Mr. Karl - a thousand years of Austria
You can’t be expected to put up with everything life throws at you.
I mean, where would that get us?
There’s only so much you can take.
Those paper pushers in the admin office looked like proper Charlies.
They should know better than to mess with Judge Georgie.
No-one messes with Judge Georgie, the traveling salesman, even if I am retired, a decommissioned traveling salesman, so to speak.
As a rule, I’m as gentle as a lamb, it’s just when injustice rears its ugly head that people see my darker side.
And believe me, I don’t care if it’s the Emperor of China sitting in frontof me.
I don’t give a hoot because justice is justice.
And I’ve lived by this principle all my life.
I could’ve said to myself, what do I care about my wife’s decrepit aunt?
After all, she’s just another bed-ridden wrinkly.
She’s not even right in the head anymore.
She’s completely lost her marbles.
You should hear some of the stories she comes out with.
It’s almost tragic.
But that’s not the point.
Her health insurance refused to pay for her incontinence pads and diapers, even though she keeps wetting the bed because she’s incontinent.
Imagine that! I just could not believe it!
They didn’t want to pay for the diapers of an old sick woman because it was no longer their remit, they said.
It’s things like that that make my blood boil.
I can’t help myself.
I kicked that stupid little krank’s ass, you know, the one in the office.
Now, auntie gets her incontinence pads and diapers for free again.
She could have afforded to pay for them herself, of course.
She’s not exactly poor.
In fact, my eyes nearly popped out my head when I saw her savings.
Her husband had a successful business, you see.
When it was sold, after he’d popped his clogs, she earned some big bucks…
The business was sold abroad, to Germany…
Anyway, as I was saying, I could’ve told myself not to bother with my wife’s aunt.
But things like that just get to me…
I mean, we all know what it’s like with these bureaucrats.
I could write volumes about it.
And when I think of all the hassle I had when I retired.
It doesn’t bear thinking about, because when I do start thinking about it, well…
Georgie, switch off dear, says my wife, when I get too hot under the collar.
There’s no point in getting flustered, it will only affect your health.
And it won’t change anything anyway, she says.
But that’s easier said than done, especially when you’ve always lived your life by the book and then you see them squandering it all and running everything into the ground.
I want to enjoy my retirement.
Even though I’ve had some great times over the years, surely that can’t have been it?
So that’s why I tell myself to remain calm and keep my feet planted firmly on the ground.
Even though that’s easier said than done.
I just have to start thinking of those diapers.
Now that I’m a pensioner, time doesn’t seem to tick by any more slowly.
Not with me anyway.
I’ve got plenty to do, more than plenty.
It’s not for nothing that they say that pensioners are always busy.
I suppose in that sense, I never really retired in the way that people normally do.
But then again, many can’t cope with retirement.
Simply because they feel superfluous.
That’s why so many die of heart attacks within the first year because they simply don’t know what else to do.
Well, I can’t say that’s been true of me in the past two years.
But then, I didn’t really retire properly.
I still give my old boss a hand every now and then.
And then, of course, there’s plenty of work to do in the house and garden.
There’s always something in need of repair, always work to do in the vegetable patch.
The vegetable patch is my hobby.
But what I can’t stand are those slugs gobbling up my lettuce.
I collected a whole pail full of them yesterday and threw them in the canal.
When I got back from vacation – what’s a vacation to a pensioner? - you should’ve seen the state the garden was in – all because of those slimy critters.
But what can you do?
I’m still going on vacation.
Those slugs aren’t going to stop me.
We go every year – a whole group of us.
This time round, we were away for three weeks.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been worth the money.
Burma, Bangkok, Thailand.
Really beautiful places.
It’s really worth seeing.
But you should see the squalor.
Living where we do, it’s difficult to imagine.
My buddy, Karl, says misery like that can only be eradicated with tough measures.
That’s the only way to deal with it, he says.
Radical measures from above.
We don’t know how good we’ve got it here in Austria compared to them down there.
The filth, the squalor, the poverty, it’s overwhelming…
The country itself is beautiful, well what we saw of it anyway, despite the heat, but the cities, oh God, the cities…
The chicks, though, they were hot.
Especially for that price.
The best thing is, there’s no arguments – not like at home with the wife – because thankfully you can’t understand a word they say.
Once I took my escort to a hotel and outside there was this kid, with no arms, he was a complete cripple.
Well, I gave him the equivalent of twenty euros. He thanked me, then snatched at the banknote with his mouth because he had no hands.
That’s poverty for you.
Our hobos are millionaires by comparison.
I felt so sorry for him that I shoved another twenty euro note in his mouth.
I didn’t say a word.
There are no words for things like that.
I’ve seen so much in my time because I’ve traveled around a fair bit.
But I’ve never seen anyone pick up money with his mouth – that was definitely a first.
These people are so friendly and they’re so grateful even for the smallest of gifts.
We were generous.
Everything’s dirt cheap there anyway.
The whole family lives off the money those hot little chicks earn.
So in a sense, I suppose you could call us aid workers.
Even when we fuck.
They do anything, they get straight to it.
The whole family survives on the takings.
So, as you can imagine, they’re highly motivated.
So we really went to town, I tell you.
I won’t be bothering my wife for a while, that’s for sure.
After all, I’m not twenty anymore.
And three weeks was a bit long.
And it’s not the same as it used to be.
I think I’ll go on my own next time.
Or maybe with Karl.
You’re more independent then and you don’t have to worry about anyone else.
Yeah, I think that would be wise.
I went to the soccer ground with Karl yesterday.
It was crap.
Back in the day, we used to go there all the time.
These days, only Negroes and good-for-nothing Slavs play because our lot are too lazy to run around.
They’re all idle time-wasters.
These days, everyone wants to be a CEO, but they don’t want to work for it.
The same is true of soccer.
Big money for no effort, that’s what they want.
But these Negroes and Slav wasters are no better.
What I saw yesterday had nothing to do with soccer – absolutely nothing.
But that’s hardly surprising as they don’t even speak the same lingo.
How are you supposed understand a Negro or an Albanian shepherd.
You just can’t.
All they want is our nationality and as soon as they’ve got it, they sit back and do nothing.
But it’s our fault for going to the match.
Afterwards, we went for a beer.
Karl’s going to retire soon as well.
Another month, then he’s hanging up his boots.
He’s as excited about retiring as a little kid before his birthday.
I’ll be happy as Larry not to see those assholes anymore, he said.
He’s alright, Karl is.
We’ve got a great surprise up our sleeves for him when he retires.
Us guys have clubbed together and are having a Thai woman flown in for him.
We just have to make sure his wife doesn’t get wind of it.
Women are a bit strange that way.
We’ve got everything arranged.
Karl won’t believe his luck.
But we think he deserves it.
We’ll put the Thai woman up somewhere else and we’ll tell our wives we’re going walking for a week.
That way, I’ll get something out of it as well.
Karl’s retirement went through alright.
Even though he’s retiring early.
He’s only fifty four so he’s got plenty ahead of him.
Yeah OK, he’s a civil servant, but still.
He was off sick for a year, well actually, he just stayed at home and they urged him to take early retirement.
Well, I’m up for that alright, were his very words and I don’t blame him.
Karl deserves it, he’s a great guy.
I’d do the same, if I were in his shoes.
When I retired, God! what a mess that was.
The grief they gave me – you wouldn’t believe it, if I told you.
If I hadn’t known exactly how things are done in these places, they would never have released me.
And to think it was me who showed them the ropes.
Even though my health was rockbottom.
I was in such a state with my back that I couldn’t even crawl out of bed.
Therapies and massages were no help at all.
Except for the ones in Thailand but the bastards don’t pay for them, do they.
Well, there was no way I could go back to work.
So what did they do? They tried to screw me over with my pension, even though I’d worked by butt off, never taking a day off sick, but these paper pushers don’t give a damn about that.
I’d put in almost forty years of service because we started working at fourteen, not like these days where kids study till they’re thirty and cause trouble whilst sponging off the state.
In our day, it was a totally different ball game.
And I pretty much taught those people how to walk.
It’s the politicians and crap civil servants of all people who waste millions and then deny the little man on the street – the little man being me – what’s rightfully his.
But that’s the way they do things in Austria these days.
That’s what I said to Karl.
Twice, I had to take my case to the labor court – yes, twice, before getting what was rightfully mine.
I said to Karl back then, I said if Georgie wants to retire, then retire he will.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Some days, I couldn’t even stand up straight, that’s how painful my back was.
I can’t abide that word lumbago any more.
This top physician wanted to prescribe me a break at a spa resort but what good would that do?
If my body’s in pieces after forty long years of hard slog, I certainly don’t want to go to a spa.
I want retirement, that’s what I want.
I’m not one of those spongers who go on a four-week break every year and have it paid for by Joe Public.
If it were down to me, I’d abolish these spa trips in the blink of an eye.
Most people only go there to have a fling anyway.
That’s the only reason they have these spa treatments.
It makes me think of the stories Karl used to tell me about his colleagues going off to the best spa resorts and being treated like royalty every year.
But it’s no use thinking about it.
I only just made it to the end of my stint and then they mistreat me like that, even though I had paid my way all my life.
But that’s Austria for you.
The hard workers are always the losers, just like me.
I don’t want any favors but I certainly want what I’m entitled to.
Once, when I went to the pension office, I overhead one of those paper-pushing pricks mumbling to one of his colleagues: Look, here comes old lumbago.
To think it was me who showed them the ropes.
I demanded an apology from the top.
And I got one too.
And if I hadn’t got an apology, I’d have gone to the press.
The press laps up stories like that.
Karl was right all along – he said, he didn’t know what their problem was because you can’t prove lumbago, can you!
It’s like having a headache.
If I say I’ve got lumbago, the doctors can stare holes into the x-rays but they’ll never find it.
I’m the perfect example of that.
Down at the pension office, no-one ever called me lumbago after that.
They kept their mouths tightly shut and gave me my pension.
If they hadn’t given me my pension, they’d have had it coming.
I swore to them they’d get it.
These civil servants, who live off my taxes, tried to tell me whether I have lumbago or not.
I don’t want to think about it.
Luckily, I’m the kind of guy who can stand up for himself.
If you can’t do that, then you’ll always be a loser in this country.
Anyway, I got my retirement when I wanted it.
They can’t tell me what to do, not me, Judge Georgie.
But there’s no sense in wasting another second thinking about my pension.
I’ve been retired for two years now.
So what’s the point in getting uptight about it now.
I should be thankful – touch wood – that I’m still in pretty good health.
I still have days though where I can’t stand up straight.
But Thank God that doesn’t happen as often as it used to.
I often think you know: What would I do without my garden!
When I feel really low, the garden’s the best distraction in the world.
In spite of those god-damn slugs.
Karl always laughs about it.
He says everyone has his poison – some go and watch the game, others drown themselves in drink, some dash like madmen up hill and down dale and you, you get excited over your cabbages.
That’s until my nosy neighbor pops his head over the fence and asks: Are the slugs eating everything again?
To think of all the tricks I’ve used to get rid of this slimy slug invasion.
But you know, these slugs have only been around for a relatively short while.
We didn’t have them years ago.
They come over from Russia or somewhere round there.
A pure import.
It’s a complete and utter sabotage of our gardens.
By them, the Russian mafia.
They’ll be laughing in their sleeves by now.
No doubt, there’s a method, a scheme behind it all.
They can’t be trusted, them from over there.
I’ve heard of this Indian species of duck that would be all over the slugs in minutes, but they don’t half make a mess.
Besides which, who knows how many Indians I’d need because they can’t eat just slugs.
Not in those quantities anyway.
And then if we did have those Indian things in our garden who knows where it would lead.
When it comes to Indians you can’t be sure of anything because they just don’t fit in.
So after the Russians, we’d be putting up with the Indians from India.
For a while, I sprinkled salt all over them.
They shriveled up alright but the trouble was, I’d have needed my own private salt mine to annihilate them every day.
What I’d like to know is where they all come from.
They must reproduce like turbo-rabbits.
The problem is they have no natural predators to keep them in check.
I also went through a phase where I impaled them all on an iron rod and cut them in two with my secateurs.
It wasn’t pleasant to say the least, especially with all that slime squirting out left, right and center.
Once, I even mounted a sharp wedge on the bottom of an old hiking boot and slaughtered them that way.
But that didn’t really work very well because they’re sticky and so I had trouble shaking them off the sole of my boot.
Now I pick them up with my BBQ tongs every day and toss them by the sack-load into the canal.
You’ve got to keep at it.
Otherwise it’s a losing battle.
Karl once said to me, you know what, someone needs to invent something for that.
You could earn big bucks if you invented something like that.
If you invented something, you could become a millionaire.
I think all the slugs in Austria should be collected and sent back to the Russian mafia.
Back to where they came from.
Then THEY would have to deal with all the rubbish they’ve dumped on us.
There was a time when my wife would tell me off for comparing this foreign vermin to the slugs in my garden…
Today though, she’s come round to my way of thinking…
I did warn her right at the start, I warned her that she shouldn’t even entertain the thought, because I knew exactly what would happen.
But my wife would always attack me when I said the Kebab Munchers were invading our country like the Russian slime that was taking over my garden.
Everyone needs people around them, my wife would say.
But not filth like that, I’d reply…
Anyway, I didn’t really want to get involved because her auntie has nothing to do with me and so I don’t care whether Kebab Munchers live in the same place as her. What’s it to me.
Even Karl said he didn’t understand my wife.
But what am I supposed to do, after all, she’s a grown woman.
I certainly wouldn’t let any of those mafia wise guys into my home.
They’re human beings too, my wife insisted.
They were driven from their homes by war, we have to help them.
And anyway, their rooms are in the cellar and they have a separate entrance.
But then she realized all right, then she saw what happened.
It’s not as though I didn’t tell her.
They had parties in the garden, with music blaring out while their kids terrorized the neighborhood…
None of them lifted a finger by going to work.
They all sponge off the state.
But we’ve got it to spare, haven’t we. Pah.
They should never have let the Russians set foot in our country.
I mean, what have they got to do with us?
Let them shoot at each other if that’s what they want, but that’s their problem not ours!
All we want is a little peace and quiet.
Being nice doesn’t get you anywhere in life.
I know what I’m talking about.
I’ve seen it all.
My wife was being a bit simple there.
But thankfully she’s wised up now.
She’s seen where it leads.
She gives them a home, a roof over their heads, and how do they thank her? With a police complaint.
We’ve got to the point in Austria where they get all sorts of state support.
But it’s hardly surprising when you look at our government, it’s full of Kebab Munchers.
Austrians count for nothing in this country anymore.
If things carry on the way they are, we Austrians will end up being the foreigners in our own country.
I told my wife it’s not worth it for the sake of a few shillings.
In Austria, you’ve got to tread carefully, as the press lap up stories like ours, mutating you into an exploiter when all you were doing was trying to help.
I’ve even had nightmares about the headlines.
Exorbitant rents for cellar rooms!!! Etc.
Our press gurus don’t care much for the truth.
All they’re interested in is headlines, sensations and filth.
They’re all manipulated.
We all know who’s behind it.
The capital all comes from abroad.
And it doesn’t take much guessing to know what that means.
The truth doesn’t interest anyone.
But what’s the point in getting worked up about it.
Karl’s quip is right by the way.
He always says that the comparative and superlative of truth is: Truth – lie – press.
He’s hit the nail on the head there.
I blame the police complaint against my wife on the relatives.
Especially, the prodigious stepson.
Yes, another fine specimen of a loser that should be swept out of the country with the Russians.
He’s never made an effort with his step mother.
A sprog from the first marriage of my wife’s uncle.
If it wasn’t for my wife, her aunt wouldn’t receive any help for weeks on end.
When he does appear out of the blue, all he wants is money.
In the past, when she was still healthy, she would often throw him out.
Sometimes he’d even steal from her.
He was a real waste of space, a good-for-nothing.
As long as I can remember, he’s never had a steady job.
He’s even been in jail a few times.
He has a few kids dotted about the country, but probably doesn’t support them.
He’s the perfect example of what happens to a kid whose parents want too much of the best for him.
He always got everything he wanted.
Money was never an issue.
And that was his downfall.
This guy believed his life would always be like that.
My wife would throw him out when he visited her aunt just to sponge off her.
You couldn’t trust him as far as you could spit.
He even pocketed his uncle’s gold watch.
Well, it certainly wasn’t there after he’d left.
That’s why my wife hid the savings away from him.
At least, they’re safe here, away from that lay-about’s prying eyes.
If he’d got his grubby little hands on them, he’d have spent all the money in minutes.
He’s a champion when it comes to blowing cash.
Once he squandered tens of thousands in a single night.
As soon as he’s got a dime to spare, he invites everyone out.
Then he pays for round after round because he wants to be the centre of attention.
He would’ve wasted the dough from the company sale in a blink of an eye.
At least, his share of it.
But it’s no wonder I suppose, it’s easy to waste what you haven’t worked hard for.
As far as I know, I think he’s on welfare now.
But you can’t buy many rounds on welfare.
You can go out for three and then you’re skint again.
What a cheek it is that people like that are entitled to welfare.
If it were up to me …
Why can’t a man like that get a job?
Just because he thinks it’s beneath him, the state has to foot the bill.
All I can say is “Good night Austria”.
I don’t know what to say.
I mean the money’s got to come from somewhere.
And of course, it comes from us because stupid idiots like me worked hard to pay for it all.
And then what happens? We get punished for it.
When I think that I clocked up forty years of hard work, I reckon I must be some kind of klutz.
Our railway workers retire in their early fifties, sit back and laugh at everyone else.
They only worked there so they could rest and still have enough energy for their cowboy jobs on the side.
So don’t come talking to me about my retirement.
I’ve done my share.
It sickens me to think of all the money that’s smuggled abroad, such as swindled child support and whatever else there is.
When I look at that aunt’s boot neck of a boy who’s never done an honest day’s work in his life and enjoys all the support that’s out there: exemptions, free telephone, free TV, even a free room courtesy of the state.
It makes me sick.
And yet, this kid was given every opportunity imaginable.
Opportunities, that most would bend over backwards to receive.
We had to work hard for everything we got.
Some people think that’s beneath them.
And there seem to be more and more of them every day.
Anyone who goes looking for a job in Austria will find one.
You mustn’t think you’re too precious to work, that’s all.
Of course, not everyone’s cut out to be a CEO.
But there’s nothing wrong with working in a hotel.
Even if you’re just washing dishes.
That’s still better than nothing.
But we Austrians don’t want to.
We think we’re above that sort of thing.
And that’s why there are so many Russians in our country.
But they only wash dishes until they’re entitled to unemployment benefit and as soon as that time comes they don’t lift a finger anymore.
And then, they bring the rest of their family over.
If things carry on the way they are, it won’t be long before we don’t have any say anyway.
It will be the others who have it.
That’s already the way it is in Vienna.
Just look at the government.
It’s full of foreign names.
The Viennese defended themselves against three sieges by the Turks.
And then during the fourth, they go and cave in.
Just go to the Naschmarkt and see what’s going on there.
You won’t find anything like it, not even in Istanbul.
That’s how extreme it is.
Something has to be done about it.
Someone’s got to come down hard on them.
By them, I mean the Russians and the welfare scroungers.
It can’t go on like this.
Something should’ve been done years ago.
Especially those unemployed spongers who take the welfare payments, work quietly on the side and pocket the cash.
I just have to look around me.
It’s all plain to see.
You can’t fool me.
But then, what incentives are there for unemployed people to look for work.
As things stand, they’d be stupid to get a job, yes stupid.
And this is where the state needs to clamp down.
What can I, the man on the street, do about it?
Karl says he’d give them what-for.
He’d cart all the welfare fraudsters and scum off to a work camp.
I mean what else can you do with hobos like that?
A quick trip to the train station and you’ve seen it all, I tell you.
I mean you’re not doing these people any favors.
At least at a work camp more time would be invested in those losers.
If anything, they’d get used to working again and could be reintroduced to society.
As things stand at the moment, they’ll be receiving state handouts till the end of their days.
We can’t afford it all in the long run.
Who’s going to foot the bill?
Even my dad used to say that Adolf may have made mistakes along the way but where there’s light, there’s shadow.
If it wasn’t for Adolf, we wouldn’t be as well off as we are today, my dad always used to say.
And he was right.
My dad never spoke much about the war.
He was a quiet kind of guy.
On the odd occasion he’d say they’re taking the easy way out by heaping all the blame on Adolf.
You’ve got to look at the circumstances close up.
Adolf was a kind of force of nature who descended upon the country.
There’s nothing you can do about that.
The Resistance stories always made my dad laugh.
When they pin you against the wall, your resistance evaporates, my dad always used to say.
The people who talk of Resistance today would have been the first in those days to follow the party line like sheep.
Kreisky was another force of nature in the seventies.
Of course, Kreisky wasn’t quite like Adolf.
There was no way the man on the street could get away from Kreisky.
I’m speaking here from experience.
At the time, I even had a stretch in the party.
It wasn’t long before I got an apartment.
And my son got a job at the municipality just like me.
And it wasn’t long before he got a cheap apartment as well.
Kreisky was a force of nature – at least in his early years.
But what came after Kreisky?
All I can say to that is: Good night Austria.
Karl says that the rabble clinging to Kreisky should’ve been chased out the country.
Then things would look very different today.
It was the same with Adolf.
Adolf was alright, but look at his followers.
Just the same as Kreisky.
These Kreiskyites handed out the jobs, the apartments and the money to each other.
Just as they needed it.
As soon as I realized what was going on I left the party.
I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
To be involved with people who just cherry pick what they wanted wasn’t my thing.
I’m not that kind of guy.
It didn’t take me long to realize what was going on.
It wasn’t about honesty and ideals, it was about jobs, apartments and money.
That’s why joining was a big mistake.
Karl said to me that he’d known the Red Falcons weren’t the right people for me to mix with.
You get caught up and lost in the cogs of that big machine, he said.
Exactly, I said.
Moments of a biography in which Giorgio Voghera puts in several appearances.
Set in Trieste, Rome, Vienna, Zirl and Lowell Massachusetts - a promenade through the world of a literature whose aim is not the story but the narrative.
phoneme calling grapheme
could be a brief yet misguided start,
even though the image isn’t that bad
but where did i pick up this odd couple,
in trieste, in rome, vienna, lowell massachusetts,
or did they drift into my mind
at home in bed
one sleepless night?
it doesn’t really matter
i don’t know.
phoneme and grapheme,
this mysteriously obscure couple,
i naïvely wonder whether
they found each other
like two young lovers:
phoneme and grapheme,
now an old familiar couple,
that turned my head so completely
that i often don’t know what to do
as oskar pastior once said
after a lecture.
many thanks for your order,
i read in an email on my computer
from a German antiquarian,
we sold our only copy of the secret
by the anonimo triestino.
so disappointed by this news,
i order a pile of poetry books,
some with inscriptions,
which don’t usually impress me,
by the old beatnik warhorses:
huncke, bremser, corso, ginsberg, sanders,
wieners, plymell, vega,
many of them from the cherry valley near new york.
relieved, I go into town,
past bozner platz and i order in my “mind”
a mineral water, and only then does it dawn on me
how much these books will cost me.
a few days pass
before I try again,
trawling the net
for the book by the anonimo triestino.
at home in our village they sit in a dark café:
victor, roman, and a third,
they’re poring over sentence structures.
roman clears his throat,
staring into the screen of a laptop,
chomsky and generative grammar,
says victor, 64 sentence structures to work with
and completely arbitrary,
the random generator
this computerized writer.
they’re filling the word pots:
people from the past,
the present, and it wouldn’t be so bad,
they say, if it wasn’t for those verbs,
the agreement with the objects,
making sure the computerized writer
comes up with some hits,
with complete comprehensible sentences.
they gaze at the laptop
sentence after sentence pouring out,
the writing program they developed
writes and composes
in this dark, dark bar,
that isn’t really made for poetry,
but more for hardened drinkers.
filled pots of words
programmed syntactic structures
generated with random
slowly this product is turning into something,
i tell my dear old friend,
the poet of the café central, who is a little under the weather
and asks: but what’s it for?
for developing a computer that writes its own poetry,
is the answer,
and to mark the twelve hundredth anniversary of the local village,
someone reads from the digital local history book.
a poetry computer
a mechanical writer
on endless paper
we are not of this world we once read
in a old script,
with the following side notes
added by hand:
all just borrowed
all just placed at our disposal
not made by our hand.
always these sentences,
always these scraps,
always these combinations
always this confusion
always rome, always vienna, always trieste,
always lowell massachusetts,
or just at home,
always at home, confined within our own four walls,
or even in the beloved golden light
of san francisco,
that we know only from hearsay,
as the computer program confirms.
all that men want is to spread
their seed around,
i hear a woman saying on the table next to me,
women only want security
and they even want the copyright
on men’s semen.
it’s saturday morning,
i’m reading the weekend edition
in the café tyrolis
and i can’t help but hear,
i don’t look up,
and i’m not particularly interested,
but somehow it drifts across to me,
because somehow it always drifts over,
i don’t know why.
perhaps because of the copyright,
which has been nagging me
book in hand and all alone
i walked one night
the long way from the bowery
into 454 w. 20th st,
to linger in front of this silent house for a while,
opposite the red brick church,
before walking back,
past the corner of 7th avenue,
on to penn station and into my hotel,
where i fell into bed, exhausted and happy.
a sentence in a book
who does it belong to?
the shelf it’s standing on?
or the paper it’s printed on?
what do you think?
what about ownership,
are sentences the same as
cabbages in a vegetable patch,
that can be attributed mostly to the gardener?
or do they belong to the person,
whose pot they’re cooking in?
is this something you ever think about?
does it even interest you?
god is never on the side of the perpetrator,
but always of the victim,
my friend, the buddhist, said
after we had spent all night
whiling away the hours
in various bars in the railroad viaduct.
could god be seen as a perpetrator,
we asked ourselves as the night progressed,
could all this shit actually be his fault,
we say, talking over our early morning drink.
of course, we also knew:
the later the evening, the more beautiful the guests.
that’s the truth.
so we went to the witch’s kitchen, where they say:
admission costs three hooks to the jaw and a knife in the back.
you can get cheap hot dogs with potato salad there
and when you leave,
and get home
your wife knows,
exactly where you’ve been
because you stink of fries and rancid oil,
but at least you don’t have a knife in your back,
which I guess is progress.
in the same way that you haven’t had a wife for some time now,
because everything’s going to be alright,
as the lord our father keeps telling us.
since my separation
i’ve been chasing something
or running away from it.
this entry sticks in his head
for quite some time, for he
doesn’t know which way to turn,
wandering from one bar in trieste
to the next,
only to end up in the san marco.
he takes a seat across from where
giorgio voghera always sits,
and where by coincidence one of his sisters
is immersed in quiet conversation with claudio magris.
he can’t understand a single word,
and that feels good,
not only because he’s had too much to drink.
phoneme and grapheme.
do sentences have a gender,
breasts or an ass?
are syntactic structures genetic occurrences,
can sentences cancel each other out
or should they just be swallowed?
it is clear that when a sentence fossilizes,
its job is done.
it returns home.
as long as it still lives in us,
it is not dead.
dead sentences are ash in our heads,
there is plenty of space in there for that.
a viennese german philologist uses these metaphors
in a celebratory address
about the baroque in austrian
literature after the second world war.
near rome in the park aviary
i seriously try
to put pen to paper for her
to write about
my childhood and the disease of my youth,
just as i’d promised this hopeless love
on the telephone.
but as i write
self-pity and the gravity of it all have me
firmly in their clutches,
so much so
that nothing worth reading
could possibly come out of my writing utensil.
perhaps i should get together with victor
and his computer after all,
i’m left with this thought in the park aviary,
where the screeching birds in the wind
sound like rusty bicycle chains.
where can you travel when you’re single?
where can you go on your own?
where can you stay all alone?
where can you go to kill time?
in truth, you never travel alone,
there’s always some alter ego tagging along,
searching for excuses as you make
your travel plans.
at least the child-ego
and the parent-ego are always with you.
in fact, a whole busload of egos,
a multiple ego trip,
never budging from the group,
the brochure pokes fun at
who don’t even notice,
because they’re so fixated on the price.
hopefully the strain of traveling
won’t be too much for any of the egos,
is the thought,
as the organism
stands at a blue metallic bar,
the mind wandering to far-off cities.
it’s late, the town is empty.
heading for home,
thinking it would be nice
to have someone waiting there,
someone to lean on,
without having to talk,
because when we reach a certain age
we can’t expect too much,
which is why night-time TV keeps us company
as we drift off to sleep.
i’m not quite ready yet,
standing in the plaza
outside the internal revenue building
where at this time of day
the world is still all right
i greet other night owls,
who I’ve known for a very long time.
we smile at each other knowingly,
there’s no need to speak,
a nod says it all.
always these money worries,
always out of cash,
always in overdraught,
always never free from it all,
always never solvent:
it’s such a shame,
such a shame,
laments a poet
after his trip to rome
one day in café katzung.
changing the topic:
what about the chosen narrative:
rising above things.
the plot: pure invention.
the characters: very complex, not always authentic.
the subject matter, the motifs, the locations of the plot,
all finely woven, well thought-through,
not a letter too much,
not a sentence too few,
no chapter wasted.
in a nutshell: enchanting
all in all.
though perhaps rising a little too much above everything.
otherwise a work
not to be sneezed at.
i understand only too well,
that women find me impossible to live with,
after all, i find it
impossible to live with myself.
in the same way that i
don’t trust a single soul,
not since i realized,
i can’t trust myself.
i can’t trust myself.
i learned that from my grandfather.
just a quick question though in between:
what does christmas mean to you
and doesn’t every day mark the advent of a new year?
phoneme calling grapheme
we really don’t want to know
what will become of them.
but damn the syntax,
and those stupid phrases about
and having a polished style,
scipio slataper said for posterity.
i much prefer the kind of writing
that’s all over the place,
because writing, said scipio, must be
a barbaric act,
how else can it come from a torn and broken soul.
soon after he himself went off to war,
and a bullet
extinguished his light.
i’m firmly planted with both feet next to my life,
says my friend hubert by the village square,
as he slips off his shoes
and stands next to them.
we find ourselves in some sleazy joint.
as he gets up to go,
one of the patrons says:
i’m leaving you and all your misery behind me.
oh god: why can’t i
live this love,
worship this woman,
taste her skin,
kiss her mouth,
feel her body,
look at her through dreamy eyes,
go dancing with her,
stroll through the city hand in hand,
know she’s lying next to me at night,
booms a slightly ageing gentleman
from the stage of the local theater;
choosing to miss
the second half,
the spectator leaves the theater quite deflated.
five years have passed since they broke up,
before descending into the subway
and traveling to the roma termini,
taking the commuter train
into the suburbs,
where he treats himself to a portion of spaghetti limone,
the words still lingering in his memory,
giving him hope again.
and now for the retrospection
from the roman days:
at the age of nine, a child was admitted
for surgery to the university clinic
to correct a squint.
an author starts
jotting down the text with a pencil
in a large notebook.
colorful fish had been painted
on the ceiling of the children’s ward,
and after the dressing
was removed from the child’s eyes
three days later,
he saw each of the fish double.
the author pauses,
something inside him refuses
to write on about diplopia,
or double vision.
he puts the notebook to one side,
goes into the kitchen,
his friend and his girlfriend
are cooking spaghetti.
how are you getting on with your piece?
the friend asks, offering him a glass of wine.
it wouldn’t be so bad, replies the author,
but i’m having problems, getting my hand
to write it. there’s a block inside me,
even though i only have to write it down.
i know how you feel, says the friend,
maybe it’ll get easier
after a glass of wine
and some spaghetti limone.
by avoiding society,
you step outside society,
and standing outside society
is the essence of beat, says jack in the bowery
to his friend john clellon holmes,
who appears to take it
more seriously than kerouac,
after all, he’s in the middle of the go manuscript,
which appears two years later
and amazes jack
and prompts him,
in a three-week sprint to the finish
in the confines of 454w. 20th st
to type his fourth version of on the road
onto a forty-meter long tele-typing roll,
all in one go,
sweating his way through a dozen t-shirts
and doped up with benzedrine
i just bought a notebook
and a fineliner, because you never know
which letters will be blown
your way during the day.
besides, i still write best
sober, out in the street,
in my head and without a pad,
these lines i write on a postcard
with my new black fineliner and i send them
in the 16th district of vienna.
at any rate: the linear storyline is
as much an invention as the right angle.
in real life neither exists.
which is why both seem so false
and none of the greek temples have right angles,
i hear a voice piping up in the passenger seat,
on our way to trieste.
never trust an architect
who embraces right angles,
my father used to joke,
but he would know.
does life unravel like a story,
like a narrative,
or is it just a fiction of the desk,
the poet at the café central asks me.
why are you putting that question
to me of all people?
ordering another small
beer and a chaser to follow,
because i don’t want to go home
to my tv.
what’s the view of the office worker?
my friend continues to probe.
when will this idiotic syntax,
this shit grammar finally end.
when can we finally just write and write,
without worrying about commas and punctuation
without the dogma of the sentence
that sits well,
polished on the grindstone of schoolbook grammar.
that’s all that remains of the evening
with the poet at the café central.
the yelling and bawling arrive on paper,
without the germanic shackles,
without the nooses,
without the orderly rows
all in tune, spouts a youthful poet
in the beer garden, beer mug in hand
in front of his colleagues,
who find his speech highly amusing,
and certainly don’t take him seriously,
for all he has are a few photocopied poems
none of which have been published.
when will the phoneme finally find the grapheme,
beyond the desks,
who’s the spitting image of
and while we’re on the topic,
he continues wearily,
the old joyce who uttered obscurities
to his surroundings,
was the best joyce
there ever was,
even though it doesn’t matter anymore,
because it was so long ago.
i’m thinking of my distant unknown heritage,
of my ancestors and their background,
this is typed with grim determination
into the computer
which constantly crashes
because too many programs are hampering work.
but they’re all necessary,
because anything could happen
and you have to prepare
for all eventualities.
more than twelve hundred years ago,
the text continues,
migrated from the coast of the Dutch mud flats
down into the mountains.
the reasons can be explained.
the potato or spud,
it was said in grandma’s kitchen,
was the blessing of the earth.
the potato as the epitome of life:
full of expectation in the spring,
when the seed was planted in the soil -
full of melancholy in the autumn,
when the wonderfully sour fragrance
of the burned potato plants
lingered in the air
over the village
and the potatoes disappeared
into the cooling cellar rooms
and a sense of calm
descended upon the
grandma’s strict gaze still
she, the guardian of the filled storage rooms.
with those bad eyes,
that double view of the world,
it was bound to go wrong in the end.
as grandma’s world was dissolving
and after the annual trips
to the united states,
to lowell, orlando, northport,
that dark place,
san francisco, monterey, san pedro, salinas
and back up to northbeach,
it was all years ago
and the bitter memory
of the deaths that catch up with us:
jack micheline, kathy acker, jan kerouac, ray bremser, richard
brautigan, john wieners, gregory corso, buk, philip whalen,
from one moment to the next
the clock just stopped ticking,
though time marched on.
and so the yearning for trieste
becomes more understandable,
not only because it’s closer,
no, it’s the sea,
the bora from the lowlands
the scirocco blowing up from the sea
and the idiocy of the irredentists,
in a very different way:
just a word about art.
perhaps you could help.
my research program
who was the first to sign a work of art?
where did it happen?
was it the start of manic individualism?
could you do me a favor and
send appropriate suggestions in confidence
to the publisher?
all the best for your past
i wish you on new year’s eve.
and we know from political circles
in china: indicate left and go right,
my writing must be more pleasing on the eye,
a voice nags me deep from within
echoing around my study,
you must understand that letters
emerge from flesh and blood.
the question is:
how are they infused
with flesh and blood,
once they’re on paper?
always be on your toes
always stay on the scent,
like urs mannhart in luchs.
filling letters with flesh and blood
is the author’s responsibility,
or so christoph simon
tells me with an ironic smile.
sitting on the veranda in front of my house,
drinking cheap schnapps,
he throws a quick sketch in his notebook,
to avoid using letters.
christoph knows of my scientific efforts
in the realm of copyright,
so he avoids
writing anything down in my presence.
weeks later he sends me
a sheet of paper with a drawing,
which he calls the portrait of the alphabet.
on ponte rosso in trieste - where
for my own entertainment
i start searching for reasons - i suddenly
realize my hero is an irredentist for women,
rejected and exiled, although he himself
had always thought of fleeing,
like this city,
whose longing represented a redemption
that it never got to grips
though it was to add to its uniqueness.
anyway while standing on ponte rosso
i come up with the following summary:
like a drunkard,
my brain cannot
deliver identical images,
as the health report on tv
but this information
is too much of a platitude,
to be pursued any further.
many years later, in late summer, i’m standing
in trieste in an antiquarian bookstore in the old jewish
quarter and i ask the sales assistant:
c’è il libro il segreto dell’anonimo triestino, per favore?
and the young sales assistant
looks at me astonished,
goes to a shelf, grabs the book
and just as i want to pay,
he stops me and says smiling
è l’ultimo ed è un regalo
at times mozart’s music can really
get on your nerves
making you appreciate schönberg,
says an old member of the vienna boys’ choir
during a boozy evening of mulled wine
and chestnuts just north of merino.
great art, he continues,
always seeps through the cracks,
concludes his old school friend franz schuh,
whom he greatly admires.
but on ponte rosso it suddenly occurs to me,
after eating a pizza,
why i feel drawn to trieste,
pulled toward the old and new harbors,
and to muggia,
back to the sea.
it must have something to do with my ancestors,
who left the sea twelve hundred years ago,
only to end up in the mountains,
and whose longing pervades my organism.
otherwise the pull of the sea would not be so strong,
and so my thoughts wander
as i cross ponte rosso in trieste.
after twelve hundred years i still
can’t get used to the mountains,
i tell a fortune teller in fassergassse in hall,
who doesn’t know what to make of this information
gazing out of the window pensively for a very long time,
across to the bettelwurf mountain.
to break the silence,
i tell a story
that starts like this:
i never really liked stories
such as these,
such as the one
about my uncle,
who kept a piton and a carabiner
in his room
showing them to all his visitors,
because they had once saved his life
when mountaineering on martin’s rock face.
stories like these give me goose bumps,
if i could i would erase these tales
from my memory,
but that appears impossible,
if you know,
what i mean.
send me a postcard
when you are feeling down,
just to make me feel a little better.
because we know
what people are like,
without having to point
for me trieste is a climatic compromise,
i tell veit heinichen in his vineyard
above the bay of grignano.
we drink plum schnapps,
his favorite tipple
in the schnapps department.
he’s always working hard,
has little time to spare.
he originates from swabia
and knows nothing of pirates and seafarers
in his ancestry.
even so, he still lives in trieste.
by the way, one should add,
we are told
that novels can only be seen
as fossils from a bygone age.
no sooner has this quote been read,
to which veit heinichen incidentally laughed
out loud, than peter is
sitting at a small marble table saying:
i’m having unbearable withdrawal symptoms
from the chemo…
the waiter brings him a bottle of beer
and peter says in a meek voice:
as of now i’m no longer here,
or part of my body.
the doctors are extending its sell by date.
then a patron gets up,
in a hurry.
leaving his drink,
he goes out
into the square,
and suddenly a thought springs to mind,
that the i in a book
and the i in life
are two completely different things.
but to know that
you don’t need
a literature degree.
grasping it, of course,
is different again.
how can a story continue?
or in other words:
how can a story begin?
do stories come down
from extraterrestrial transmitter stations,
operated by agents?
messages from distant galaxies?
is a pencil stroke on a sheet of paper
a message from unknown occupying forces?
or as my son klaus once asked,
cereal bar in hand
at the seiser alm,
while a busload of german tourists
marched loudly past:
dad, how does it work with all those letters in our heads?
is that where they’re given meaning,
or where does the meaning come from?
and when a member of the group asked
if they were on the right path to schlern,
my son shrugged his shoulders,
the tourist walked on and
my son asked:
what did that man want?
did you understand him?
in the restaurant that evening
our pizza margherita tasted extremely good.
by coincidence the german tourists were
in the same establishment and it got very rowdy.
it was so loud that we went up to our room,
we didn’t even turn on the tv,
soon fell asleep,
despite the noise from the tavern
does a phoneme contain a narrative?
and what about a grapheme?
it all happened twice,
it was all double,
once and then again,
as if to accentuate.
can drive you round the bend,
once you are
aware of it.
there was never just the one tree,
there was always another,
slightly off to the side, slightly above,
while someone burst into tears
full of anger and sheer desperation.
why has god sent us such an abundance
of ways to drown our sorrows
in bottles, in flasks,
to help us in such moments,
to help us over the worst,
to stimulate us to the point of calm again,
for we know,
all will be well again,
as is written in
the handbook of wine connoisseurs.
whenever he was involved
with other people, and he was often
involved with many people,
as we know from neal cassady,
sexual acts were always
part of the proceedings,
just like his grotesque talk,
his wild, associative writing,
even the way he washed his hands,
it was all the same,
which is why his affairs,
which can’t be described as such,
never really bothered me.
he always had female acquaintances
and was always out
says carolyn cassady in london
on the phone to a journalist
from san francisco.
that’s just the way it was,
that’s how i see it today.
as soon as i think of my childhood,
i say to a friend one day,
driving through the via carducci
in the fiat in trieste,
i think of hierarchies
in the following way:
preschool: on the ground floor,
elementary school: on the first,
high school: on the second floor,
conference room and CEO
right at the top.
let me repeat:
i don’t want to tell a story
the reason for which
is a story in itself.
in our catholic religious education
in my home parish we were taught:
god brought us misery and suffering,
god created disease and famine, because he loved us so much.
god created our sighs and our melancholy.
god created everything, the heaven, the earth.
this is why it was better not to smile,
or rejoice because you would only have to pay
god created the pope and the pedophile priests,
god pervades the screams of the wasting and the wretched,
god cast us into ignis purgatorium,
so we would feel hot and cold,
because he was well-disposed to us.
this is why today i worship the briars and the stones,
the grass and, above all, the ground,
the earth and the depths of hell,
because i was taught to love god above everything else.
my god, my god, what have you done to us,
we hear the delirious moaning in hunoldstraße, innsbruck
and in 57th st in ny.
just a thought to sprinkle over dinner:
how does the phoneme reach us?
and how did it become a grapheme?
was the grapheme modelled around numbers?
or can’t you see it like that?
even if you take a scientific approach
toward the whole thing?
just carry on reading
it doesn’t matter anyway,
as far as the story’s concerned.
how are you?
how goes it?
your single kids?
and your lovely wife?
back to the question:
are you talking about my lover?
or my wife?
since when did you stop
since my last cigarette.
i know thirst is worse
as dad always said and
one night i swayed through the town
all on my own
and i knew
i was struggling with seven problems:
monday, tuesday, wednesday etc.
none of that has anything to do with the wind,
i think, and thank you my dear surgeon
from riedering near rosenheim,
thank you for removing an unnecessary growth
from by body,
which for so long
was believed to be
the best form of prevention
against prostate conditions
is jerking off,
told his patient
on his rounds.
i miss you so much,
it’s hard to get used to the idea
that you’re opening your legs
for another man.
but i’m glad, very very glad.
how heavy is the earth?
how vast is my imagination?
how strong is the force
of the wild river tumbling into the valley,
writes slataper in his Karst book
waiter, another drink please,
we shout in purgatory
for our general entertainment.
we also like those
we don’t like,
as long as they’re good,
amidst the tumultuous applause at the gav
in the old forge,
while schönauer whispers in my ear:
what and who is good,
is known and decided only by others.
if i have to go,
if i have to stay,
that’s how easy it is
to get rid of me.
the irredentists really believed
they would be delivered, if their flag flew
over the bay of trieste.
in a tavern there were brawls
and bloody noses
and to calm their nerves
the worried mothers were told
it was all about justice,
put forward your men.
father was proud,
even though he said nothing.
after our separation we would
often bump into each other,
which was a great misfortune,
a man wrote on a piece of paper
in a café in trieste.
i tried to absorb this love,
i was moved to tears
over the knitted sweater,
the wrist watch,
that was supposed to mark a new time,
but we cannot slip
out of time,
so i find myself in trieste
without really knowing
what to do with myself.
the sheet of paper
is folded up and
shoved into a trouser pocket, while
the tourist strolls along the harbor road,
and not far from the aquarium
boards the ship to muggia,
where he knows some chess players,
who while away the hours playing
but what happens to the sheet of paper
in the trouser pocket?
a question one could ask
but to which there is no answer.
but one thing’s for sure,
no-one will ever see it
later the man tells the woman,
for whom he had written those lines,
that it was pleasant,
to be alone, above all, in trieste.
i don’t know what father was thinking,
when he brought me into this world,
i sometimes muse,
says an old school friend.
he must’ve been thinking something,
surely to god,
i ask myself time and again.
we are not of this world.
bawling this line,
we swayed down the bowery
on our way back to our hotel,
where a handful of night owls
encountered us with friendly smiles,
because they assumed
we were harmless tourists from Europe.
sentences soar into the attics like swallows
reads the motto of an unpublished poetry book.
and behind every successful author
there’s an excellent editing office
or so they say on wall street,
as we politely informed
the friendly police officers near a tree
in 454 w. 20th st in new york
in our tyrolean accents.
they obviously had no idea
why we happened to be there
but that’s of no consequence.
especially for the guardians of the law.
here’s looking at you kid,
says the bored flaneur with the
panama hat on merano promenade.
you know when you’re old, my father often said,
when you can see the work to be done
but you’re too tired to do it.
how is it that this thought
shoots into his head,
even though he only has eyes for the pretty girl
who has just caught his attention.
oh, how my heart aches,
when i see the bottom of my glass,
sing the patrons from außerfern,
far away from home, devilishly high spirited,
which seems unusual for the alemanns.
language doesn’t go through
the mouth - we all know that.
rest gently in the barrage of fire,
walter says to me in the bar.
today red, tomorrow dead,
just to stay on topic:
what about copyright?
who has the rights for the potato
and all the letter combinations that go with it,
who owns the math genus?
who does it belong to?
who gets paid for it?
are we a community
or a pack of individualists?
asks the blasphemer fred in anichstraße.
i’ve taken the first step
to stop smoking.
i no longer buy cigarettes for myself.
do you mind if i
help myself to yours?
in the german philology department
a new author reads out
a freshly penned text:
the full stop – madness.
the question mark – pure chaos.
not forgetting the paragraphs,
does time have a shore?
where does space implode?
do we only have the past?
where is where?
or in other words:
do we believe in the where,
like we do in the now
that doesn’t exist?
or does it?
but where are we now
we have nothing under control,
says a voice over the loudspeaker
in the manicured leisure park.
days later we’re sitting in the bixby canyon
near san francisco, a terrifying gorge
with a magical cabin,
in which not only henry miller
penned his oranges novel.
but that was several years ago now,
which is why we no longer talk about it,
but sail over to the us one
where at 8pm, on friday 7th october 1955
in fillmore street, san francisco
a sharp new, straight-forward writing -
a remarkable collection of angels
reading on one stage was billed.
philip, mike, allen, gary and another philip
electrify the audience.
the stage in the background,
a drunkard sways with his wine jug,
shouting out go, go, go,
spurring on the poets and the audience,
while we leave the event early
to go for a chinese.
where we see a poster,
referring to today’s charming event,
with a small passport photo of kenneth rexroth,
who we’ve just seen,
weeping at the poetry.
the time in tyrol alone
did me the world of good
i went to the seiser alm,
and the schlern,
i took a room in vinschgau.
as you know, i really wanted to go to trieste,
but the storms were raging there,
so i stayed in tyrol.
the communists reduce people
to sausage rolls,
the catholics to the afterlife,
the football coaches to tactics and stamina
for survival on the pitch,
the terrorists to murder and underhanded attacks,
the rebels to a better life on earth,
we learn in the daily paper,
when we start reading between the lines.
but experience tells me
i shouldn’t trust the rebels,
who move into the palaces of those they have overthrown.
just think of the kremlin, just think of castro,
just think of pinochet, shouts michael mcclure
quite beside himself in the café vesuvios in san francisco,
just round the corner from the city lights book store.
come on michael, says the rotund
diabetic jack micheline over a beer,
write another song for joplin,
give it to manzarek, so he can sing it
for all eternity.
how right you are, says michael,
who wants to visit gregory corso
in north beach.
but he isn’t at home,
he’s hanging out
in a few magical bars
with his son max.
by the way i’d like to wish you all
a great weekend,
i hope you all stay respectable
and don’t make any kids.
we know the story of the wheat and the chaff,
the adventures of weeds,
the misery of mass murderers.
there comes a time when you have to call a spade a spade.
but: it’s no good,
there’s no point.
why are you always so vicious?
are you driven by dark thoughts,
one word on its own is strange enough.
sentences need a context,
entire stories leave those eyes,
on the road in my fiat
kernöl und schilcher by r.p. gruber on the back seat,
where the kid’s car seats used to be,
past the priory shrouded in fog,
to me it’s franz kafka’s castle.
at its foot i stroll through
the town and hear:
buy some lottery tickets, your heart will win.
i’m back in my fiat,
thinking of the funnel cake,
i ate at the tavern
run by r.p. gruber’s in-laws.
i was sitting under the vine
and as i ate the cake i heard a crack
and my bridge had broken.
which is why i’m traveling with a gap in my teeth
i will never forget
that funnel cake.
i sit in my room, alone.
tomorrow no work,
it’s the weekend.
no-one’s said they’re coming.
just in case i hang
a sign on the door:
i’m here, but i’m not.
and i feel i’m in heaven.
ah, america, i don’t know you.
i’ve only visited you a few times.
you are rich and equally as dumb and
you have had glorious days,
but you brought the mushroom into this world.
your guilt is as endless
as route 66 is long,
always pops into my mind,
with all the crazy folks,
back, far back in the rockies,
where the dreamers can sing kaddish all day long,
but one day
america, you will have to change your ways,
even though i’m here just as a tourist,
just to have some fun,
on my way through minnesota toward duluth
to hibbing high school and back to sturgeon lake,
where years earlier i taught
a hoard of kids to canoe,
then on the greyhound to minneapolis,
to see corso lying in his daughter’s apartment
on his death bed.
what should i do?
which way do i turn?
after all, there are children involved.
why can’t i cope.
these are the sentences,
that will tide me over
again this week.
small steps to begin with:
go to bed early,
don’t lose contact with the outside world.
and to sum up:
it could work, but it won’t.
i could but i can’t.
i’d like to but i won’t.
although it all happened such a long time ago
it will never let him go
it will stay with him till the day he dies
one day this line appeared in a short story
and caused quite a stir,
because it was written
without a comma and without a full stop
no capital letters
not pleasing on the eye.
this may not have been anything new,
but some thought it unusual,
especially for those who knew
the man who
has since passed away.
so many people before me
have survived death
and so that it makes me think
i might survive it too,
my deceased father always used to say
usually on quiet saturday afternoons,
while listening to the request show
with margit humer-seeber
and the song
heimat deine sterne,
which moved my father to tears,
by the memory
of his time as a prisoner of war in russia,
when the russians on an icy cold christmas night,
played the song over a loudspeaker,
to break them once and for all.
the whole camp cried,
it said in the family book,
but in all those years
back at home
sounded as moving
as it did
as a prisoner,
father always said.
what was that story
did we hear you right?
or is it you just spinning one of your yarns?
about something you cobbled together from a time
that never existed for us?
nonsense! was the answer,
it still doesn’t really matter.
just don’t trust your ears
or your eyes.
god only knows
what happened there.
reuters has released an exclusive report,
we heard on the radio,
about a japanese company
buying up the german alphabet.
apparently, the deal is worth millions.
the association of authors has protested, saying
you can’t treat language like a commodity.
oh, and what language will they
use in the sales contract?
that is still under negotiation, they say.
at any rate, the writers have
threatened to stop writing,
if the letters of the alphabet really do
fall into japanese hands,
they will boycott the alphabet,
the bulletin states.
at the conference
planned a series of counter measures
including a completely new alphabet,
to escape the stranglehold
of the japanese multinational.
the separation he was told he’d never get over,
opened his eyes
to many beautiful things.
the hardest thing was that
it was as if it were happening every day.
it wasn’t until his wife’s lover
put a gun to his head
in an alleyway
near the hospital
that this separation became more exciting.
this event was actually
the only thing that made him happy,
that he was proud of,
even though he’d never told a soul.
because no-one had wanted to listen.
one thing’s for sure,
there are loads of good stories out there
but not many good listeners
and what’s the point of a good story
if it disappears in a puff of smoke
in a forest
as romantic as this
thought may be.
but as i was saying
there are too few listeners
to a good story.
and i’m one of them.
destroy me, annihilate me;
but don’t leave me alone,
gianni sighed in trieste,
when he and his brother
volunteered to go to war with the irridentists,
to fight for a new homeland.
which the brother never saw,
gianni, on the other hand, died an old man
which he saw as an evil twist of
no, no, it can’t be
that so much pain in this world is for nothing,
he had once wanted to write
on a slip of paper for his mother,
before descending from the opicina into town,
past the lighthouse,
where he bumped into
the young poet serra on the street.
serra once wrote in a poem:
when war comes, he will come too,
when the time is ripe,
for man does not
as the two greeted each other
serra ran his fingers through his hair,
then they went their separate ways.
soon after serra fell near podgora
hit by enemy fire
and gianni returned to isonzo.
run, says the soccer coach,
run for all you’re worth.
that’s the austrian tactic
as our national team
suffers a glorious defeat.
but you can’t wallow in your problems
day in day out, says the concrete cutter
at the bar
after the game,
after all, we’re austrians
and well used to defeat
and anyway i’m set up for a great night
with one of my lovers.
six months later he buys himself a new work car,
with the advertising slogan:
a man and his saw fight for survival!
if you don’t go with the times,
says our boss,
you will go with time.
i feel uncomfortable in my own skin,
even if the statistics tell us
that the average driver
spends three years of his life
the church, a voice says in the back alley,
has a strong stomach,
and since his hemorrhoid operation,
if nothing else,
at least he’s a healthy asshole.
i weigh one hundred and ten kilos,
therefore i am.
things aren’t like they used to be though.
when we would charge into town
and dance the fertilization dance,
are now well in the past.
just like the days
when the day began at nightfall.
no one leaves the room without moving,
shouts hubert in his cowboy hat at the tiger inn
to all the regulars,
his pop gun drawn and
the friendly smile of the world in his face.
a man stands at home at the front door
holding his hat and briefcase,
if he’s just come home from work
or is just going.
he can’t decide.
there are more cranks in the world than chinese
it says in the encyclopedia.
relationships only damage those
who don’t have any,
it is said.
since owning a cell phone,
i always feel
like i’m carrying a payphone round with me.
waiter, another round please, we’ve been saying for days.
apropos: are we already at war
or just in the casino?
a bewildered corporal asks.
when i’m at innsbruck christmas market,
i’d rather be at the one in bolzano,
and when i’m standing at the
mulled wine bar in merano,
i picture myself in
the city of mozart.
why is that?
whilst wondering whether
he should look up a shrink
to shed light on his childhood.
table dances are cheaper in the four roses,
but your neighbor watches on from the next table
and gets his pleasure that way.
in the new snake no one watches on,
you’re just not allowed to touch them, the women, that is.
but you can’t do that in the four roses either
say the housewives at the bébé
over a prosecco in the evening.
husbands are for money
and the backdoor man is for love,
chuckle emancipated women in the coffee house one morning.
is of another kind.
fascism can only be fought with turbo fascism.
money with even more money.
madness with even more madness.
cars with even more cars.
and if you own a house,
the others should get five more
rows of houses,
whole landscapes filled with houses
this is the only way resistance works,
says heinz knowingly.
owning nothing just like hc artmann
and being courted
like a baroque poet
that’s all you need,
because i don’t understand
anything more about life
how are you?
how was your night?
are you out?
when will we see
each other again?
i miss you.
i’m thinking of you.
at last i can write to you again,
though i don’t know where you are.
oh god, why did it have to be this way?
i was walking at twilight
wondering where you would be right now.
for a moment i felt sure
death isn’t real.
i really hoped
we’d share many more years together.
i miss you,
you are still within me.
when will you finally leave me,
when will you disappear from my life?
are we the imperfect part of god?
are we all that is evil, the scum of the earth?
are we the mistake in perfection
or in other words:
are we the fools of this whole divine
what do you think?
i’m just saying.
i don’t expect an answer.
sometimes it’s good
to keep quiet.
is the universe one big cinema screen,
showing our flickering lives,
the lord our father
can amuse himself by watching our clips
for his own entertainment,
to pass the time of day?
my head is a confusion of thoughts,
as i stumble out of the bebe
and start moving toward the tax office
there i find the bus stop, mulling over
the barkeeper’s parting words.
i can’t work them out.
but it’s late
and there are so many things
mortal man doesn’t understand.
what can i get you?
a large or a small beer?
a small beer please,
a small one is big enough today.
why, i ask myself,
are sentences ignored?
don’t they have their own raison d’etre?
do they just mumble on?
i start thinking,
while in trieste
taking the boat
i know a former boxer there,
who always has
good beer in the fridge,
and a whole host of better stories.
now it’s official
on a red park bench:
i don’t want to meet any more sentences,
especially not those
that march in at the top of their voices.
i no longer need a bauhaus
and can do without bookshelves.
what sentences should i use
to get me through the week?
why don’t the ones i have
seem to be enough?
why don’t they seem adequate?
why is talking to people
such an effort?
is it because of my strong medication?
the following sentence
was sprayed in red paint
onto the wall of a house
in the city center:
wealth requires poverty…….
early one evening in february
i happen upon it
and am baffled by the seven dots
added on the end.
it’s one of those wonderful moments,
when the streets are dusty,
and everything’s bathed in a pleasant blue light.
what’s this claim all about?
i find myself asking.
is someone trying to seem important?
what are comments like this about?
and more than that:
what do we do with them?
when the machine’s running smoothly,
it spews it all out:
who, in heaven’s name, put it there?
did they want passers-by
to feel guilty?
and then there’s the question,
the question of the seven dots
sprayed at the end of the sentence.
are the dots the point of interest,
the clever part of this assertion?
what was the sprayer thinking
when spraying on the dots?
are they a provocation?
a question mark?
was he trying to put wealth and poverty
whose wealth? whose poverty?
wasn’t he just talking about material things,
material wealth, material poverty?
do the dots allow the interpretation
wouldn’t actually be happier,
if everyone had a full belly
and a roof over their heads?
was the sprayer thinking about that?