem’s line “among the undertaken clowns.” So, the poem:

For Hildegard Knef

In a crazed crowd a young man opened his trench coat and implored: “Please touch it just once. It’s my birthday. ~ Time Magazine, Vol.98, No.1; July 5, 1971

gathered in light
that roars along
cinematic-circus strobe
rocking on the subway walls
among the undertaken clowns
behold the one vague, pale face
that locks the frame
in space and time
by lifting four reflected eyes
passing to the mirror’s plane
(…there once were some passed through the glass.)

and yet they come
through time and space
electric flesh of mirrored light
to say that lust
is the only gender
to crawl the past
down gasping halls
up darkened stairs
whose final step seems always near
ending now before a window or a door
(…she lost her strength, it filled her mouthing ass.)

across the aisle
a gate of thighs
silver stare of mirrored
one-way shades
every window hides a lie
and all these doors
are subtle violations of
the virgin future’s willing past
beneath the red-fringed fright-wig glare
a static greasepaint line
(…despite the sweat and spume, dawn laughed through the pane.)

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx-- 4 August '71