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A Dead Hospital and a Brazilian Café
Jan Oscar Hansen [Pick the date]
Poems, senryu and vignettes 1
This new blank page, a word processor page, I cannot touch. I ought to leave it this way, just look at it and dream of what I could have written on it. If I delete the words I have written now, it will be blank again, no history, no crumbled up sheet of paper in the wastebasket. For now it is too late but I might erase it when I come to an end. My wife was in Johannesburg once for surgery, being born in Congo but light skinned and travelling on a Portuguese passport, she boarded a bus for the blacks. Great consternation, she was told by police to go on the white only bus since she was Portuguese. Racism and anti Semitism are so stupid, it makes no sense, one race thinks it is superior to others. Now it is the Moslems who are feeling the surge of ignorance. We want them to be more like us and not Insist of doing their own things. In Israel, for instance the European Jews feel vastly superior to Arab Jews, This in a state that is an artificial construct . The culture of Europe in the Middle East. We know Israel, as it exist today must come to an end. So there I said it, this white virtual sheet has been befouled by an opinion no one wants to know about. So what do I do know? Erase this page so it is blank again and I can write about the moon?
I live in a cottage that is 350 years old, wish I could have seen a ghost, because I believe they exist. When I moved in here part of it had been a stable and on warm nights I can still smell hey and the mule that lived in what is now my living room . When I first came here ancient voices emitted from the walls, people who had lived her before had toiled the soil and lived in poverty. One cannot erase the history of past generations where people had lived, even if their physical bodies are no longer here but their souls remain and speak to us if we care to listen. The cottage seemed content that someone had moved in, no house likes to be abandoned. New roof, plastered wall voices subsided and waned altogether, yet on this hot night I do hear sighs, smell the mules sweat. Is it my imagination only if I see the contour of the animal and see a man stroking its head? And talking softly.
How to write a Novel
I like to write a book, any book as long as it has my name on the cover. A one day course, how to write a novel. The course leader, a published writer, wore a long dress but I could see her ankles, they were beautiful and much younger than the rest of her. Dyed, red hair, face very pale, presumable from sitting in all day writing how-to books. Beginning, middle and an end, yes, like life, capricious in the middle, the ending tends to write itself. Sudden endings are best, run over by a bus, or a train crash, where cell phones go on ringing in the broken interior. Then silence. Long ending are best being avoided, hospital bed pages after pages, endless days, exhausted relatives. Lovely ankles, did she paint her toenails red? She wore flat shoes sensible for any woman over fifty. Classroom empty, they had all gone out for lunch, I went to the pub and stayed there. Beginning, middle and an ending, what more is there to know?
The Field of Mortality
On a field, not far from here, I see millions of lit candles in long rows, but only at night; in daylight it is a potato patch. A man, you may call him god if you like, walks among the candles every so often he stops and with his thumb and index finger snuffs out light; the skin on his fingers are corned from this arduous work. Behind him new candles spring up, sometimes he turns and go back waste some of them too. He is heading for the part where the candles have been burned out, only the wick flickers. He uses he thumb to bump them off; a spiral of grey smoke in still air. He is old as time, sometimes he misses candles that keep on burning, although they have no wick. As dawn begins, behind the easterly mountain, the field of mortality turns into a potato patch again, where an old man is harvesting spuds.
Cityscape, skyscrapers and hazy, smog filled sunsets; streets full of brilliant red and white car lights. No one sleeps here. A postcard of New York? The big apple, wormholes, steamy air, big shows and never mind that, admire the city as manmade art. Prosperity, everyone can become rich here, even a bus driver can, if he saves all his money and live with his mother, collect her pension long after she s dead. Go to Nevada, I knew a man there, who won money on a lottery ticket and bought a horse, he s a poetry cowboy now. This proves there is no need to go to New York to make it big. With luck you can make it everywhere and get to ride a horse too.
Saturday Night in Blue.
The house key was on the same ring as my car key, couldn t find them I had locked myself out. Car neatly parked I never drink drive, the bar is nearby. I broke a window in the back, got in. Blinking light outside: police telling me to open the door, I did, was wrestled to the ground. At the station they came to their senses, let me go, but refused to drive me back, since I smelled of booze and only had myself to blame. Long walk home, bars had shut. Climbed through, the same broken window, the keys, on the kitchen table. I uncorked a bottle of wine, opened the front door, just in case, no one came, I went to bed at dawn.
Where the Northwesterly Blows (memory of a town)
In the small park with gloomy trees, near where the factories used to be, was a bust of a man s image on a plinth. I think it was made of bronze, the head was brown when not striped white by seagull droppings. Mother said he had been a Mesèn; she liked using odd words, desperately trying to keep afloat in a world of tinned sardines in oil and mackerel in tomato sauce. I took it to mean a rich man kind to working people and had donated this sad little park surrounded by damp factory walls; a place where the workers could sit and enjoy the sun. The park was only open Saturday Afternoons and Sundays, one couldn t have people sitting there during work week. A child climbed over its fence and drowned in a tarn of green algae. The park was eradicated, just as the grim factories were thirty years later. Life was bleak in my town, one neon lit advert, on the night sky Jesus Saves. Competing with the stars, and a persistent rumour that the man in the suit shop wore ladies underwear.
A Country for old Men
I have been into town bought a paper and drank a beer, in the café where the old men sit in the afternoon shade. I feel more at ease here amongst other wrinklies. On the other side of the road, near the pharmacy, the big clock on the wall tells us it s five and the temp is 41 Celsius, but in the shade and with a breeze blowing it feels fine. In a few years the big clock will tell us that time is up, but others will come and take our place. There is a vast pool of us in deaths ante room; we are but tiny ants on a window pane so easily squashed by a child s thumb. I sit in the shed, see how cigarette smoke spirals up and out before dissipating in still hot air, and thought of the silent sighs I heard when a beautiful girl walked past our café. We shall never possess anything as lovely again.
The Red Necktie.
He woke up, fully dressed but minus his tie, on a lumpy hotel bed It was a down and out sort of local, the last semi civilized place before sleeping rough. It reeked of sadness and stank of depravity. He switched on the TV news, during the night a woman had been brutally strangled with a tie. His heart sank, he sweated, stabbed by fear but he couldn t remember a thing, total black out; yet he vaguely remembered angry voices and someone running in a back alley. Should he ring the TV channel and ask what colour the tie? Or should he call the police and give himself up? His tie was green with black dots on. There was rumbling from an old fridge in the room, he opened it in the hope of finding a cold beer . No beer, but wrapped neatly around a bottle of whisky, a red silk tie.
The Educated Stranger
His dark eyes no longer smile, always well dressed, he walks rapidly through town; speaks to people but only briefly, and mostly about the weather. Often he disappears for weeks, drives from town to town it is as he is looking for something that he will only know what is when he finds it. His family, travelling folks, a close knit society he accidently broke out of when he was persuaded to seek higher education, he became different. Travelers journey and he saw his people disappear In a haze of road dust. A natural business flair, he made money so he could retire early, and live in a big house. His eyes scan the horizon, looking for the irretrievable.
Summer and a Dog
Pure sunlight on a forever blue sky, wasn t there s a song by Cliff Richard about Happy Summer Holiday? Beaches full of laughing people. Yes, I remember it well. Out of the sun glare came an emaciated dog, lost, it must have walked for weeks, but in the summer light no one had seen it. Near the houses it collapsed under a bush, I brought some water, left it alone. When the shadows got longer I brought food for it too, but it didn t need food anymore. The villagers came, no, no one had seen this dog; an untold suffering had come to an end. Wrapped the dog in a plastic bag, put it in the bin by the road. The sun was blood orange now and shadows so deep that we could see again. Too much sunlight is blinding.
13 After the Occupation
Spring, the Nazi occupation of Norway had ended and after great jubilation, the grey everyday began. Shops had little to sell and tobacco was hard to come by. Mother was ill gave my sister and I, a tin box and sent us to the park to find cigarette butts. We removed the paper and put the tobacco in the box. There weren t many butts about so we added a bit of dry horse manure. Mother got more ill, very pale and thin; she had tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium. My sister and I thought she was ill because of the horse manure, so we went to the police to turn ourselves in. The police officer said we had been naughty children but gave us cacao to drink and a slice of bread each with a thick layer of margarine and strewn with sugar. Heaven! When mother came back she got a job in a fish factory putting sardines into tins, and could just afford to buy a little tobacco now and then.
An occupation s Aftermath
When an occupation ends it is always the little collaborator who must bear the brunt of peoples thirst for revenge. The waiter, the baker, and the barber who had worked for the enemy and found it practical to be members of a party they knew little about. Those who had built airports and roads for the foe, suffered not, too astute to be in the Nazi party, they were businessmen who also employed workers who, otherwise, would have been on the dole. Women got the worst treatment, those who had slept with the enemy, dragged out of their houses, spat on and had their hair shorn, many were raped too. For a time no women dared wear short hair in case people would think they were prostitutes. The waiter starred at empty tables, the baker had no flour to make bread, did he eat cakes? The barber had to cut his own hair, but not too short. This lasted to 1950, better time beckoned and all four services were again needed.
Aliens, Have They Landed?
To escape the heat of my feverish mind I went to sleep under the bed, years of dust, like resting on the inner feathers of a sparrow hawk. Awoke; to an empty village. Drove into town it was desolate too. All living creature had disappeared in the night. I hollered: Halloo, is anyone here? my echo rolled up and down streets and back alleys till it found an outlet in a sewer and never heard of again. True loneliness is to be the only living man on earth; who is going to bury me? I drank beer in a bar, glass after glass till I felt sluggish and fell asleep on a bench in the park. When I awoke it was afternoon and people were back, I was just a drunk sleeping it off in the park. Not so hasty now, the people I knew didn t identify me and I knew they were clones. They acted clumsily as not familiar with arms and legs, spilling beer and dropping cups of coffee on the floor. To avoid being found out I appeared ineptly too bumping in to things. And we laughed, agreed that in few days we would be used to our new bodies. Yes, the aliens have landed they look like us, but I m still safe under my bed.
16 The written and Unwritten Law. (stealing)
There are many laws, some are unwritten. To thieve is a criminal offence, especially if you rob a bank; the police will use all their power to catch you. They usually do. This because the robbers have done the planning, the break in, but have forgotten how to get away with the loot, say, put it in a safety box, in another bank. Not splash out on a new car and buy champagne for everyone at the local bar. If a robber offered me champagne I would refuse, fizzy drinks, makes me dizzy and I laugh hysterically at everything. I would, however, accept a pint of lager. When bank robbers get caught, they become famous, magazines write about them, they are legendary and admired. This is an unwritten law. If you must steal, safely, nick from the poor, say, Aunt Nelly s savings, the cash she keeps in the tin box on top of her kitchen shelf. The police are not going to waste time on her, but tell the poor woman to put her money in a bank. If you a small time crook and get caught, the sentence will be light, but people will hold you in contempt. This is an unwritten law too.
Social Equality, Who Needs It?
Haiti is now a democratic state, it waits for private contractors to come and clear debris off streets and rebuild. Alas, it is also strewn with broken promises of the many nations who pledged money for rebuilding, but time is hard now there is a recession going on Haiti will have to wait a bit longer; but they have got the freedom to be poor and elect politicians who are acceptable to USA. The western world is bringing democracy to so many these day, thousands of people are killed in its name. Bombs explode where they have never exploded before, what s wrong with those people, we have offered them freedom? Why do they try to kill our soldiers, why don t they just roll over and play dead? In the world s sandbox. We, the occupiers bring hamburger joints and obesity, isn t that a proof of success? Democracy, what does that word mean other than exploitation of the impoverished, and the freedom to vote for and elect politicians the west approves of? Or could it be, god forbid, (who s God?) that democracy has failed to set the people free?
Afghan valley Three British soldiers killed Beautiful poppy fields.
Relentless war bug Spreads from land to land Torched is earth.
Drone find target A Taliban leader killed His ten children too.
NATO s policy plan Help oppressed Afghan women Cast off the chador.
Sunset in Nagasaki
Forty years ago, in Nagasaki, I was watching a carnival procession, through a window inside a bar. Most applause got men, dressed as nuns, waving crosses about. I think they were mocking Christianity. Shocked? Only mildly so, but I had another beer and tried to forget about it. Yet a feeling of hurt prevailed, like they had been mocking my culture and its value. My annoyance didn t manifest itself by wishing to burn down buildings. Death of Japan My god hadn t her people suffered enough. The Danish drawing of Mohamed with a rocket for turban, was not remotely funny and I can understand the wroth in The Muslim world, mind some of the anger was stirred and political. On a wall, near where I live, I saw a drawing of a gallows, on it hung the Star of David, that wasn t funny either. Perhaps I have lost my sense of humour I must go look for it under burning bushes.
Five hundred thousand troops fought in Sahara in world war two. If each one evacuated once a day, why didn t Sahara bloom?
I have tried to paint the sea, a thankless undertaking, a brush stroke of pink washed off in seconds. Paint will not stick. I saw the sun painting the sea orange and golden; the colours never lasted. A bucket full of black paint can last for hours if the moon hides behind a cloud. But you can t tell nature what to do. Swiftly, black turns into electric blue, even worse, grey. I have tried to put the sea on canvas, late at night, but it ends up looking as asphalt on a road going nowhere. You have no talent, a voice sniggers, when I fight against the elements and insist on being an artist who can catch the sea and forever let it be still caught in my headstrong frame. A painting on a wall breakers crashes on cliffs, dripping paint on my floor. Sea foam stuck to tiles in the morning, turpentine, smells of incompetence. The sea appreciates my willful need to be loved by it. What folly, me! I have thrown away my pencils and palette, leave seascapes to the sun, or failing that a Turner is good enough for me.
Dancing all Night
The street where I lived was long, houses on both sides where people gasped behind laced curtains. I walked the same street last night after going home from a dancing restaurant. I waltzed with a girl who said she loved me, I realize now she had said she loved dancing, I had been happy going home, singing loudly waking up the neighbour hood. I tried to hide inside my overcoat, at last I turned a corner down a road with shops, where I ran a cafe selling soft drinks, hotdogs, burgers and tea. Walked past bar that opens early, I ignored it, remembering a lady who had said I was a nice man, a pity I drank so much. Ten o clock, I opened at eleven, but had to prepare stuff and do a bit of cleaning. Ten to eleven, tried to roll a cigarette, but tore the paper into shreds. This will not do walked to the bar, a double whisky and a beer; got out of there, ten to twelve, chewing gum, struggling to look sober. I worked hard for hours, till my hand began to shake again. Empty cafe I quickly shut. Screw it all, unrewarding business; a man needs a break.
One mouse, One Hundred Mice
In the shed; sat drank whisky at ease with the world, a mouse came out, from the back where I keep useless stuff. Intrepid, I gave it bread crumbs. Ten baby mice came out, this could not go one before I knew it there would be hundreds of them; where was Mr. Mouse? A pail of water, the tiny ones drowned. Took mother mouse into a field and let it lose. In my dream mice everywhere, up my nostrils in my ears and drowning in the soft tissue of my brain. I went looking for the mouse; the field wasn t that big, from thorny bushes a falcon, with satanic glint in its eyes, flew in its claws the mouse. Blood dripped from the sky into my eyes I could not see fell into a dry well where I was smothered by tem millions baby mice. Morning, looked for Mr. Mouse it was drunk from drops of whisky left in the glass. It attacked me; bit my index finger before throwing up and falling asleep on an oily rag. When I came back into the shed it had fled into the unexplored back where I keep futile things like golf clubs that may be useful as weapons, one day, when we are trying to save the world by nuking it back into the Stone Age.
First Time in the Antilles
I walked through to certain street in Hamburg once, the harshest place on earth, giggling youths fortified by ale, clean shaven sailors on shore leave and pathetic old men seeking love of the coldest kind. In shop windows women sat, soft light to hide their snakes shed skin, looked at ogling men with glacial contempt; yet smiling, wriggling showing their wares. A knock on the side door, curtains hastily drawn, but only for a few minutes, this was a place for business, no time to waste on dalliance and talk. This was North Europe s on its very worst and I dreamed of Curacao. Glowing skin, white teeth, big lips, ready laughter, and they had time to talk. It was my first time, didn t know what to do, she took over the navigation, but before the ship berthed, accident; she laughed and told the other women. Kind she, was let me try once more. Success, I was a man. We shared a cigarette and drank coca cola.
Moon and Poetry Reading
Moon is half full as is my glass of red wine, rays dance on its surface. I drink moonlight my blood is rich and strong, but when I exhale, rays seeps through my nostrils, like cigar smoke, and floats away. A giraffe walks past, leans over the wall and eat my flowers, I don t care roses have lost their colour. Free white wine at the poetry reading. I bet it is sweet and cheap. Canapés too should I get hungry? There is a lump of ice in my glass the moon has a cold surface, but no water for Ice, could it been dropped from plane taking burnt tourist and snap shots going home. All those matrons at the reading middle ages and plump, they want poetry to be romantic and about love. Maybe I will read poems about the end of love and impending deaths? Better not, they will refuse to invite me back, and I will not be able to stuff my pockets with pork pies. Midnight, moon and I are alone, I wait for ghosts to appear and disappoint me with their banality.
26 The Fado Singer
Our visitor was ninety two and could see far into the past and into a future that held no trepidation.
Unaided she got up and sang us a Fado about love that never lasts and the sorrow of defeat...
Melancholy, that s Fado for you, but it s also about how sweet love is, and the art of acceptance
She lives in the shadow land of an impending ending and what is new and timeless.
When she left she beckoned for me to kiss her, I bent down to touch her cheek, but she kissed my loveless lips.
I was enamoured, and her eyes was clear as heaven; a woman is forever a woman even at ninety two.
The Enemy Within. (capitalism)
It worries me, the economy; I watched a program about consumer buoyancy. Consumers, yes, that s us. If we only bought more useless stuff, changed furniture every two years, did ditto with fridges and washing machines, the economy will thrive, fewer people out of work and if we pay workers well they will become consumers too. I have this uneasy feeling we have got it wrong basing happiness on consuming, ignoring the future. It is as we don t want to know reality, the depletion of natural resources . Water will be the multinationals new riches; they will buy up all fresh water and sell it to us, like coca cola. They will even claim a cut of the rain that falls in your garden. On TV, they tell us how great they are and how much they do for us, gladly we lap it up. Capitalist system fails us it creates pools of poverty, people doomed to a life of want surrounded and harassed by gun happy police officers. Profit, a neutral word that doesn t echo of repossessed homes and poverty. We don t know how trade works so we leave it to multinationals, ogres who have bought all cemeteries, even in death! Have you not got the picture yet? Our political leaders and the economic elite are aliens, bent on destroying us, we fight their wars and think we fight for freedom. They make fun of us through the ballot boxes, as they are behind every political party. For them liberty and abuse are identical words.
Chicken, Jews and Arabs
On a wall was written: I m a chicken, chickens rule OK! Thousands of people come here from abroad to eat us, we don t mind that so much, they eat us in the name of love. I wonder if the Israelis love Palestinians so much they feel the need to kill them to satisfy a primitive urge to fatally embrace them in the name of infatuation.
I saw Jews stand on a knoll, applauded as Gaza strip was strafed. Soaked in blood the spectators went home and made love. Bloodletting, not your own, is good for sex. The Nazis loved Jews so much they killed a few millions of them, this proves that we should keep to killing chicken you can t roast a Palestinian or a Jew.
29 Long Voyage and a Chinese Lady.
Glittering ocean, there is no difference between the vast blue sky and the sea. I m in a bubble, there is no escape. I walk on a rusty deck know this voyage will never end. Time is reduced to a trickle. The ship is bound for Nagasaki but we will never get there. I feel a wave of dread, the difference between sunset and dawn is but a whisper. Magazines, books and old newspapers have been read and reread a thousand times, playing cards are filthy by overuse, I have fallen in love with the print of the green Chinese lady in the salon. When voices are still I sit and watch her and will her to smile, but she s inscrutable. Seagulls, the sea has changed colour, grey and foamy, air is no longer pure. Nagasaki has come to our rescue and saved us from mortal weariness. The city will dock alongside us in the afternoon.
A Brazilian Café.
The hotel where I stayed served lousy coffee, insipid and milky. I knew there was a Brazilian café nearby, on my way there walked past the closed down city hospital. Grey walls dripping of uncured diseases, graffiti and dead windows. Convert it into an office block, but who wants to work there, a place haunted by cynical doctors and indifferent nurses who stalk the halls at night waiting for their shift to end so they can get out from this place of horror, and patients they have lost interest in and can do nothing for. Tear it down and throw the debris into a gully. At the Brazilian café the coffee was strong and healthy; the staff, young, moved as dancers to the music in the background. There is much of Africa in the Brazilian soul, passionate, courageous; yet, sometimes, viciously moody. The girl who served me coffee, smiled with lips and eyes, her skin dark, glowing fit. And the sad hospital faded into oblivion.
Blast of open furnace Brings utter indolence An August day.
Bougainvillea moves in the wind of dead heat The only sign of life.
From a white wall Bluebottles drop ready fried On the terrace.
The wind too has died. Sun takes cruel revenge Curled up pale leaves
Behind the bushes Between skeletal twigs More bushes
Under the carob tree A lone mule sees tractors Its race s demise.
Beautiful horses Only the rich can buy one Mercedes, so common.
A tin of Sardines.
Mother by an assembly line putting tiny sardines into tins, a machine did the rest, a squirt of oil and a lid stamped on. Sardines side by side, in total darkness, wait to be eaten. But first of all the sardines had to be smoked, the smoker my mother s lover, he visited her every Sunday afternoon, and I was sent out to find a place that sold ice cream, even when it rained. Rusting sardine cans, littering the wayside, don t walk barefoot in the grass at summer time. Mother by an assembly line, putting sardines into tins, the smoker had another girlfriend now and I got no Sunday ice cream.
Air Travel in a Dakota (1956)
White as sheet, the virtual page in front of me, I want to compose a gentle whisper of a memory. Thought of my first flight, an old Dakota plane, that looked like a diesel stinking bus inside. I looked under the seat to find the parachute, but the steward said there weren t any. Disappointing I had seen myself jumping out off the burning plane land safely and be in the newspapers. The steward handed out sweets I pretended to eat one, thought it might be a drug to keep us quiet, this made sense since many of the passengers were drunk. Turbulence, like driving on a bad country lane, I threw up in a paper bag. The plane landed in Sweden, the flight had only lasted an hour. Walked tall across the grey tarmac, nonchalant presented my passport to an immigration officer. Here comes a seasoned traveler.
The Photo Album
An abject August wind, full of melancholy, blows, my siblings and parents are bones in the ground. Thighs, skulls and hip bones turning into soil and stories go untold. I close my eyes to see them but see only skeletons. Sepia photos in an album that s all what s left of my family.
How things have changed, my father I thought was very old, looks young. My mother, a film star, siblings are mere children dreaming of castles In the sky, I am their grandfather now. Christmas parties and weddings, I was not there the sea took my youth, the rest is a smile upon old lips.
Yellow butterfly Flits about the rose bush And life continues.
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