Visiting Town Blues

Walking for my morning coffee

through the falling rain,

I feel again the cold and my toothache pain,

leaving the bus, negotiating the speeding traffic

through what to me feels a rush,

reaching the corner, a hush as

slipping along the side street,

avoiding sudden traffic, above the narrow pavement,

I notice the broken awning.

Here next to the closed, derelict barber’s shop,

three gobbling pigeons have found

a box-shaped shelter; a tabloid sized hole

from where a torn out section of thin wood

and have made a home, an aviary,

a sort of “rus in urbe” among the tangled wires.

The birds bob and cheerfully chirp exchanges.

In this section life flourishes.

I stop to snap these jovial creatures that

triumph amidst the clutter,

defeating austerity, likewise

I recover my affection for broken places

….and the game is still on.





An America cousin writes-a found poem

Spring will be here soon

and how I am looking forward to it.

It doesn’t help

that now I live so close to the water.

Many people around here

go out on the frozen water

drill holes and fish.

They even drive vehicles out

on the ice which I feel is stupid.

Every now and then,

someone falls through the ice and drowns.


We still don’t know many people

in our new area.

People are not as friendly here

as they were at the farm.

I used to like it

when folk stopped in for coffee at the farm.

People just wave here

but never stop in,

though invited to.

I miss the farm a lot

after having lived there

43 years.

Image result for lake michigan frozen

With thanks to my mid-West cousins


Sarah Crossan’s “Die Sprache des Wassers”

I am finding this an excellent read and an interesting and moving cultural experience. Having just seen “Ladybird” which moved me to both tears and laughter, this story is broadly a similar coming of age story. I suppose it could be termed a Bildungsroman but that is a weighty term for the evocative and indeed provocative text which is ideal for someone wanting to learn German. Essentially it is a prose poem in German about a 13 year old girl coming from Poland to Coventry.


A coffee break in Kings Cross during Jewish Book Week 2017

Image result for Kings CrossUnder Benito’s Hat –King’s Cross


The trains depart for Letchworth, Edinburgh and Peterborough

-looks like you might have to change at Letchworth

For a bus; two lectures at J.B.W.

and we have been in Paris between ’38 and 1942 and maybe a little after too

A terrible time for both Jews and for women; the Wehrmacht collection point is in the

Gendarmarie-left for two days without bread, without water or any other facilities.

Men wearing yellow stars –

Having to give proof of gentile forbears for five generations

Paris-an island of compromise and collaboration.

Escapees conveyed by passeurs, some notably brave

-others giving away the Jewish escapees –for a few pieces of silver.

There and then the world of Louis Malle, his Au Revoir les Enfants, Irène Némirovsky and Coco Chanel,

who it seems survived quite well between the satin sheets with her German officer.

Afterwards the rough justice – hair shaved off and ten years of “National humiliation”.

According to De Gaulle, who was the French state-only a small- a very small number collaborated

as he disarmed the communist resistance, told them to return to being

bakers, butchers and the rest……


What language do we dream in?” asks the writer in the next session


“Security officers tour this station twenty-four hours a day”


Born in Russia-life begins amongst dark cherry trees-there are two names for cherry trees in Russian.

Still today she recalls the deep, dusky black variety that tastes like velvet to her tongue

And she recalls in the background, that relation who was tall and wispy in a light-yellow dress,

Willowy to the eye of this two-and-a-half-year-old child.

Then to Prague where she learns Czech with its subtle ability to carry shades of irony.

Later to Hamburg where she adds German to her vocabulary …. then it is another speaker’s turn

whose voice seems gentle talking about the pains of exile, the stranger’s distanced view and

The slip between the idea conceived in the brain and the words which later

reach the tongue.

She talks of Istanbul and night time – of a transvestite in her

shimmering dress holding one shoe-a broken high heel-

wearing the other and cursing loudly walking up

the cobbled hill at midnight. Cursing men and the

society unable to accept differences.

“This is a security announcement………or text…….”


Franz Lehár – Gern hab’ ich die Frau’n geküsst (Paganini)

Image result for Kiss girl painting

Gern hab’ ich die Frau’n geküsst,
hab’ nie gefragt, ob es gestattet ist;
dachte mir: nimm sie dir,
küss sie nur, dazu sind sie ja hier!
Ja, glaubt mir: Nie nahm ich Liebe schwer.
Ich liebe heiss, doch treu bin ich nicht sehr,
bin ein Mann, nicht viel dran,
Liebchen fein: ich schau’ auch andre an!

Ich kenn’ der wahrhaften Liebe Glut,
ich weiss, wie weh oft die Falschheit tut,
ich kenn’ die Wonnen,
begonnen mit Freud,
ich sah ihr wenden und enden mit Leid!
Ich kenn’ die Liebe in Dur und Moll,
ich kenn’ sie selig, verrückt und toll,
ich schau’ erwachend und lachend zurück
und such’ im Rausche, im Tausche mein

Modryb Marya, or Aunt Mary

We always had a holly tree at Christmas decorated with fairy lights in little copper lanterns made by my Father. These contained rice paper to diffuse the light and the same rice paper was used as a base for the coconut macaroons that my Mother made as part of the preparations for Christmas.

The Holly Tree is referred to in this beautiful poem by R.S.Hawker.

Image result for Holly tree

There is a little more information at

“Refugees”by Louis MacNeice


With prune-dark eyes, thick lips, jostling each other
These, disinterred from Europe, throng the deck
To watch their hope heave up in steel and concrete
Powerful but delicate as a swan’s neck,

Thinking, each of them, the worst is over
And we do not want any more to be prominent or rich,
Only to be ourselves, to be unmolested
And make ends meet–an ideal surely which

Here if anywhere is feasible. Their glances
Like wavering antennae feel
Around the sliding limber towers of Wall Street
And count the numbered docks and gingerly steal

Into the hinterland of their own future
Behind this excessive annunciation of towers,
Tracking their future selves through a continent of strangeness.
The liner moves to the magnet; the quay flowers

With faces of people’s friends. But these are mostly
Friendless and all they look to meet
Is a secretary who holds his levée among ledgers,
Tells them to take a chair and wait…

And meanwhile the city will go on, regardless
Of any new arrival, trains like prayers
Radiating from stations haughty as cathedrals,
Tableaux of spring in milliners’ windows, great affairs

Being endorsed on a vulcanite table, lines of washing
Feebly garish among grimy brick and dour
Iron fire-escapes; barrows of cement are rumbling
Up airy planks; a florist adds a flower

To a bouquet that is bound for somebody’s beloved
Or for someone ill; in a sombre board-room great
Problems wait to be solved or shelved. The city
Goes on but you, you will probably find, must wait

Till something or other turns up. Something-or-Other
Becomes an unexpected angel from the sky;
But do not trust the sky, that blue that looks so candid
Is non-committal, frigid as a harlot’s eye.

Gangways – the handclasp of the land. The resurrected,
The brisk or resigned Lazaruses, who want
Another chance, go trooping ashore. But chances
Are dubious. Fate is stingy, recalcitrant.

And officialdom greets them blankly as they fumble
Their foreign-looking baggage; they still feel
The movement of the ship while through their imagination
The known and the unheard-of constellations wheel.

Image result for Hester Street

This poem appeared just about a year after MacNeice visited America where he met Auden and Isherwood amongst other prominent figures during a short lecture tour. It appeared at a time of extreme danger for Britain:- Dunkirk was a recent event and The Blitz too was starting. I am of the opinion that Auden and Isherwood need little justification for having left the country. They had worked bravely on “Journey to War” in Manchuria and Isherwood’s novels gave a clear insight into the rise of the Nazis and the persecution of leftists, Jewish people and so on. That is by the way, since although this poem could be considered in some ways slight, it has interesting parallels with the comparable plight of refugees today. Given Trump, entering America has become extremely difficult in the past year. In addition, it gives an insight into the New York seascape and skyline which I seem to remember has been written about movingly by two Jewish exiles, Rose Ausländer (Januar in New York) and I think, Mischa Kalako.

The poem itself is obviously of it’s time and the first line is rather brutal on facial characteristics. There are some interesting words like ‘milliner’ and ‘vulcanite’ that have dropped out of common parlance rather. I particularly like-‘Into the hinterland of their own future’ which suggests the confusion of trying to find in a new environment some reference to the land left behind. It also contains, I think, perhaps unconsciously, reference to  MacNeice’s hinterland as an Irish born poet as well as much effective and ambivalent use of religious imagery. His father became a bishop of the Anglican Church of Ireland.

Image result for Jewish Refugee Paintings