ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online)
Featuring the works of Maire Morrissey-Cummins, Amirah Al Wassif, Johanna Antonia Zomers, Francis O'Hare, John Davies, Gavin Bourke, Don Stoll, Charlie Pettigrew, Michael Boyle, Bengt-Ove Bostrom, Jim Crickard and Karen Petersen. Hard copies can be purchased from our
Issue 84 September 2019
A New Ulster Prose On the Wall Website
Editor: Amos Greig Editor: E V Greig Editor: Arizahn Editor: Adam Rudden Contents
Editorial Maire Morrissey-Cummins;
1. Learning To Love What Is 2. A Birdbath of Rain 3. Light and Shade Amirah Al Wassif; 1. Women Rights 2. Dear Mr Indifferent 3. we are Aisha, Katherine, Elizabeth, and Rachel 4. We Still Live in the cave! 5. To Be A Brilliant Woman in the Third World! 6. The Street Child Johanna Antonia Zomers; 1. Mother And Baby Home Francis O’Hare; 1. Newry ‘89 2. Flush 3. Teen Wolf 4. Why Don’t You? John Davies; 1. The Dark Room Gavin Bourke; 1. Damocles Sword, Falling Don Stoll; 1. Vampires Charlie Pettigrew; 1. Apocalypse 2. Salvage 3. Jamjars Michael Boyle; 1. Lament for Matthew Lagan 2. Who Was That Man
3. Apparitiom 1944 Resurrection 4. The Rock Lane 5. Curly Elliot Goes To School
On The Wall Message from the Alleycats Round the Back
Bengt-Ove Bostrom: 1. 2.
Personality and Music Preferences About Passion For Music
Jim Crickard: 1. Queenie of the Damned 2. Alien Queen Karen Petersen: 1. A Seal Upon Thine Heart
Poetry, prose, art work and letters to be sent to: Submissions Editor A New Ulster 23 High Street, Ballyhalbert BT22 1BL Alternatively e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org See page 50 for further details and guidelines regarding submissions. Hard copy distribution is available c/o Lapwing Publications, 1 Ballysillan Drive, Belfast BT14 8HQ Or via PEECHO Digital distribution is via links on our website: https://anuanewulster.wixsite.com/anewulster Published in Baskerville Oldface & Times New Roman Produced in Belfast & Ballyhalbert, Northern Ireland. All rights reserved The artists have reserved their right under Section 77 Of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 To be identified as the authors of their work. ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online) Cover Image â&#x20AC;&#x153;Winter Peninsulaâ&#x20AC;? by Amos Greig
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. ” Aristotle Onassis. Editorial This year has been a particularly challenging one for us I’ve had several surgeries and my father has been in and out of hospital, so far, he has needed around 50 blood transfusions and several surgeries, his most recent hospitalization lasted for over 8 weeks needing constant medical attention. People from around the world have been in touch and several impromptu events have been organized to recognize the influence he has had on the poetry scene. I was intending to write some more about computer games and was considering looking at a number which reminded me not of prose pieces but in poetry in their execution. However, what with all the commitments and the incredible content in this issue I will hold that back for another day. I’m more and more concerned by the increasing militant language coming from political circles in some ways the atmosphere especially around things like Climate concerns and Brexit is far worse than either the social conflicts in Rome or the political infighting connected to the riches which drove such concerns. What makes the comparison collapse is a complete lack of orators such as Cicero or even a remote attempt to appear to be reaching out towards the other camps, at least Caesar, Pompey and Crassus managed to find a middle ground even if it was just self interest and a fear of mutual destruction. .
Amos Greig Editor.
Biographical Note: Maire Morissey-Cummins
Mรกire lives in a village by the sea outside Dublin. She loves nature, her garden, her cat Athena, paints watercolours daily, writes a little, walks by the seafront and in the woods, dinner with girlfriends and her travels with husband, Jim. Retirement is a great time of life. It continues to be an exploration, a search for a greater understanding of the world we inhabit and people we meet.
Learning to Love What Is. (Maire Morissey-Cummins) Days tick by, slow and grey as the low lying sun sweeps over snow covered fields. I watch the evenings fade, the wax and wane of a ghostly moon, a constant adjustment, unemotional, indifferent. Bare branches ripple and shine on frozen nights streets empty, cloaked in silence, only the sound of the scolding wind or a train trundling through. The clock chimes on the hour, days shift and slide, melt into month-end, seasons separate, little dots of green appear. Spring always catches me by surprise, that first daffodil, a clutch of purple crocuses by the garden gate. The village stirs winds retreat, and the cat goes out to drink in Spring rain. The sun rises high over the Scots pine, it glows amber in a cornflower blue sky. Horses graze on buttercup fields and the doves return to weave nests in the silver birch. There is a light breeze blowing through the open window today. It carries peace from a sparkling sea, this Solstice day, our first day of Summer.
A Birdbath of Rain (Maire Morissey-Cummins) And the rain came to relieve this parched earth, great, fat drops fell from the sky collected in the bird bath. I heard it, heavy and rhythmic, spattering the deck, and I leapt from my bed to see it, breathe it, drink it in. It opened my dulled senses, an instant cooling, a relief. After weeks of drought, the dryness had made me brittle and hoarse, intolerant of bumbling blue bottles and flies multiplying around the fruit bowl. Rose petals surrendered, cascaded the gravel path, and raspberry canes sweetened in the dim light. I opened my arms wide to the midnight sky to the Buck moon gazing back at me and embraced the stirring breeze crossing over the North Sea.
Light and Shade (Maire Morissey-Cummins) You can feed me crusty bread, garlic olives and tuna salad and I will be complete, lounging in the armchair by the balcony door, illuminated by the last rays skin shiny, scented with lotion, flip flop dangling, book in hand as I catch the light in your eyes. Sipping tea you smile, content in the shadows, puzzling over the crossword from last weekâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s newspaper. Becalmed in light and shade, we sit in silent symmetry at the hour before umbra in Los Gigantos.
Biographical Note: Amirah Al Wassif
Amirah Al Wassif is a freelance writer. She has written articles, novels, short stories poems and songs. Five of her books were written in Arabic and many of her English works have been published in various cultural magazines. Amirah is passionate about producing literary works for children, teens and adults which represent cultures from around the world. Her first book, Who do not Eat Chocolate was published in 2014 and her latest illustrated book, The Cocoa Book and Other Stories is forthcoming.
Women Rights (Amirah Al Wassif )
don't try to introduce my skin to your skin cause such introduction doesn't let the light to get in don't try to prove me as your servant while starting my talking about the equality between women and men! don't try to teach me the art of life now and then cause my life is my life I am not your plastic woman I am a free and clever idea traveling from south to north I am a free and clever idea seeking boldly for the truth don't try to name me by your names unfortunately, I am not one of your games I am the eternity tale of Eve who spent her life, tries to think tries to believe and don't wrong me this is my essential battle to be! so, don't try to silence my voice as a fake reason to get rid of the noise! and don't wrong me this is my essential battle to be! I am a woman with high ambition a poetic soul looking for full expression so, don't try to introduce my skin to your skin cause such introduction doesn't let the light to get in don't try to prove me as your servant while starting my talking about the equality between women and men!
Dear Mr.Indifferent (Amirah Al Wassif )
Dear Mr.Indifferent, Hello And my Warm Regards to you I hope everything is going well and if you have sad news to tell please, tell! cause as you know I have a thick skin and as you said if you are number one, I will be number ten! so, Did you still upset? when you read accidentally " feminist?" did you still see that word equals "shit?" and don't wrong me I am a kind of women, the sky their limit Dear Mr.Indifferent, How do you do? do you still insist I am here for the show? show of pretended protest who murmurs with the word "No?" Did I still annoy you? make you unpleasant? cause I began all my letters with "Dear Mr.Indifferent?" and sorry for my sense of humor you knew I am a feminist but, all the right with you to prove it is a rumor to reply as a scientist! to tell us why some minds couldn't accept the truth when it differs from heritage if it because they hate the truth? or because they hate thinking in different??
we are Aisha, Katherine, Elizabeth, and Rachel ( Amirah Al Wassif )
we all washing the dishes cleaning the floor but, we still have big wishes then, our whisper turns into a roar! we all that girl who put her dream as a dear flower in her book we all the seekers who want to mean we are the breakers of the same rock! we all washing the dishes stitching the clothes but, we have big wishes trying to find our "because" We are Aisha, Katherine, Elizabeth, Rachel, and Lili We are those who described by you as dangerous creatures, as silly! pick your weapon as a fighter sign her upon all walls say: I am a woman /I have to enter the massive identities wars We all showering under the tears of our grandmothers We are told by authorities sisters, not equal brothers! you have to wait at the back yard until the men ending their game you have to celebrate your loss without protest/with no need to blame We all cutting carrots with a smiley- dreamy face We all heard scary rumors about the future of our race but, we still hope of the grace yes, we still hope of the grace
we still live in the cave! (Amirah Al Wassif )
we live in the cave, me, my people and some funny creatures appear on the TV screen my family doesn't have any screens, but our neighbors have one they saw these creatures through it, they laugh every night, they laugh every breaking news when we hearing their laughter, we laugh too as polite followers who don't want to make their leaders disappointed we live in the cave, nursing our mother nature milk, perfectly like a greedy newborn we have no idea If we love our cave or not? we have no food, no water but, our neighbors have. we hear the movement of their mouth every day, every night we absorb their voices while watering their body and then, we feel like " we did it, we ate, we drunk, also we had our shower." we live in the cave, watching the shadows of ourselves here and there and if you ask me "did you ever feel bored?" I will automatically answer you I have no idea but, if my neighbors felt bored before my answer would be "yes" because as you know I and my people are their followers. we live in the cave, trying to figure out our way throughout our neighbor's eye they talk to us behind the ancient walls every year every year, they come and stop close our cave and order us to shut up our mouths cause that isn't fit the modern civilization age we are so polite followers to our leaders so, we did it, we shut up we live in the cave, with no clothes, we all here are naked as the day that we are born but, that isn't matter because our neighbors have clothes
they have many and they promised us that they will donate to us it is a grand prize for me and my people, isn't? we live in the cave with no information keeping our blinders on our eyes trying our best to catch what the new from our neighbors station and they still laugh every night, every breaking news we also laugh too and when they laugh louder, we follow our leaders and when they laugh louder, we follow our neighbors but finally, after while of laughing, we started to cry!
To Be A Brilliant Woman in the third world! (Amirah Al Wassif) to be a brilliant woman in the third world you have to not be! if you want the basic tips kindly listen to me put your mind in a box be ready to say every moment “I agree” announce your eternal silence stop whirring like a curious bee act like a bird in a cage never dream of being free don't consider obedience guilt it is an honor getting down on your knees and about your gifts quite enough to know all the electrical appliances — do you know about dishes and how to make tea? nobody cares about gifts it is not necessary, they are too wee don’t try to laugh aloud it is perfect to be a tree and understand that argument is so dangerous that the best a woman can do is flee! to be a brilliant woman in the third world you have to obey! your family, your husband, your neighbor, your president whoever he or she may be! you have to stitch and cherish and nourish and never expect the chance to flourish! you have to maintain silence never crying whee! when you succeed or if you finally see! in the third world all you have to be is not be nobody cares about your gifts it’s enough to have a degree in lessons of obedience or cooking purée!
The street child (Amirah Al Wassif )
he packed bread for me and I don't know if he was or she cause the dusty face of street children always prevent the eye to see! he worked and worked so much until his face turned into red this kind of work is very harsh when hunger makes your bread! but he still a street child so he doesn't have any right only in selling his dream and sleep in the corners every night
Biographical Note: Johanna Antonia Zomers
Johanna Antonia Zomers is a former farmer, a playwright with Stone Fence Theatre and writes a weekly column for a Canadian newspaper. Her first novel â&#x20AC;&#x153;When the Light Entersâ&#x20AC;? was published with Pastora de la Vega Press. Her poetry has been published in The Blue Nib and the Eganville Leader. She is at work on her second novel and a collection of essays and is currently enslaved by poetry.
Mother and Baby Home (Johanna Antonia Zomers) The pale horse of loss lingers in the barrens. Nothing to see here, they insist Move along. Spirited away, skin imprinted with the smell of blood and breast and milky nipple. Starched nursery cotton erased the mammal scent of your own flesh and blood. Remolded as anotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s child. Loved. Not knowing for what you long. Your original name erased in the birthing roomâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Blazing lights like a devouring sun. Son. Nothing to see here, they insist. Move along.
Biographical Note: Francis O’Hare Francis O’Hare was born in Newry, Co. Down, in 1970. His first full collection, Falling into an O, was published by Lagan Press, Belfast, in 2007. He published his second collection, Somewhere Else, with Lagan Press in 2011. In the same year, he also published a collection in America, with Evening Street Press, Ohio, entitled Home and Other Elsewheres. He has published poems in Poetry Ireland Review, Evening Street Review, The Galway Review, The Glasgow Review and The Yellow Nib.
Newry ’89 (Francis O’Hare) Salman Rushdie fatwa-ed, Gerry Adams lip-synched, George Bush elected, the “plain people” hoodwinked, Africa in the spotlight, the Middle East aflame, NASA boldly going one step ahead in the Star Wars game, ‘Mary’, by The 4 of Us, roaring up the charts, NIO commercials winning minds and hearts, the famous Berlin Wall crumbing, tumbling down, the Hunger Strikers’ faces on a wall above the town, while Tian'anmen Square in the centre of Beijing saw a whole tank squadron stopped by a human being and Polish Solidarity from the shipyard in Gdańsk under Lech Wałęsa won in state elections, as Scorpions’ ‘Winds of Change’ blew through central Europe, Vaclav Havel president, Ceausecu’s number up ‒ all heralds of the final collapse of Soviet Russia, the ending of the Cold War and History ? (Fukuyama)
as the Nobel Prize committee recognised Tibet, giving the Dalai Lama the Peace Award and yet another bomb exploded or victim met their end in a bloody hail of bullets in ‘our wee Norn’ Ireland, the world in “a state o’ chassis” (O’ Casey) while each night those sanctuaries of loneliness (books) were my shining light, ‘studying’ for my A-Levels, writing awful poems for a dark-eyed girl from Saval in Calvary-haunted classrooms of the Abbey C.B.S. high on Courtney Hill overlooking Newry’s Saracened pastoral of smoky streets, canal, North Street Flats, sweet Sugar Island, The Stone Bridge, Mc Cann’s old Bakery, blue skies of May and June and all the wild romance of youth, being swayed to music, an Our Lady’s girl’s bright glance, the future bright before me, spreading out its fans, happy to, as yet, not know the dancer from the dance.
Flush (Francis O’Hare) Coming out of Mass that Sunday morning to a woebegone Hill Street, cast in heavy mourning by the smouldering, firebombed shell of Foster-Newell’s elegant emporium (one of Newry’s finest jewels in the black and white 60s and 70s), I was flush with its red-faced facade, memories of the plush deep-pile carpet that made it a sort of palace, the mechanical rides, the impossibly sweeping staircase that led to an old-world treasure-trove of ornate finery in various ‘departments’, a ‘café’ serving coffee amidst high-stooled gleaming splendour, and an air of style, Savoy-sophistication, rare in that frontier town as a Fabergé egg in a dunghill, so flush, in fact, my face is rose-red still.
Teen Wolf (Francis O’Hare) It’s 1985 again. I’m queuing in the summer rain outside Newry’s finest picture palace, the Savoy cinema, to see Teen Wolf, with Michael J Fox, the future Marty McFly, in the lead role of a high school dork who finds lycanthropy has its perks, like winning basketball games and girls, before discovering love hurts; howls of pain and rage at the Spring dance, and then redemption, the audience cheering as his team unite to put up an heroic fight and win the championship, his childhood sweetheart by his side as the credits roll, and I walk out into evening sunshine, azure blue skies and dripping sycamores alongside the canal, the hairs on the back of my neck bristling with wolfish instincts, wildness, youth, towards the new cool burger bar, Friar Tucks, hoping she’ll be there.
Why Don’t You (Francis O’Hare) just switch off your television set and go and do something less boring instead ? the tv used to blare at us every morning of summer holidays through my teens and, ok, we were bored and it was sunny outside, we could’ve been The Famous Five and solved the odd mystery somewhere but then we’d have missed how to make a go-kart out of egg-cartons or something and, anyway, weren’t half the kids in every town from Newry to Derry busy rioting, shouting “Brits Out” and “SS RUC”, all through the long hot summer days and nights back then? They didn’t need Auntie Beeb’s encouragement
to “make their own”. And, also, when the show broadcast from Belfast the kid-presenters sounded like they came from Mars, or somewhere where vowel-sounds warped in a language we didn’t speak. Not to mention Stranger-Danger or the Death-haunted ponds public information ads warned about... ... so, all in all, what with all the Troubles and all that other stuff, all we could do, after all, was lie on the mat in front of the telly and watch some posh Tamwynn from Cardiff taking an open-top bus, visit a castle, or a folk-dancing festival, at the height of midsummer, or some other more or less boring shit and wait for Bod, The Banana Splits, Dogtanion, or, best of all, The Flashing Blade.
Biographical Note: John Davies
. John Davies lives in Brighton. His New & Selected Poems was recently published in the UK and USA. www.johndavies.net
The dark room For Paul Hoggart (John Davies) "There were winter evenings drinking pints of porter in the carved booths of the Crown pub (or worse, consuming Ulster's popular tipple 'Mundie's South African wine, bottled by E.D.McLoon Ltd of Londonderryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; which, when thrown on a fire, burned in five different colours, none of them found in nature)." Simon Hoggart "I've cried in the darkroom at times. But when you're out there your thoughts are all professional: angles, light, that sort of thing.â&#x20AC;? Alan Lewis
The crump that took the window out and Jimmy Erin's breath away left the pub dark, (the landlord slashed his pinkie polishing a glass that vanished). Outside the air is full of letters, smoke. On Mrs Erin's roof, the post box top perches like her dainty jam-dish cap. The wraithe of a cameraman appears dodging images and mail, sick of fixes spoilt by tears. After flames the colour of Mundie's splashed on fire, Jimmy's eyes accommodate the dark, see his mother and dead friends come by.
Biographical Note: Gavin Bourke
Gavin was born in 1977 in Tallaght, Dublin, where he lived for twenty-four years. He holds a B.A. Degree in Humanities from DCU and a Masters Degree in Modern Drama Studies from UCD. He has worked in Library Service for twenty years. He has worked in Mobile Library Services for both South Dublin County Council and Dublin City Council serving some of our most marginalised communities. He worked as a librarian and outreach manager in Coolock Library for eight years. He was appointed as a Senior Librarian in 2017. He was shortlisted for The Redline Book Festival Poetry Award in 2016. His work covers a broad range of subject matter including nature, time, memory, addiction, mental health, human relationships, politics, contemporary social issues and injustice as well as urban and rural life, both past and present. He is married and lives in County Meath.
Damocles Sword, Falling (Gavin Bourke)
Reversions to primitivisms, dyed plums falling from decayed trees, protect and enable evil? political.
Natural beasts born or encultured in storms. Deeper issues, frightening consequences, pounding into the punctuation of night’s diminishing lights.
Self -preservations, losses. Transferences from back on the knees, in puddles under trees.
Abnormal normalisations? psychoactive, requiem. A centaur’s hoof, into the abyss of wrongness, through Saturday night’s cider prism.
Laws against law, law against laws. Order in disorder, disorder in order.
Unsuspecting Brechtian actors, suspecting Brechtian actors. Senseless, seamless, fantasy, reality. Humans, clones.
Dehumanised, Regret? Remorse? Kicked out of touch with normative collective perceptions?
Infamy in sixty-three, psychopathy? Reinterest in nineteen eighty-four. Joining dots of incomprehensible knots. Identities tied to words
A few decisions, north circular, one bar fire, four jumpers, yellow collared shirts, thread-bare carpets, whiskey, drank by the neck, windows closed for weeks, damp bedding and chipboard lockers, spinning ceilings.
At the end of a system propped up on a bed of nails. Stained cistern, one bulb dripping water. Fizzing near the flickering light, of a two-foot kitchen, sinking, no calls, no drama.
Success, in an inauthentic soap opera?
Lives never satisfied, hopelessness of the sold.
Re-establish natureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gardens in times eyes? Under black and blue skies before everything dies. Traffic ebbs and flows, worn for a living? Wiring of minds, young in their lifetime. Pray for the prey? Life and death matterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s little in the artificial mindset.
Dimmed down plugholes by irresistible neon lights enforced. Wasting for shanties rich in broken Stanley blades. Fragments of ill advice. Raindrops against a window of greyest sky and urban myths laid bare.
Barriers to hopelessness? Impossibility of climbing some overhangs, Fall for a while, anaesthesia,
into urban skies and hard cemented paths, human consequences.
Pierced by crumbling church steeples, occupants of a never world without empathy in a digitocracy.
To fix this or slit the throat of ourselves, the scrawled uncoded by fewer and fewer. Locked into hear defects, took our Des. Sold pups to fill cups, pining for the partial light to pierce through.
Behind tall trees, pushed down into poverty, commodities exploding in faces, never-ending unnecessariness? Grid-locked amongst trees in concrete around black tar. Blood stained glass, grace swallowed by the ether -net.
Affronts to historical conceptualisations of normality? Unleashed, cultivated tastes? Depressed by unnecessariness? Down the mental health trap doors.
Construction of fantasies To hide impoverished realities. Puppet-mastery and loneliness intended commercial consequences, affronts to commerce.
Breeds competition, paranoid aggression., stress, mental health to mental illness, bad for all of us? Unenforceable laws? Awake in the digital darkness, times lapses.
Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s worth living for? Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s worth dying from? Cyclical cultural circles, unending collisions? Misappropriation of laws?
Black market dopamine highs, endless joys, diminishing returns. Whipped into torn flesh, indented cerebrally. Aping perfection to para-suicidal lengths.
To walk the morning after New Year’s Eve night, bleary eyed for cigarettes, in the biting-cold wind with a dark night’s half-memories. Dehumanisations, Cyber, vertebral, Fatal? Positive feedback, Always an escalation, rude workers, sky loon.
The steely knives of addiction, locked deep in neurocircuitries. Crime prediction? Stolen lives, Acceptance of our ‘selves’ makes sense, saves lives.
Hardness of the urban, glass life, cold grey, a lot can happen by fifty, a lot can happen by sixty. Inputs and outputs. Fear of an attack of the heart, neglect, pursuit, of perceived success in times and places, neglect of spiritualities. Black tar, molten-cold, into pits of no return.
Ten bins, eight-chimney red-brick houses, steeples, circling seagulls, full span, black against the morning darkness, Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ever lost is coded deep in our land, to return to a natural state of consciousness?
Time slowing, on two wheels, The birds Screaming inside their heads, above and below soft ground.
Birds pummelling through the trees, star lights as the still water flowed gently under the eight arches of bridges to build. Natural beauty, twelve galloping horses, super moon, light at the end of a cycle of tunnels. As dusk fell on twilight, red and white light, the beauty of this night, souls awoken after dark.
Biographical Note: Don Stoll Don Stoll's fiction is forthcoming in THE BROADKILL REVIEW, XAVIER REVIEW, THE MAIN STREET RAG, WILD VIOLET, THE AIRGONAUT, PULP MODERN, YELLOW MAMA (three times), FRONTIER TALES, and CHILDREN, CHURCHES AND DADDIES, and recently appeared in GREEN HILLS LITERARY LANTERN (tinyurl.com/y2lfxysm), CLOSE TO THE BONE (tinyurl.com/y38ac6jv), DARK DOSSIER (twice), THE HELIX, SARASVATI, ECLECTICA (tinyurl.com/y73wnmgq), EROTIC REVIEW (twice: tinyurl.com/y8nkc73z and tinyurl.com/y36zcvut), CLITERATURE (tinyurl.com/y5m8arzn), and DOWN IN THE DIRT. In 2008, Don and his wife founded their nonprofit (karimufoundation.org) to bring new schools, clean water, and clinics emphasizing women's and children's health to three contiguous Tanzanian villages.
Vampires by Don Stoll
Alice’s favorite time with Craig was in the water. They would finish teaching their English classes at the technical college in the little Omani coastal city by one. They preferred the beaches far from town. Craig loved to drive, so Alice slept the whole way. That made him curious. “Why do you fall asleep the second you're in the car?” “The motion relaxes me.” “It didn't when I met you.” “People change,” she would say. In the water she would look for fish. Then she would look for Craig, who had more patience for the fish than she did. She would approach from the side and study the chest that had first drawn her to him. Recalling their first meeting, she would marvel, as if she were the first person to have noticed, that getting to know another person is like submerging oneself in an immense body of water into which we can be persuaded to dive by a swift glance at the surface. But she was conscious of her tendency to be too hard on herself. She would remind herself that people her age often dove in hastily. There was nobody with a starter’s gun to check them. Blundering around the college on her first day of teaching, she’d encountered him among a group of English teachers. Unaware that she had washed the indigo out of her hair before her Skype interview for the job, they asked about her tattooed arm. “No, didn’t cover up,” she said. “Decided I’d chance short sleeves. Was that rash?” “They hired you,” somebody said. The tall one whose chest looked like it might pop the buttons off his shirt said, “They think we’re all infidels anyway.” “Excuse me,” she said. “You said your name was Craig?” “Was and is. But why’ve you tattooed only one arm?”
“Dunno. Out of appreciation for all things asymmetrical, I suppose. Like asymmetrical warfare.” She thought perhaps she shouldn’t have put that out there. But she also thought you can hide who you are for only so long. “We have a Palestinian math teacher I can introduce you to,” Craig smirked. Or had he? Maybe she’d been uncharitable to read his expression that way. And suppose he had. What was he smirking at? At the chance she would want to help the Palestinian cause? She could see his point: the cause wasn’t hers, and she’d said she’d just finished university and this would be her first proper job. But she wouldn’t tolerate him smirking at the cause. Still, she’d come to a place where she wouldn’t have loads of options. She had discerned that all the other expat teachers had paired off. And when she next bumped into Craig, at the end of the day, he’d softened. She could see that he liked her accent, though that would have been just one reason why he’d kept his eyes on her mouth, the other being her tongue ring. When she’d decided to get it, she had known that would come with the territory. So she thought she would give him a go. If he laughed at the Palestinians, she could get out. So far he’d never said a word either way. At the beach, they would go in the water as soon as they arrived because of the heat. But after an hour they would order a meal in the open-air restaurant fifty meters from the water. “You going to eat with me today?” Craig would ask, and Alice would shrug. From the water she could see when he'd finished his chicken and chips. He'd have had a Heineken or two and the heat and his full stomach would have made him lazy. She would join him. If he was gazing out at the Gulf she would read. That spring she read one Hilary Mantel novel after another. If he'd dozed off, she would work on her own novel. She was ashamed of the gap between Mantel's work and her own. She tried to remember that Mantel had also had to write a first novel. She tried to remember that at her age it wasn’t unusual to travel to random places in hope of learning something valuable. That her hope hadn't been fulfilled didn't mean it never could be.
# The supermarkets in the little coastal city sold most of the things that a young man from Los Angeles and a young woman from Belfast required. But for good coffee, one needed to drive a hundred miles to the capital, Muscat. The best day to drive was Friday, the Muslims' Sunday. Alice and Craig would leave after breakfast. The weather was never cool, but if their car broke down, they didn't want it to happen during the hottest time of day. They would return from Muscat after dark. To Alice, everything about her life in Oman seemed impermanent. Teaching English, because the students showed little interest in learning. Swimming and snorkeling, because one did these things on holiday and holidays don't last forever. Her living arrangement, because the college administration, which had rented a flat for her, would have insisted that she move back to it if they discovered she had moved in with Craig. Sometimes she thought that living with a man she wasn't married to felt impermanent. She would dismiss the thought immediately. Another thing that felt impermanent was the habit of driving a hundred miles to buy Starbucks coffee. You should only keep up such wasteful practice for a short time, she thought. If you couldn't accept coffee of lesser quality, you should live somewhere else. But Craig's demand for Starbucks coffee was not subject to negotiation. Alice would pretend to sleep during the drive to Muscat. Muscat's beaches were calm. They were far north of where the Gulf met the Indian Ocean. Alice would stay in the water for a long time because of the calm and because Craig was uncomfortable with her out of the water. “Your hair's like a stoplight,” he would say. She had dyed most of it magenta and the rest her old favorite, indigo. She wore a scarf to teach, though she hadn’t heard of any rule. It would be too much for the Arab boys, she thought. When she wore her hair up for swimming, the bun would be indigo. “They can see you from the restaurants,” Craig would add. Alice thought the seafront restaurants were a football field or more inland from where she and Craig liked to spread their towels.
“These people are rich,” he would say. “They can afford good binoculars.” “Which they carry with them when they go out to eat,” she laughed. “And cameras with telescopic lenses.” Alice would kneel on her towel to apply sunblock to her pale skin. “You look good in that bikini,” Craig would say. He would squint at the restaurants. “But what if I buy you a one-piece?” Alice would shake her head. The college paid them equally. “If I want one, I'll buy it myself.” She knew a one-piece was a good idea. It would give her more protection from the sun. Yet she continued to wear the magenta bikini, as much like a stoplight as her hair. # Having gone a long time without counting the trips she and Craig had made to Muscat to buy coffee, on one trip the wish to determine their number became all-consuming. As Alice swam, she pictured a calendar spanning her entire time in Oman. But the calendar kept dissolving into liquid. She decided to come out and use her phone to make a count. She was surprised to find Craig dressed. “I'm hungry,” he said, “so let's see if that hookah bar you like is open.” She didn't know where he meant. She liked all hookah bars. He got up from the sand and she knew she was supposed to get dressed. Going to the stairs that led from the sand to the promenade, he stopped to point out a young woman in a one-piece. “Something like that would suit you,” he said. "There's a shop a little way past the hookah bar where we can find the right thing.” Alice looked at the young woman. She was lovely. “Let's take care of it after lunch,” Craig said. #
The hookah bar's dark wood paneling matched the tables and chairs. Posters of Middle Eastern capitals were scotch-taped to the dark wood. There was nothing to see through the window except the dazzling white walls of the office building across the street. They'd been here once, hardly exchanging a word as Craig watched football—Barcelona against somebody—with the Arab men. This day there was no football when they went in, but conversation would be easy. They could share their impressions of the different flavors. Craig wanted to start with one pipe of green apple and one of mint. They were working on the pipes and waiting for food when someone turned on the TV. Craig recognized the show. “One of the teachers was talking about this: a Vampire Diaries marathon.” Alice saw that the show would feature beautiful men and women. One woman resembled the girl in the one-piece they'd just seen. Prettier than the girl on the beach only because of the professional way she's made up, Alice thought. “I've never watched this.” “Don't,” Craig said. “Vampires suck.” His cleverness made him laugh. “I don't know why women find them so sexy,” he added. Alice stole frequent glances at the TV as they finished the pipes and as Craig stressed his preference for the mint. “That crucifix thing with vampires,” he said. “Big-time propaganda.” Alice did not practice the Catholicism into which she'd been baptized. She didn't understand why Craig liked to needle her about it. “You could get away with being a vampire where you're from,” he said. “That pale skin. But in LA. . .” Alice had stopped glancing at the TV. She was watching steadily. “Can I distract you by getting you to talk about your novel?” he said. “It's probably better than this crap.” She hadn't formed an opinion about the show. “It's in competition,” she said impulsively. “It's about vampires.”
His stare embarrassed her. “Not actual vampires,” she said. “Some kind of metaphor?” “Yes. The blood-sucking is. . . They suck the life out of other people.” He scratched at his stubble. He'd talked on and off about growing a beard. Alice was indifferent to the prospect. “Don't a lot of people write that kind of stuff?” “I don't know what a lot of people write,” she said. “You should write about your life here.” She was playing with the idea about vampires as if it were an unfamiliar food to roll around on her tongue. She thought she might want to become comfortable with it. “Think about it. How many girls from Ireland live in a place like this?” She didn't answer. “Let's do mint again," he said. “You don't mind? The food's taking forever.” She thought about it. “I don't mind mint,” she said. “I mind being told to write about my life here. I mind being told that I need a one-piece.” He stared at her. “We're hungry,” he said. “Lunch will put us in a better mood.” He stood up. “I'm going to ask about our food,” he said. She wasn't hungry. She watched him go in the kitchen. On the TV, a vampire bit into a woman’s neck. Taxis are cheap, Alice thought, and getting to the airport’s easy. Calculating the value of the clothes she would abandon to Craig’s flat as trivial and debating whether she was more attracted by Belfast or by some new random place where she might learn something valuable, she walked out the front door. END
Biographical Note: Charlie Pettigrew
Apocalypse (Charlie Pettigrew)
Once a large bird roosted on a spire of the cathedral. People came to study it, naming it variously: An albatross, a heron crane, an eagle; The truth lost between the know-alls and the know-nothings.
No matter. Most were certain it was a sign, An augury of disaster to come. Those who read the tea leaves in back parlours Saw an upturn in business.
At confessions on Saturday nights, Normally the preserve of elderly women, Young men queued for absolution. Young women wore head scarves like their mothers.
At Sunday mass the priests spoke brimstone, Inflaming the public mood of foreboding, Rebuking the immorality of modern youth, The lipstick and the rising hemlines.
Word spread and the crowds grew. Some prayed in huddles, rosary beads laced through fingers. A younger, unruly element blasphemed to scare it away. The insouciant bird looked on from its inviolable perch.
Rumour had it, it stalked the river at night, Its steely beak, caught in the moonlight, Pinning its prey to the gravel floor. At first light it preened itself on the high cross.
Then it was gone. Fears of an apocalypse abated. In the grocery stores and at street corners, People laughed at their own foolishness. The priests went on retreat.
But the myth of the great bird persisted, Its griffin beak and talons petrified In the stone of memory and in the stories told At cattle fairs, wakes and winter hearths.
The meaning of the visitation is still disputed Among the know-alls and the know-nothings. A curse, a blessing, a Great Awakening? The bird, to date, has not broken its silence.
Salvage (Charlie Pettigrew)
I want to salvage you from the deep, Raise the wreckage to the surface And lay out the spars in the bleaching sun.
I do this, not for you, but for me. You were my father, but in name only: An absence, a shadow, a sadness in my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eyes.
I did not know you. So, I must reimagine and recreate you. I must raise the dead, for me to know myself.
2. All I possess of you fits in a shoe box: A photograph, marriage and death certificates, Court filings over maintenance you would not pay.
The photograph tells a story in black and white. A boyish merchant sailor, in uniform, Smiling, self-confident, heading to war.
Your war was fought in the stokehold, A literal hellhole, among the Black Gang, A morlock army of stokers and trimmers.
The coal dust was stitched into your skin And your donkeyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s breakfast reeked Of sweat and midnight terrors.
3. But this was not who you were. You were gifted. Your piano playing swaggered with swing and rhythm. You were the velvet crooner of the dancehalls.
Yet the music could not save you. You came back angry, restless, damaged, alcoholic. Your pianist hands now balled into fists.
4. You left for good when I was three. My mother, stunned by heartbreak into breakdown, Yet unbreakable in the constancy of her love.
You were already a stranger to me Before you left. A shade who came and went Without warning. Staggering in the darkness.
So, I was glad when you were no longer there. The anger and the fear left with you. We moved into our motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bed.
5. I have no use for bitterness, for blame. I am kept afloat by the consoling image Of my mother, nursing my child in the hammock of her skirt.
This is for her.
Jamjars (Charlie Pettigrew)
Sometimes on Friday afternoons, If our teacher was in good form, He would casually announce We could paint for the final hour of the day.
Our collective heart leapt. But we had learned to be wary, For he was as capricious As a sudden storm on a sunny day.
We had studied his gait and visage With the acuity of a tracker, Reading the spoors on the dusty floor, As he strolled between the desks,
Our heads bowed, backs bent, In the posture of supplicants, Praying he would not stop To flick open our homework book
And begin the interrogation of failure He was sure to find: The pink spots on his pale skin Growing redder and redder.
So we dissembled our joy, As the jamjars, the battered painting sets, Their coloured sockets thinned with use, Were carried from the storeroom.
I loved this hour. I loved The messiness of watercolour on paper, As it rebelled and folded in on itself Under the waterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s weight.
The jamjars, once pure and translucent, Now murky with the turbulence Of warring colours, came alive In the pale sunlight.
I was not talented at making art. Some of my classmates were. I marvelled at their untutored brilliance, Their certainty with line and perspective.
I would divide my worldview into three: Blue sky, green fields, opalescent river. I painted what I knew, the terrain Of my childhood, broad brushed and raw.
We never took our paintings home. But the joy in their making
Has stayed with me, numinous, Like the jamjars glowing in the storeroom.
Biographical Note: Michael Boyle
Michael Boyle is a native of Lavey in South Derry N.ireland .He has number of poems published in the “The Antigonish Review”. “ Dalhousie Review.” “Tinteain” and “New Ulster Writing.” In 2014 he won “The Arts and Letters” prize for poetry. He is working on completing his first poetry collection “Drummuck.” Michael is an Irish Language speaker and has also written articles for the Irish language magazine “An t-Ultach In June 2017 he presented a paper in Magee College Derry on the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. In 2018 he gave a talk “Echoes from the Barn Barrel.” to the North American Celtic Language Teachers Conference. Boyle is an independent scholar and he operates the famous historical walking tours in St.John’s Newfoundland. www.boyletours.com
LAMENT FOR MATTHEW LAGAN 1894-1960. (Michael Boyle)
Far away from home you died so alone under a Kiwi sky. The oldest boy of eight but you too had to emigrate. Goodbye. So long. Never again to hear the curlew’s cry.
For Sarah Jane and John you were the apple of their eye They married in 1889 and then things looked mighty grim Far away from home you died so alone under a Kiwi sky.
In the meadow field you saw the corncrake try to fly. You stucked hay battled stro and were always on the go. Goodbye. So long. Never again to hear the curlew’s cry.
A shy young man of twenty you said your goodbye. Left London on S.S. Ruahine -seventy days to Wellington. Far away from home you died so alone under a Kiwi sky.
Forced to fight for the Empire. You held your head high They called you the defaulter and they broke you down. Goodbye. So long. Never again to hear the curlew’s cry.
Croi briste in Kingseat Hospital so far from your homeland Unmarked grave -Row 13 Plot 23 in Waikumete Auckland. Far away from home you died so alone under a Kiwi sky. Goodbye. So long. Never again to hear the curlew’s cry.
Who was that man? (Michael Boyle)
Back then he looked old. I watched him at the parish sports at Willie Mac Gillâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s field in Mayogall. Sizzling, scorching sun fried farmers faces - beetroot red. No shade or shelter here. Only tweed caps and no gaudy Yankee straw hats making people look like Orangeman from Toronto home for the Twelfth. He took his Sunday handkerchief and double knotted each corner I watched him lower this white parachute on top of his shiny bald head.
APPARITION (Michael Boyle)
ARBOE COUNTY TYRONE 1954
I was only ten and little did I know of the time that Our Lady appeared in Arboe.
Droves from Maghera and far off Mullingar. Walkers, cyclists and on bus and motorcar.
Rosaries said and hymns sung. With out any fear, hoped the third secret of Fatima we would hear.
Our Lady spoke every night to one of our own. Namely a lady from near Dreenan Portglenone.
The Feast of Immaculate Conception in fifty four. Thousands came and filled 62 buses to the door.
Waited to hear the message some heard. In a trance she fainted and people were scared.
A winter gale, a deadly plout and thunder thud. Pilgrims struggle ankle deep in the muck and mud.
NEWBRIGE COUNTY DERRY 1967
4 th July of sixty seven I saved hay with a fork. That night I helped bury a man from County Cork.
Tom Hayes was his name but he had no shame. Being buried underground was his claim to fame.
His eight-foot grave was dug on top of a ridge on the football field at the Carnival in Newbridge.
Dread, prayers said- crowds swarmed like a hive. in a daze. Would Tim Hayes ever come up alive?
People from every where and paid a pound ahead Nervous if our Lazarus would rise from the dead.
Coffin 6 foot long and 13 inches wide. All alone With a steel pipe attached for food and his phone.
In nine days he arose no need for extreme-unction We wonder how he managed his bodily functions.
The Rock Lane. (Michael Boyle)
Faded memories of water logged oxen-cart ruts and lint dams ruined wall steads stone walls hide stories. lonely boortree bush watches in silence no one remains here and all those who have left want to forget.
CURLY ELLIOT GOES TO SCHOOL. (Michael Boyle)
I am Curly Elliot the mad man and in our one room school at the foot of the Sperrin mountain. I could hardly be ignored with my curly mop of red hair sticking out like Einstein. and my freckled face and thick rubbery lips. Corduroy patches on my short trousers. Ink stained fingers, thumbs and mouth. My shirt collar bristled up over my ears long before Elvis. I wore a short grubby brown over coat and used one sleeve as my handkerchief. Second hand Army kits were our school bags Our dog -eared jotters and scribblers were always stuck in between red jammed scones dripping like blood from the newspaper wrapping. Marie Celine Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Kane remembered me from school. â&#x20AC;&#x153;You got on top of the coal shed and then climbed the ladder to reach the school roof. You marched up towards the chimney shouting Hail Hitler and Achtung.
You stopped when someone threw a turf clod and nicked the side of your face.” In summer I ran bare foot to school, over Drummuck moss. 2 I walked on my hands the forty foot span of Dreenan Bridge. I was punished once for looking out the window at an a plane flying high in the sky. In winter I skated with my hob nailed boots on the frozen lint dams near Heaveron’s Lane. During the 11 plus scholarship exam at Magherafelt Technical school I went to the school tuck shop and stuffed myself with gob stoppers and licorice and bought bubble gum with the soccer cards. Back in my own school I jumped over desks and ran everywhere and scared my teacher when she came back to teach after her stroke.
You see I was a changeling. “Mickey Pat’s wee boy who fell in the pump.” People wondered if it affected my head. Well that is what they say behind my back.
Father Rooney the Religion inspector came up from Maynooth College and once tried this trick question on me. “Can a pagan baptize a Christian?” Picking you nose was a sin. I was an expert on all kinds of sin and all the occasions of sin. Even to think about sin was a sin 3 I lived in the age of innocence and ignorance And just above survived it. Wise old Father Mc Ginn Always said “Enjoy life Elliot. because growing human have to learn about life.” There were commands Don’t whistle on a Sunday. Speak when spoken to and don’t read in company. Never answer back your elders. “Elliot turn off the light on the way out of chapel” Oh that I should have listened to his advice and not follow the crowd. I dived naked into warm soggy bog holes. I swam in streams for stickle backs and frogspawn. And one evening
I was blamed for setting Drummuck moss on fire but I did rescue our moiley cow by swimming in a moss hole to help put a tether around her belly. I breathed the deep rich air and ate sloes with the stones in them. And could climb trees like a monkey in Duffy’s circus. Our teacher Miss Mullrooney’s Austin mini had the front sidelight knocked off And my brother Brian Boru got blamed instead of me. 4 One sunny May morning the teacher rang the bell for school And then she pointed her fingers towards my face “Elliot you clown. You are late again.” Then I turned around and barked back. “Well if I go across Mayogall moss I will be in plenty of time for Bellaghy horse fair.” Miss Mullrooney always had roasted herrings for lunch on the fire in her classroom. I couldn’t stick the smell.
Once I heard musical voices coming from Drumghlessa forest and I didn’t tell any one in case I would be sent away.
Glad to be bad -sometimes sad But often they called me mad. Even today people laugh at my name and shout “Curly Elliot the Mad man.” Keep looking the back roads and you will see me pulling a piece of yellow bailer twine behind me. They wonder and why I did this and then I put them in their place. I said to them“You try and push this twine in front of you.”
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August’s MESSAGE FROM THE ALLEYCATS:
Turn down the sun it’s too hot and bright. Where does the time fly? It seems like it was only last week when we were busy making the January issue meow!!. Well, that’s just about it from us for this edition everyone. Thanks again to all of the artists who submitted their work to be presented “On the Wall”. As ever, if you didn’t make it into this edition, don’t despair! Chances are that your submission arrived just too late to be included this time. Check out future editions of “A New Ulster” to see your work showcased “On the Wall”.
We continue to provide a platform for poets and artists around the world we want to offer our thanks to the following for their financial support Richard Halperin, John Grady, P.W. Bridgman, Bridie Breen, John Byrne, Arthur Broomfield, Silva Merjanin, Orla McAlinden, Michael Whelan, Sharon Donnell, Damien Smyth, Arthur Harrier, Maire Morrissey Cummins, Alistair Graham, Strider Marcus Jones Our anthologies https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu_present_voices_for_peace https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu_poetry_anthology_-april
Biographical Note: Bengt-Ove Boström Bengt-Ove Boström is a political scientist, now retired from the University of Gothenburg where he the last 15 years of his employment was a member of the university management. Now he pursues an old wish to develop his writing in a new field – music and the experience of music.
PERSONALITY AND MUSIC PREFERENCES How can it be that I like so different kinds of music? Why do I like a special kind of music? And why do I like a specific song or a singer? And how can it be that I like so different kinds of music? Here is a story where I try to use some basic notions about needs to understand my own music preferences. If you get inspired you can continue and apply these notions on your own music preferences.
The theory Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s assume that we as human beings have needs of identification and of compensation. To satisfy the need of identification we might have a predisposition to search for persons, ideas, cultural expressions etc. that we can relate to in terms of qualities that resemble important traits of our own personality. This process does not have to be conscious. On the contrary it probably most of the time goes on although we are unaware of it. In finding friends and partners this might mean that the same kind of personalities are attracted by one another, maybe in order to build smooth relations with few frictions. In terms of music it means that my personality and the music I like are in harmony and speak the same â&#x20AC;&#x153;languageâ&#x20AC;? in terms of emotions, expression and ideas. I feel at home with this kind of music. The need of compensation means instead that we in fact also have a predisposition to search for and relate to persons, ideas, cultural expressions etc. that are different from the predominant traits of our personality. The aim might be to help the weaker sides of our personality to balance our dominant traits. Again, we might very well be unaware of this process. In finding friends and partners this might mean that different kinds of personalities are drawn to one another, maybe in order to build relations with access to different kinds of predominant traits. In terms of music it means that I might like music that helps weaker sides of my personality to come forward once in a while. Actually I believe that we have both kinds of needs. Sometimes we need more of resemblance and identification; sometimes we need more of difference and compensation. But if we almost always search for resemblance and identification it might be because we are afraid of difference and change, and if we almost always search for difference and compensation it might be because we are dissatisfied with our own personality. At its best the two drives are in balance over a period of time.
Me In rough terms, who am I? I believe I am a more introverted than extroverted person, more thoughtful and serious than action oriented and funny, more melancholy than cheerful. But underneath my thoughtful appearance there are strong emotions. And beauty and aesthetics is important to me. Sometimes more important than function.
Of course there is much more to say, and there are lots of reservations to such a brief characterization, but let’s see what it can be used for in terms of analysing music preferences.
The artists So far I have been talking about music preferences, but in relation to Musik.pm it is often more interesting to talk about the individual artists and their music. The charisma and expression of the artists are often important in the music I like. So, in fact, what I am trying to capture might be resemblances and differences between personalities – the personalities of the artists expressed in their music and my own personality. Whether an artist’s personality in music also is his or hers personality outside music, I do not know. When getting closer to an artist you sometimes realise that he or she in terms of personal traits probably is more varied than the expressions of their songs. They, as we, of course have predominant and weaker sides of their personalities. Below you will find five of my favourite artists and one favourite genre. By means of quotes from earlier posts and a few music videos I try to show why they have become favourites of mine. If you want to read more about the artists and enjoy some more of their music videos you can of course go to the original posts.
Source: YouTube I have no difficulties to identify the traits of Diana Krall’s music that attracts me. It is spelled out in my post about Diana in March, 2017, original posted in Swedish in May 2013, telling the story of how I found her in the beginning of the new millennium. The serious and intense expression, manifested by her slowing down even already slow ballads, was in perfect harmony with the basic traits of my own personality. After a couple of hectic decades in life this was what I then really needed, not only as a relaxation but also as a meeting with my own basic mentality.
One day at the beginning of the new millennium, I heard on the radio a Burt Bacharach song in an interpretation that was new to me. The vocalist had a deep and sensual voice, and she sang slowly with a strong sense of presence and with a serious emotional expression. And then there was the beautiful and restrained piano. The expression of this interpretation reached something in me that hadn’t been reached for a long time. The song was The Look of Love, and the singer was Diana Krall. Right there in life I was struck by music again, and it was Diana Krall who hit me. (From the post Diana Krall, 18 March, 2017) The Look Of Love I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Source: YouTube I can also easily see why Keren Ann’s music is very close to my heart – at this instant in life probably the music that is closest. As an introverted person I need refuges in life, and the seriousness of Keren Ann matches my need for taking things seriously. And the sheer beauty of Keren Ann’s melodies, and her singing them accompanied by her own guitar, satisfy my needs of exactly that – beauty. Her melancholy satisfies my need of both seriousness and beauty. Again, you can find the base for these conclusions expressed in my first post about Keren Ann and her music from 8 June, 2016. The biography presented on Keren Ann’s current website starts with chapter 7, referring to her seventh album. This is not where I am in terms of listening. I have briefly listened to all seven albums and have found many beautiful songs, but I keep coming back to “chapter 2” and “chapter 3” – the second and the third album – La Disparition (2002) and Not Going Anywhere (2003). On these albums Keren Ann’s musical expression of soft melancholy and intimacy is like a refuge, a sanctuary I do not want to leave for a long time. But it does not end here. Keren Ann’s later music sometimes has a more rough expression. Can I follow her into that terrain? I think I can. This is what I wrote in my post Alone with
Keren Ann after seeing her two concerts in Paris, May 18-19, 2017, trying to describe my feelings towards the more rough parts of her concerts. The guitar she uses is an electric one. The way she plays it does not contribute to the soft side of her music. On the contrary, the strong and sometimes forceful electric sounds stand out in sharp contrast to the soft guitar from her early career. At first I am a little bit disappointed, but after some time I acknowledge that this is an alley which Keren Ann wants to explore, and then I want to follow her. I trust her and she seems so much to enjoy what she is doing. Her usual shy expression is still there, but it is mingled with happiness for the strong music she is making. So Keren Ann provides music that I can relate also to my search for compensation and development. It is as if she herself gives an example of the second part of my theory, the search for difference, change and development. Maybe it is also her search. But after some thought I realize something. The guitar fools me. Although the guitar is rough, that rough expression is still harboured in Keren Ann’s general expression of melancholy. I can recognize myself in that. Could it be that whatever Keren Ann (and I) do, it is always within a framework of melancholy? La corde et les chaussons Not Going Anywhere It Ain´t No Crime / In Your Back
Domingos Mira, Joana Almeida and João Vinhas at Conserva-te What about my love of the Portuguese fado then? Where does it come from? Although fado and I come from different cultures, and I learned to love Fado only a couple of years ago, I actually believe my love comes from identification and resemblance. In the post I wrote after our fado excursion in Portugal last year the resemblance theme is to me obvious – the
beauty, the seriousness, the emotional involvement, the concentration of the expression. The excursion started at the fado restaurant Casa da Marinquinhas in Porto. Here are some quotes from my post A Fado Experience, 11 November, 2016. And then one of the most beautiful combinations of instruments – the Portuguese and the classical guitar – starts to colour the background of the Fado song. Soft, but nevertheless energetic. They do so with a delicate fabric of tones in which it is sometimes difficult to distinguish who is contributing which thread. Still, the different sounds of the two guitars are very distinct. After a short and beautiful guitar introduction, often with a bittersweet colour, the fadista starts to sing. And the song is not less beautiful. The fadista tells the emotional story (most often a sad one) with closed eyes, and he/she does not open them until a storm of applause releases the tension of the fadista and the audience. There is never a second of silence between the song and the applause. It is as if the concentration of the strong emotions that the fadista and the musicians create gets its release when the last almost forceful tones of the guitars and the fadista are hit. And later about me as an emotional man. I find that the male Fado expression communicates a more sincere representation of genuine male emotions than the ones I have experienced in many other cultural expressions. I can in Fado find a home for my own emotions, not only as a “male guest” in the female representation of Fado, but also when members of my own sex interpret Fado. And finally again about the beauty of concentration. In general, the strong emotions of Fado, and the common focus on the experience at the Fado houses, fit my personality and temperament very well. The emotions that the music creates are felt inside every Fado house guest, but those feelings are not expressed during the Fado song. We all know that we share the experience, but we do not devalue it by comments, chit chat or eating. On the surface it might not be obvious that fado is congenial with my personality, but it hits me right in the heart. Casa do fado Carminho: Lágrimas do Céu
(A post about Carminho here.)
Source: YouTube And now for something completely different. We are heading for three examples of artists who with their charisma and their music bring me something that balances my main personal traits. First out is Gin Wigmore from New Zeeland. Although not quite accurate, the simplest way to characterize Gin is that she is a rock star. On the whole her music, her voice, her looks, her tattoos, her video productions under-pin the rock star image – but still, underneath all that there is also something else. Her ballads are beautiful, and after having seen her perform live in a small club I must say that she seems to be a very nice person – not at all the depraved rock star type. And what gives me reason to provide a reservation to the rock star characterization might be a bridge to the predominant traits of my personality. But although there are these deviations from the rock star image, Gin with her music is a person that very much enriches me by being quite something else than my predominant personal traits. Although Gin’s music, her voice and appearance are far from the music above, it gives me happiness. It does so by compensating the introverted and thoughtful traits of my personality – and thereby helps the weaker sides of my personality to come forward. I do not quote my Swedish post about Gin Wigmore from 2012 here, but there are lots of music videos there to prove my case! Here are two of them. Sweet Hell Too Late for Lovers (After the publication of this post about personality and music preferences, I have updated and translated the Swedish post about Gin Wigmore into English. You can find the new post here.)
Source: YouTube My next example is a young woman whose personality even less resembles my predominant traits. In the post I wrote about her in 2012 you can easily see why she is an artist who richly compensates those traits. In my first contact with her music videos I just couldn´t have enough. At 00.02 on June 14, 2011, I received a music tip by e-mail from a friend in Germany. It took me a few days until I had time to investigate it, but as soon as that was done, a new great music personality made an entrance into our home – the young French singer Isabelle Geoffroy, better known under the name of Zaz. There are plenty of live performances with her on YouTube, and I must admit that I the weekend 18-19 of June spent many, many hours searching for her music, and time after time enjoyed what I found. Zaz is a singer with great musicality and a lovely, somewhat hoarse voice. She is also equipped with a lot of positive energy and a large measure of personal and natural charm that unites with the musical expression. No choreographer seems to have given Zaz advice on how to perform on a stage. Only her musical pleasure of performing and singing shapes her bodily language. It is irresistible. Someone has said that she needs to be disciplined as a performer to be able to perform an entire show, but I wonder if that medicine can make her better than what you can see now. (Translation to English of my Swedish post Zaz, 7 December, 2012) Join me in enjoying two of the videos from my post about Zaz. This is far from the main traits of my personality, but I love it. From Montmartre: Les passants From La Fête de la Chanson Française – Je veux and Le long de la route
Source: LW And last, a singer who I found in February 2014, Lucy Woodward. In the beginning I especially came to enjoy some of her early recordings where I apprehended something of a cabaret style and in some of the songs also an R&B influence. But regardless of genre it was Lucyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s charisma built on energy and humour that appealed to me. She made me happy. Again, humour and energy was needed to balance my serious and thoughtful traits. This is the introduction to my Swedish post about Lucy, originally from 2014, later included in an English post 2017. Lucy Woodward is a young American music entertainer with a great feeling for jazz, funk, soul, R&B and other related genres. The reason why you should call her an entertainer, and not just a singer, is her ability to engage both herself and the audience in an entertaining mix of musicality, soul and humour. This is something you have to experience. Attempts to describe her in words will not do her justice. Therefore I stop trying here, and instead refer you to the links below. And these are some of the songs that at first made me fall for Lucy Woodward and her music. She has now musically moved on, but she is still a favourite.
Please Baby Please Use What I Got Babies
You So what about you? Has this post made you think about your personality, the music you enjoy and why you like it? If so, what are your thoughts and conclusions?
Also to be fpond at http://musik.pm/personality-and-music-preferences/
ABOUT PASSION FOR MUSIC Five observations and one conclusion
1 I search actively for music that is new to me, and sometimes I introduce what I find and like to friends of mine. Sometimes those friends become as enthusiastic as I am, but sometimes not. For a long time I thought that a more hesitant reaction from friends meant that they rather liked other artists or other kinds of music â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and that they liked their favourites with the same passion as I like mine. After some years I understood that this was often not the case. They simple were not into music as much as I was. Their main interests and passion in life were elsewhere. An ordinary and simple fact, but it had not occurred to me before. There are probably many, many misunderstandings in life because you think that other people are like you. You understand that there are differences in personalities and preferences, but you often misinterpret the true nature of those differences.
2 Well, what does it mean to “be into music” – or to “be interested in music” the way that I am? When I tell about my interest in music most people ask me if I sing or play any instrument myself, and I then have to confess that I don’t. My interest in music lies elsewhere. Some people instead believe that my interest in music means that I have a vast knowledge of genres, composers, lyric writers, songs, musicians, singers etc. Well, if you listen to a lot of music, as I do, you eventually pick up a thing or two. You know a bit more than the average person, but my ”being into music” is not in the first place fact oriented. Learning facts is only a by-product of my interest, and it can help me to find more music to pursue the true goal of my music interest. If I do not play music myself, or am not very interested in the facts associated with music, what does then constitute my interest in music? The simple answer is enjoyment of other people’s musical expressions. Of course not any music or any musician, but I love to listen to soulful music of different genres, and I love to experience the different expressions and identities of soulful artists. And I love the beauty of melodies, voices, instruments and arrangements.
3 But there is yet another important thing. I also try to understand why I like different kinds of music, what the music does to me, and possibly to others. What is it about me and what is it about my favourite music that makes me love it? This is an interesting and pleasurable way to get to know both the music and yourself better. This is why the tag line of Musik.pm spells â&#x20AC;&#x153;exploring, and expressing the experience of musicâ&#x20AC;?. I want to explore my experiences and express my conclusions. This is what I often try to do at Musik.pm. (Most obvious in Personality and music preferences.) Sometimes the answers of these analyses also makes me understand why I am indifferent, or even negative, to some music, but those observations are not in the focus of my attention. This is another important feature of Musik.pm. I do not, as critics have to do, write about music I do not like. Even if I take myself and my own favourites as a departure point for these analysis, I want to stimulate the reader to do similar analysis of their personalities and music taste.
4 For those who cannot play or sing at all, or well enough to enjoy it, that avenue of pleasure and passion is obviously closed. If they still have a passion for music they can, like me, satisfy that passion by experiencing music performed by others. Those who sing and play themselves can have access to both avenues – that of making music and that of enjoying other musician’s performances. When it comes to experiencing music played by others, are there any differences between non-musicians and musicians? If there are, how could those differences effect the quality of the experience? One difference is probably the degree of awareness of the technique and the effort that the performing musicians put into their performance. Maybe you as a musician, more than a nonmusician, can discern and apprehend “the construction” of a music performance. And probably musicians can do that more easily the more the performed music is close to their own expertise as musicians. Maybe such awareness somewhat can hinder musicians from enjoying the experience in terms of passion. The non-musician might not have that filter blocking his or her passion when experiencing a music performance. Another difference might be that musicians use most of their passion for music to make music, simply because they find making music more rewarding than listening to music. Hence, there might not be as much engagement and passion left for “consuming” music, not as much as the non-musicians have. Non-musicians can focus all of their passion for music on experiencing music performed by others.
5 I used the word “consuming” above to name the activity of the members of an audience. But “consuming” is actually not a good word when you talk about something you have a passion for. The emotional relation of passion means that you are an active participant in the creation of your experience, and often also in creating the experience of the musician. For instance, this is how the relation between a fadista and the guests in a Portuguese fado house often is described. The fado loving guest in a fado house is not a passive consumer. Although silent during a fado song, he or she is still a co-creator of the fado experience. An experience of passion.
Conclusion We are blessed by the fact that different people are interested in music in different ways. Some use most of their passion to make music to be enjoyed with passion by people like me. And some divide part of their passion to the facts associated with music. They provide the structure to guide us all in the world of music.
& The photos above illustrates another passion of mine, a passion for nature. I live close by a forest. At the end of my walks in that forest, I always pass this small lake. Here are a few examples of music I have a passion for. In interaction, the musicians and I create my experiences; experiences that make my life warmer, sometimes more exciting, and anyhow more meaningful. Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s your passion in music?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nyd24s4WZfs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp3qGzkxig https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWxyYBp2BRY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3fc5JhsCZg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnCAi3OdDeA
Also to be found at http://musik.pm/about-passion-for-music/
Biographical Note: Jim Crickard
'Jim Crickard is a poet living in Cork City. He won the Cuirt International Spoken Word Platform in April, 2018, performed at Electric Picnic in August, 2018. In 2017, he was invited to read his work at the O'Bheal Winter Warmer festival. He was shortlisted for the 2018 O'Bheal International Five Words Competition. His poetry has been published in Automatic Pilot (Ireland), and Contemporary Poetry (India).'
â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Queenie of the Damnedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;
We repose by the stove and my fingers glide through her black fur the room glows orange with warmth, and she purrs like a sensuous engine. I begin thinking about the cobra-mimicry of my black cat in serpentine pursuit of a lone shrew in the midnight fields, the silver curlicue of her tail above blades of grass bending heavy with moon-dew that pours off the sky by the bathful.
How the shrew carries the feeling of predacious green eyes floating through the night, that vampiric masquerade of luxurious fur dissolving into nightfall until the widening jaws of night flash a brilliance of white teeth hailing into the skin, the sinew. The theatrical thrill of blood! And with hours left in the night she leaves the wounded shrew escape from left paw to right.
When our handful of black fur returns from nightly murder she sits at the backdoor, her convex eyes reflecting the kitchen light. I see the pink of her miniature mouth crying to come inside. Hypnotized by those pools of Ancient Egyptian jade, I open the door, and she pounces soundlessly into the kitchen. [END]
Alien Queen resting inside the hive, slick with fluid, that black and phallic head.
Violence comes naturally as motherhood spreading your webs, that tangled poison.
Won’t you wrap me up hand and foot, and leave me to your larvae?
How I crave the edge of your danger, helpless in your webs,
waiting for Ellen Ripley to scale through this corrugated city of hazard lights
to unwrap me and set your nest ablaze. How sorely I want that showdown
with Ripley manoeuvring that metal forklift and screaming the iconic line: “Get away from her, you Bitch!’
Alien Queen, when you fall through that Airlock Please know I will follow you and you can
plunge your claws into my ribcage, as we freeze in the black starry ether
and float, our eyes locked together, slow dancing the universe forever. [END]
Biographical Note: Karen Petersen
Adventurer, photojournalist and writer, Karen Petersen has travelled the world extensively, publishing both nationally and internationally in a variety of publications. Most recently, her poetry was published in The Manzano Mountain Review and Pilgrimage Magazine in the USA, Orbis in the UK, and The Wild Word in Berlin. Her poems and short stories have also appeared in A New Ulster in Northern Ireland and The Bosphorus Review in Istanbul. In 2015, she read "In Memory of W.B. Yeats" at the Yeats Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the KGB Bar in NYC. Her poems have been translated into Persian and Spanish. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Classics from Vassar College and an M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico .
A SEAL UPON THINE HEART They first met standing on line at one of those tiny lower East side music clubs. It was late, and most of the people who hadn't been lucky enough to squeeze into the packed club had given up and gone home. She was shivering from the cold, looking down the block at the false warmth created by the halos of the street lights, when a light snow began to fall. Suddenly a man's quiet voice behind her, so close she could feel his breath on her ear, said, "Excuse me, have you got a match?" She turned around, startled, to see a well-dressed young man, with a kind face and a friendly smile. But she was in a bad mood. The weather was cold and she'd been outside waiting to get in for a long time. It was really annoying to have some stranger whispering into her ear, so she said in her best weisenheimer attempt, "Yeah, I do: my face and your ass." His eyes widened. "WHAT?" he said incredulously, and he burst out laughing at her unintended mix-up of the old wisecrack. Not a great beginning, but it did get them talking. The first time she went to his apartment, in a new high rise on the upper Westside, she asked at the threshold what the little bar was, nailed next to the door. "You've never seen that before?" he seemed surprised. "That's a messuzah." "A whazza?" she laughed. "We didn't see many of those growing up in Connecticut." "It blesses the house," he said, seriously. "Oh." She shrugged her shoulders and walked inside. Dirty dishes were piled in a mound in the sink, wrinkled clothes hung off the old chairs and tables, and in the corner, a bouquet of flowers, long dead, languished in a crystal vase--the one point of splendor in an otherwise dreary room. "Christ, David, this place needs more than just a blessing!" He squirmed. "Come on, Sally, gimme a break! You know I'm in law school. Don't sound like my mother." But she was already heading toward the bathroom. David just stood there shaking his head, knowing what was coming next. "Jeeesus, David," she shouted, "This is absolutely disgusting! I
refuse to sleep over here until it's clean." She was looking at the urine-stained toilet seat and the white tub that had gobs of hair stuck to its brown,scummy sides. He walked in sheepishly. "I guess it is kinda bad, isn't it?" They laughed, and the telephone rang. "I bet that's my mother," he said, with a trace of irritation as he went back into the living room. She sat in the bedroom and pretended to flip through a magazine. "How's everything?...I PROMISE I will invite you and Pop-Pop over for dinner soon--I just haven't had the time..." David sounded tired. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, okay, I know...speak to you soon. Bye." "She is absolutely impossible!" he said to himself as he hung up the telephone with a bang. "What's the matter?" Sally said, as he came back into the room. "Oh...it's my parents. They just don't understand how they suffocate me at times. I try to make them understand but then they act so hurt..." He stopped. "Let's not talk about this anymore, okay?" He turned and went into the kitchen. "Sally, come here!" She walked in, and David handed her a chocolate eclair. He was grinning. "Do you know what I used to call these as a kid? She shook her head. "I called them squeeze pies," he said laughing as he went to kiss her. As the months went by David kept her laughing with one joke or another. One of his favorites was Mel Brooks' "2,000 Year-Old-Man." He'd practically memorized the record--"I have 42,000 children and not one comes to visit me!," and sometimes he'd teach her some of the many colorful Yiddish words found in Jewish humor that he'd learned from his immigrant parents. Good words like mench and mikva, and harsher words like goy and shiksa. As for his parents, they never seemed to call while she was there. It was only later that she realized he'd been calling them earlier in the day so that he wouldn't have to deal with it when she was over. In December, almost a year after they'd met, David went home to Brooklyn for Hanukkah, but Sally wasn't invited. One thing at a time, he'd said. She hadn't minded because they'd already agreed to spend Christmas together at her apartment. Christmas Eve they went out for a drive. The decorated avenues threw off brightly colored
sparkles of light into the grey Manhattan sky and last minute shoppers rushed about, laden with packages. They turned into Central Park and Sally asked, "What was it like for you to grow up in Brooklyn? Was it fun??" David laughed bitterly. "Are you kidding?" he said. "As a child, all I did was go back and forth to public school and Hebrew school--I never got to play much. When I turned fourteen, I secretly tried out for the baseball team just for fun and I made it. I came home and told the old man and he hit the roof. It was horrible--he threatened to beat me, and my parents got in a huge fight over it. I'm his only son, and he wants me to be a big man in America, a macher, but without dealing much with the goyim, the non-Jews. So this baseball thing really freaked him out...He's just a working class guy, you know, a kosher butcher, so God forbid his son should hang out with the Gentiles at the ball park!! But at that point I said, 'Enough of this stuff, Pop-Pop, I'm going to play baseball,' and I did. He was so upset that he nagged me about it all season and made me miserable. So the following year I didn't bother to sign up again because I just didn't want all that meshugas." David stopped talking and stared out the car window at the street signs covered with Christmas lights. "Let's go back," he said glumly. Sally made a u-turn and said nothing. He looked at her thoughtfully. "Well, I guess it's good for you to know all this...it must seem strange." "A little," she said, "but I'm glad you're telling me now." David sighed. "Eventually my father got used to me trying to be an American teenager, partly because my mother stuck up for me," he said. "But that one year all they did was argue--it was horrible. Their arguments had all the force of the entire Israeli parliament." Sally giggled, but David said, "Be serious, Sal--I'm trying to explain something...By that time, my mother had been working as a seamstress for several years, so she was surrounded by women from all sorts of backgrounds. She'd had some kind of exposure to what America really was about. She wanted to see me succeed in America, integrate myself into American society, but retain my Jewish heritage. My father, however, was the hardliner. For him, being in America was just being Anywhere. What was paramount for him was the Jewish community--nothing else mattered...Frankly, my mother is the one, I think, who should have immigrated here--he should have gone off to Israel. Even now, they still are miserable together." His voice trailed off wearily. Sally stopped the car at the side of the road. "Feel like driving?" "That's a good idea," he said, switching places. "I won't brood."
They drove along the FDR Drive downtown, toward the Brooklyn Bridge and Chinatown. The East River was flat and black in the moonlight as David parked the car near a pier. Looking out over the water, he said, "Both my parents are fearful people, Sally. Living here is like a kind of psychic roller coaster for them. America is so big, they are never sure if they are going to be 'up' for very long--they keep waiting for the 'down' because they never really got over the war. They won't talk about it, so all I know is that they spent some time in a camp and escaped together to Italy. Then they caught a boat to here...But the scars remained." "What do you mean?" she asked quietly. "When I was little, every time a barking dog would run down the street my mother would get terrified and make me and my sister lie down on the floor with her until the dog left--can you believe it? She said the sound reminded her of the guard dogs at the camp!" he said. Sally shivered involuntarily and he pulled her to him. "Our neighborhood was more like Gene Shepard's Indiana," he continued, stroking Sally's curly brown hair, "but she was haunted by these kinds of terrors for years. For some strange reason they disappeared when I was a teenager, maybe because she finally realized that she'd really come to a land where she and her family were safe." "And what about your father?" Sally asked. "Well," David said, "my father was okay most of the time, as long as he had his sense of community around him. The only time he would go haywire would be during Yom Kippur, and then he would be hysterical for days." "Oh my God," she said. "But what about your friends? Were they always Jewish??" She had pulled away from him and could barely get the words out, her heart was pounding. "It was very difficult," he replied, starting the car and heading back toward her house. "When I'd bring home any non-Jewish friends my parents would be polite, but reserved. Afterwards, when they had gone, my mother would always go overboard in her discussion of Jewish traditions, reassuring herself that I would still maintain my Jewishness no matter what. And my old man would sit there, silent and hurt, not understanding why the Jewish community alone couldn't be enough for me." "Why were they being so unreasonable? We're all human beings," Sally cried out. "I mean, look at me--would they reject me? I've learned all these Yiddish words from you, I eat Jewish food, I even played the role of a matzoh in a fourth grade Passover play." David laughed and looked at her lovingly. "But their Jewishness was all they had, Sally. It kept
them sane." "Well, so how did you deal with it?" she asked, suddenly uncomfortable. "Unfortunately," he said, "this conflict dragged on into college. By then I'd begun to get seriously depressed, which affected my health and my grades. I went to the school counselor for some help, and when I told my parents they were so chagrined that they backed off a little. So I was finally able to make a go of it, socializing and living my own life...But even these days, as you have briefly seen, my life is unpressured only if I stay away from them most of the time." David stared straight ahead, looking at the glare of the lights from the oncoming traffic. She watched the shadows of the road flicker across his profile. "I'm sorry," she said. "Yes," he said tersely, pulling into the driveway. The car lights swept across the darkened apartment building. "As visions of sugarplums dance in their heads...," she murmured. "What?" he asked. "You know, The Night Before Christmas," Sally replied. "I've never read it," he said. "You're kidding!" she was astonished. "It's such a classic. I've got a copy inside. I'll read it to you when we're in bed--it's a great story." They walked inside arm in arm. "Come look at the Christmas tree," she said excitedly, pulling David into the living room. She'd especially gotten a real tree for him that year and decorated it with her collection of antique ornaments. The room was filled with the brisk smell of pine and all across the tree small blown glass icicles, carved wooden animals and funny hand-painted people were hung. He turned to her abruptly. "Sal, if you don't mind, I'd rather go to bed now. I'm feeling tired...all this Christmas stuff is suddenly a bit overwhelming--I need some time to get used to it." "Oh..." she said, as her face flushed with anger. "You know, I really think you're being ridiculous. This is such a simple thing, and it gives me great pleasure. You're acting like I've just asked you to pick up a giant cross and walk the twelve stations. You're cheating me now of something I want, something that is special to me and part of my tradition. God, David! What's the big deal? I've tried to meet you halfway. I've learned and absorbed some of your culture and your religious practices, right?" She pointed to the menorah that was in the window.
"Look, I know I've got to come to grips with all this," he said, putting his arms around her. "But just give me a chance, okay? I mean, this is my first time!" "Okay," she said, softening. "I'm not some kind of religious fanatic, you know. I just like the smell of the tree, the lights, the music...I mean, how can you hate Bach?" With a slight smile, he pulled away and looked at her anxiously. "Yes, but you have to understand something. I'm dealing with an awful lot right now. Your stuff, my stuff, all this stuff. I want to bring you home to my parents, and I've never brought a girlfriend home before. It'll be hell because the 'Is she Jewish?' issue will be hanging over our heads, and we'll have to avoid that for as long as possible. I didn't want to tell you this, but I lie awake at night trying to picture how it's all going to work. My theory is that once they know you and love you they won't be able to object...much." Early that spring David turned to Sally and said, "Will you come with me this year to my parents' house for Passover? I'm in love with you, and I want them to start dealing with it." She looked at him, and felt a new emotion. It was more than love, it was a combination of love and admiration, pride for his courage, and excitement...but she was also beginning to feel what real commitment was--and with it came a deep sense of security and a new sense of place, place in the world of human family building that had been shared by millions of women before her. The day of the trip David wouldn't come out of the bathroom for an hour and they almost missed the bus to Brooklyn. The hard plastic seats dug into Sally's legs as she sat holding David's sweaty hand and she listened to the rustle of shopping bags and the clicking of heels as women of all ages got on the bus. David stared out the window and said nothing. As they got to the stop, David's father was just getting out of a blue Ford across the street. "There he is," David said under his breath, directing her gaze with a wave of his hand toward his father. She felt a flood of nervousness and put her hands into her pockets for comfort as David's father came over, all smiles. He was a short and stocky man, like a small football player. His face was round and red, his grizzled white hair partly covered by a yarmulke. Sally tried hard not to stare at his hands but she'd never seen hands like that before. They were huge. The fingers were short and stubby and the skin was red. Butcher's hands. "Sholom-Aleichem," he said, kissing David and turning to Sally to shake her hand.
"Vell, hello young lady," he said in a heavy accent that reminded her of Mel Brook's 2,000 yearold-man. "How vas the trip?" Sally suddenly felt the enormous cultural gap and knew her Ivy league learning wouldn't help her here. "Uh, the trip was fine, Mr. Schamberg," she replied respectfully, shaking his hand. After that, David's father was a man of few words and little was said on the way to the house. Only once did he break the silence. "You like chok-o-lat cake?" he said, looking at her and carefully pronouncing each syllable as they stopped for a red light. She nodded emphatically, trying to please. "Good," he said, and drove on. The Schamberg house was a typical, narrow, Brooklyn row house, squeezed in on either side by another one that looked just like it. There was a small concrete front yard which contained a deck chair and a potted red geranium. The geranium looked new. David's mother was waiting at the front door. She was a thin woman, with a tight, pinched face and sharp, bird-like eyes. "My darling baby," she cried, clutching David to her aproned breast. Sally nearly burst out laughing--the scene was so cliched--except that his mother really meant it. "Hi Mom," David said, embarrassed, as he wriggled out. "I'd like you to meet Sally." "Sally?" she said with a slight accent. "That's a strange name!" David started to fidget with his tie. "Well, you understand, Mom--her parents wanted a real American name." His mother nodded, satisfied, and opened the door in welcome. Inside, Sally saw right away that no attempt had been made to really decorate. The house was sparsely and cheaply furnished, adorned only by several hangings and ceramic objects from Israel. The few pieces of furniture that were in the living room had been covered in clear plastic, which squeaked as they sat down. David looked mortified.
"That's a nice car you have," Sally said to Mr. Schamberg, trying to break the ice. He shrugged his shoulders. "In America you can buy a car like a sandwich." "Would you like some juice or a glass of wine, dear?" David's mother interrupted, looking Sally over carefully. "Give her the vine, give her the vine and let her sit next to me!" David's father gestured impatiently toward his wife. Sally looked to David for help. "Maybe she doesn't want wine, Pop-Pop," David tried. "Vat, a good girl like her, not wanting our good Passover vine? Feh!" He dismissed him. David gave her an exasperated 'I told you so' look. "The wine will be fine, Mrs. Schamberg," Sally said politely. "I was just about to ask for some." Wine gave her headaches but at this point she felt asking for the juice would have brought on a holy war. "Vell, it's time to eat anyway," Mrs. Schamberg shrugged and motioned them over to the dinner table. In front of each of them rested a peeled egg; next to it, a dish of salt water. Sally sat down gingerly and watched David in the kitchen putting matzohs on a plate. She'd forgotten what David had told to do at a Seder but David looked up and winked at her encouragingly. "Here is your wine, dear," Mrs. Schamberg said, setting down the wine along with a plate of gefilte fish. "David, bring in the chopped liver, would you?" The old man sat at the head of the table. "Come, come," he said, beginning to drum his fingers on the cover of the Old Testament. David and his mother came in and sat down meekly. As his father started to intone the Passover text, all Sally could think of was how good the pot roast smelled in the oven. Participation in any religious ritual had never been her strong point... "So, have you been to Israel?" She realized she was being spoken to by David's mother.
"Noo, not yet...but my Uncle has!" she added helpfully. "Vat, never been to Israel? It's a simcha. You must go!" The old man looked thunderstruck. David, of course, had told her that he'd been sent there for his Bar Mitzvah after great financial sacrifice by his parents, something they had not allowed him to forget. That simcha, that joyous occasion, had had to happen no matter what. Mr. Schamberg took off his yarmulke and stared at it. Abruptly he said to no one in particular: "We should get some new ones, eh? This one is getting old." Sally saw David stiffen and remembered how he had told her that his father always sent him a new yarmulke as a hint to go to shul. But always after getting one he'd go off to the movies--a small rebellion--having resentfully stuffed the little satin circle into an old bag which he'd thrown back into the closet. By now it was filled with over thirty new yarmulkes. "Yes, Pop-Pop, it is getting old--you just wear them out." David tried to smile at his father, who sighed and looked at his wife. "You can always have one of mine," he added mischievously. "This boy...I tell you...Vat am I going to do with him?" his father said affectionately. Mrs. Schamberg got up to clear the table. "He is doing very well, tatale. Soon he will be a lawyer...that's very good." Mr. Schamberg patted his son's hand and shook his head in wonder. "Vat a boy..." his words trailed off. After dessert, Sally and David left quickly. His mother waved them off, and Mr. Schamberg didn't seem to mind having to drive them to the bus station again, barely two hours after they'd arrived. Sally thought he seemed grateful for any time spent with his son, but they got to the bus stop without a word exchanged except for a hurried "Good-Bye," as the car and bus arrived simultaneously. On the bus they were both so exhausted that they slept. When they got back to David's the telephone was ringing. He took the call in the other room but Sally could hear the conversation anyway. "That's right...I'm in love with her...So what about children? Well, so what if she is. We've talked about all that...Yes, I know, but I guess we see things differently. Tell Pop-Pop I'm sorry he doesn't agree...Yes,Yes...well, okay. Speak to you soon...Bye."
David came back into the room and grabbed her. "I knew it," he said, his voice trembling, as they kissed each other fiercely. And that is how it started. Every day the telephone would ring, and every day his mother would relentlessly be there, pretending she didn't recognize her son's voice. "..."Does David Schamberg live here?" "Oh, is that you? You sound so far away..." or "I'm sorry, I think I have the wrong number..." Then she'd ask if he'd been to temple yet that week, "there were such nice girls there, such nice girls." First it was funny. As the weeks went by Sally would joke, "Was it the Papagallo shoes that gave me away?" Then they'd laugh, if only to hide that David was getting more and more agitated with each phone call. "Why won't they let you live your life?" she'd cry to him, her stomach cramping from frustration and anger. One night he slammed the receiver down and ran to the bathroom. She could hear him weeping, and knocked on the door, alarmed. "Sweetheart, what is it?" she said. "It's my father," he said, opening the door a little. "He's starving himself to death." "WHAT?" Her shocked voice sounded unnaturally loud. "But why? That's crazy!" David raised his head up ever so slowly and gazed at her, the sorrow in his heart burning in his eyes. "Because, my darling, ...of you...he can't bear it. It is crazy, but his grief is killing him." In the face of such suicidal desperation, she knew then that he was lost to her. Perhaps there really were other nice men and women waiting out there in the world, for each of them, like his mother had said. They didn't say much to each other for several hours. She felt ill. David finally came in, and sat by her on the couch. She looked at him tearfully. "It's over, isn't it?" He reached out to hold her hand, his voice straining as he spoke. "We tried, didn't we? We tried...but you know I can't do this to the old man--he's been through so much already." "God dammit, it's emotional blackmail, David!" she said angrily. He shook his head, resigned, as she stared at him in disbelief.
It was as if a switch had been thrown inside of both of them--a sudden shifting of realities--one second they had been committed lovers, the next, with their mutual acceptance of that single, fateful utterance, they were now painful strangers. A completely new relationship had been born in the space of a few seconds. Sally tossed the few clothes and books she'd brought over to his apartment into her small suitcase, and David walked her down to the subway on the next block. The intense summer heat made the pavement shimmer and the streets were empty. There was nothing to say to each other. She was still in shock by how suddenly a decision had been made, and all David could do as the train arrived was say a tearful "I'm sorry," and walk away. The worst part for her was sitting on the train, holding it in. There was such a great pain in her chest it literally ached. She stared at the floor, not wanting to look at anyone, but when she briefly met the gaze of a woman across from her as she was getting up to leave the subway car, the woman impulsively handed her a tissue. Sally knew then that her breaking heart was there for all to see, and she began to sob.