I’m still here.
Only this time, downwind.
I’m still here.
Only this time, downwind.
Can you be nostalgic for a time that you never lived?
Now, I understand completely how gauche it is to use a link and reference of this level of recognition for a pigdin little piece, but bear with me. I’d been meaning to write for this song for a while now, and the prompt for today gave me the push I needed.
It’s a curious bit of happenstance, really. I was on my way to the library, in a vaguely unsettled frame of mind, and Wind of Change by the Scorpions was the first song on my playlist. I ended up listening to it on repeat, because it was making me feel mournful but hopeful, which is a good thing to take away from a bad morning. After having listened to it eight times times, plus one time right outside, I walked into the library to finish my book.
I was three chapters into Erben der Erinnerung by Philip Meinhold, which was the only perspective book on the Holocaust I’d found in our German library. It’s a singularly stark and stirring description from a man examining three generations’ worth of emotional inheritance. The lack of delicate handling of the theme and his prose create an almost tangible atmosphere around the reader, and I’m bad at separating myself from words to begin with. I kept reading and would have taken too much away from it, had the last chapter not included a sudden mention of Wind of Change by the Scorpions, and the importance of remembering your own place, too.
Naturally, I was floored. It’s a decently sized coincidence that I spend all morning binge-listening to a song, and it happens to show up again a few hours later, at the back of a book that would have left me disturbed. I was sitting there, staring at the book like a foreign entity, when a loud CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! alarm went off, and we were herded out for a fire drill. I walked out into the garden clutching the book, for all purposes yanked rudely out of a fugue state. Everyone was chattering excitedly as we waited in the wintry sunlight for the all clear, and I leaned against the embankment, watching the girl next to me gesticulate wildly, with a mini-extinguisher tucked under her elbow. It woke me up for five minutes, and ten minutes later the effect of the book receded somewhat more….. but why should it have had that effect at all?
Can we be nostalgic for a time we didn’t know? Millenials who are moved to tears by Toto’s Africa, or every Rock lover in his teens who swears by the unchallenged greatness of AC/DC- what are they nostalgic for? “They don’t make music like this anymore”. You’ll read the same refrain under every music video on YouTube from ten to fifty years old. But what do you want? How do you plead allegiance and understanding to a world even your parents didn’t exist in?
And yet, I’d be loathe to call it pretentiousness, because it isn’t. We want to feel understood. We want to feel belonging, in a place or time where it feels as though what we are feeling reverberates with everyone. That wanting fuels this nostalgia, this ache and unsettledness, sense of unhappiness, that had I been born in this time, or had these places/people/events existed as they do in this bit of recording, we would have been happy. And while that is testament to how much music can evoke, I’ll blame our own unreality a little, too.
Or at least, mine. Being enthralled is one thing. Being adrift, another. After a point, it’s not the burden of creativity but the sheer inability to cut the umbilical to a world that doesn’t exist anymore. We are in the here and now. And it’s often ugly and unbearable, but this is where we exist. There isn’t any refuge in an imaginary world. But there is respite, and I’m grateful for it.
It’s hard to walk away completely unfeeling, when you read descriptions of such horrors. Of pain that has saturated generations, of children born angry for an injustice their parents haven’t known. A world away from all this, even dipping your toes leaves you walking stained for a little while.
But walk away. We cannot look to a future when we inflict the past upon ourselves repeatedly. And there’s still hope. There’s a wind of change coming yet.
This road does not exist
The houses long burnt down
Someone wrote of the cracked bones
Embedded in the ground
Trees have grown over the paths
Rain took the remains
Yet I stand and stare at what was
And come away stained
What lives here has already endured
a hundred years, will live a thousand more
There are traces of words in every inch
Handprints on the walls and floors
My fingers know the stories here
Hieroglyphs, stick figures, seeds,
Unfathomable as an alien landscape
Unblinkingly there, like a wound that bleeds
Again, and again
I hum to the refrain
I don’t know this language
Of a world that is ashes
But I’ll cry for them, because
we all speak pain.
We all speak pain.
Strip away every known.
Clean off the bone
Past the skin but
leave the poetry
wash the words away
Dull the clarity
Take the lessons
-spare the sins
They have no meaning.
that knife edge balance
of what I have and
what it takes
Snip, snip, all the habits
Remove the wings
Bind the fingers
Stitch the lips into closing,
I take every bit of I from me
But who am I then?
Chalk white on grass green
Stains on socks, ankle deep
Slick, wet, slip and fall
Feint if you’ve been touched at all
False move, halfback
pay your due
Center forward’s rushing you
Set up, Stopper, wingers in
Charge, set up the ball again
Three naught and rack
Slip down the table
Home field advantage
But still the wave, still the hands
Roaring voices from the stands
Loyalties to strangers’ blood and
Waving flags from No Man’s Lands
Allegiance is a choice
Like few others, like end lines
Once you cross it, you don’t switch
Scorch or scorn, clear or collide
Some fealties are wrought in stone
Like this one: You’ll Never Walk Alone
For Day Sixteen of NaMPoWriMo, I decided to take the easy route and write an unabashed love letter to Liverpool FC. And why not, too. Once upon a time, a little girl started watching football because of them, and never switched teams, or favorite sports. ❤
The grey canal empties
sluggishly into the backwaters
meandering beyond the third balcony
on the seventh floor. The wind
smells like forgotten fish
and sometimes like jasmine
My neighbour smells like that, too.
Voices carry from the parking lot. Sharp
tones cut through the general clamour of
traffic and jackdaws. My father is flirting
with the cook. She’s repulsed, but she
needs this job. We watch till we can’t.
The ocean is very close, the salt taste
lingers in my room, I can’t resist the urge
to let the ocean into my room
when I’m so close. Every evening I let it
roll onto my tongue.
The water stays murky.
The sky doesn’t care
Colours wash over my face
They smell of sunset
I forget sometimes, that there is no end to hate.
I don’t like that word. Hate. It implies weight. It is a burden. It is a two-edged sword that you cut yourself on, when you hold it. Like a snake that’s poisonous from the non-bitey butt end too.
Hate is important. It gives you reason. At the very blind white hot rage edges of sanity, when anger consumes you and your nerves are spitting fire trying to hold your composure, it’s Hate that sustains you, not love. Love comes later, to be sure. But in that moment, hate is very, very important.
My father was talking to a person who’d visited our house for the very first time today. By means of introducing me, he said, “This is my oldest daughter. I’m going to hire a driver for her soon, to take her to a park so that she can run. Look at how fat she is.” The man stared at the ground, embarassed and mumbling that I wasn’t all thaaat fat. I stared at my beast of a father, beyond a boiling fury and yet, completely still. In that moment, I realised that I was always find reason to hate him more. Hate. With a singularity and purity that I only have for one other thing in my life: Love.
I love me. I love this whole utterly fucked, unspeakably glorious and splendid world I live in. I love the sunsets in the third balcony on the seventh floor, even if they reflect prism-like over a brackish and smelly stream. I love my friends who forget me, I love my friends who don’t, I love my battered family units, I love that wonder who holds my heart, I love books and words and music and -me. I love me. Madly so, because they and we and he and I deserve it.
And I hate him. He deserves it.
Day Twelve of NaPoWriMo. I’ve written a Haibun for the prompt, with prose, followed by a Haiku, that briefest of forms I seem to shake hands with only every NaPoWriMo.
Did I forget to say, I love you all too?
And man, do you deserve it!