Spiritual Letters, Series 7, #9

- He'd collapsed from overdoses before; but when we forced our way into his hotel room, we found him curled up in death, the needle still in his arm. Only twenty-four, he was someone who'd 'sung a new song, played skilfully'... one of the most singular and progressive jazz pianists I'd ever encountered. A young man in a blue shirt and blue cardigan leans out of the third storey window, looking down to the street, looking for a long time.... A young couple took it upon themselves to lead the psalm-singing, accompanying themselves on guitar: a pair of strummers, I quickly concluded. It was cold, and snow was falling... we hid in the straw. Then we heard shouting, and we saw that the forest was on fire.
I was given an old door to lie down upon for a bed, little better than the stone floor, in a room full of people I didn't know: a night without sleep. Ritual washing of feet. Then they ate unleavened bread, drank wine. A strawberry tree in a field. He told me that his wife was in hospital, having had a breakdown and been discovered wandering barefoot and in only a nightgown in the street on a chilly night, trying to gain entrance to a nearby church. - There's a church I know where I'll spend Easter, he said, sleeping on a pew, rather than at home in my bed; I need the solace. - Can you eat this wine, drink this bread? - Only if a storm or strong winds cut out the lights: then a candle-flame moves here, moves there. Displaced. ...he was a great fan of the dithyramb; walking at night through the streets of Vienna, he would suddenly begin to recite Hölderlin with a loud and beautiful voice, or even sing one of his twelve-tone settings. You were arrested and later shot for publishing Hasidic stories illustrated with your own prints. A door, a room. A man pauses at the threshold. To sing: tehillim. Suffused with blue: dark blue, and darker.




Spiritual Letters,
Series 7, #10

Egyptian blue: a curtain of it, closing. Parsley dipped in salt water; bitter herbs; matzot; roasted lamb....

                                    the sea 
                                    inherits
                                    ink
                                    but which?
                                    blue ink
                                    or black
                                    or red

Black or brunette hair, or blonde? Dusk was falling but it was light, for the earth was covered in snow. I noticed on his writing-table something like a rather large envelope, made of black material and decorated with a big triple cross and the inscription: ‘In this sign you shall conquer'. - Jewesses pretending to be French or Italian connive to corrupt the morals of our youth, acting as whores and governesses and even as teachers; they insinuate themselves into the lives of those in high office as mistresses, swaying opinion through their wiles. The executioners run through the streets shooting anyone who dares leave the house. They shoot anyone who is near the window. The two little girls hurry along the road, hand in hand, beneath a threatening sky: the clouds are nothing but viscous smears. There'd been fires, without any doubt: buildings were burned down. Near some of the burned-out houses there is a strong smell of dead bodies.
When I could get no more sense from him about why he followed such an odious and dangerous leader, he finally said: His hands are so beautiful. Children cannot walk on their own strength and are loaded into wagons. Mothers, looking on, become insane. - When, after the war, he returned to the university where he'd been rector and a supporter of the Nazis, a number of the students, including me, wanted to boycott his lecture; but we were also curious to hear him, so we stood at the back of the hall with our backs to him.




Spiritual Letters,
Series 7, #11

                                    ...and O
                                    the
                                    language
                                    inherits
                                    dark
                                    also

Bloodied swathes. Within the straight lines, curves and loops of lead: pieces of coloured glass. A man lies in a convalescent bed; a nurse standing beside him; and another man sitting beside her, in a wheelchair. Below us we saw a squadron of planes, strangely innocent-looking in the afternoon sunlight: such a pity, I thought, to bomb them. - Long live death! he bellowed to those in the crowd below. - General, I hate to speak harshly to one who I see is a cripple; but what you've just said is the most repellent nonsense: you are a cripple in more ways than one, and you want our society to be a society of cripples like you.

                                    in darkness
                                    I
                                   dwell
                                  
or
                                   is it
                                   undwelling?

When I said I wouldn't listen to her bizarre accusations and got up to leave, she threw hot coffee in my face. - Stay! she shouted. Orthodoxy is I myself. Or for another: I am orthodoxy; orthodoxy is what I am. At college his ambition was to lead a Communist uprising, but he eventually became a sheep farmer in the Brecon Beacons. - My friend, an American woman, went to Maoist China, and it was there that she found herself as a person. - That's bullshit, you replied. My neighbour is not here, my neighbour is not you.
I've passed him on the street and seen him in the Underground, wearing multi-coloured cardigans; and once I heard him sing 'You Don't Know What Love Is'.

            © David Miller 2015