The border

November 19, 2019

The border is a line that birds cannot see. The border is a beautiful piece of paper folded carelessly in half. The border is where flint first met steel, starting a century of fires. The border is a belt that is too tight, holding things up but making it hard to breathe. The border is a rusted hinge that does not bend. The border is the blood clot in the river’s vein. The border says stop to the wind, but the wind speaks another language, and keeps going. The border is a brand, the “Double-X” of barbed wire scarred into the skin of so many. The border has always been a welcome stopping place but is now a stop sign, always red. The border is a jump rope still there even after the game is finished.  The border is a real crack in an imaginary dam. The border used to be an actual place, but now, it is the act of a thousand imaginations. The border, the word border, sounds like order, but in this place they do not rhyme. The border is a handshake that becomes a squeezing contest. The border smells like cars at noon and wood smoke in the evening. The border is the place between the two pages in a book where the spine is bent too far. The border is two men in love with the same woman. The border is an equation in search of an equals sign. The border is the location of the factory where lightning and thunder are made. The border is “NoNo” The Clown, who can’t make anyone laugh. The border is a locked door that has been promoted. The border is a moat but without a castle on either side. The border has become Checkpoint Chale. The border is a place of plans constantly broken and repaired and broken. The border is mighty, but even the parting of the seas created a path, not a barrier. The border is a big, neat, clean, clear black line on a map that does not exist. The border is the line in new bifocals: below, small things get bigger; above, nothing changes. The border is a skunk with a white line down its back.

Alberto Ríos
The Border: A Double Sonnet

Vampire

November 2, 2019

A writer who attempts in the nineteenth century to rehabilitate the ancient legends of the were-wolf and the vampire has set himself a formidable task. Most of the delightful old superstitions of the past have an unhappy way of appearing limp and sickly in the glare of a later day, and in such a story as Dracula, by Bram Stoker, the reader must reluctantly acknowledge that the region of horrors has shifted its ground. Man is no longer in dread of the monstrous and the unnatural, and although Mr. Stoker has tackled his gruesome subject with enthusiasm, the effect is more often grotesque than terrible.

The Transylvanian site of Castle Dracula is skilfully chosen, and the picturesque region is well described. Count Dracula himself has been in his day a medieval noble, who, by reason of his ‘Vampire’ quilters, is unable to die properly, but from century to century resuscitates his life of the ‘Un-Dead,’ as the author terms it, by nightly droughts of blood from the throats of living victims, with the appalling consequence that those once so bitten must become vampire in their turn.

The plot is too complicated for reproduction, but it says no little for the authors powers that in spite of its absurdities the reader can follow the story with interest to the end. It is, however, an artistic mistake to fill the whole volume with horrors. A touch of the mysterious, the terrible, or the supernatural is infinitely more effective and credible.”

Review of Dracula by Bram Stoker – The Manchester Guardian, June 15, 1897

crave fresh blood

October 27, 2019

Impurity springs from the patient sin of your hands. But you could care less. It is obvious in the brightness of your eyes and the faint tremor of those expectant lips. Tenderness bleeds away with the darkness. You crave fresh blood. And a single burning glance sends the wolf away in the night, howling for mercy from the cold, unforgiving moon.

P

Sweet Sixteen –

October 17, 2019

At sixteen you can’t purchase a knife or cigarettes. You can’t buy alcohol or fireworks. You can’t get a tattoo – without parental consent. You can’t take your driving test for a car, nor can you joint the armed forces without parental consent. If you reside in Wales you can work full-time at sixteen, but in England you must stay in some kind of education or training until the age of 18. You can’t place a bet, and under-18s cannot usually claim benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support. Also, many DVDs and Video games can only be sold to persons aged 18 or over.

Oh, yes, you CAN register as a blood donor at sixteen, but you WON’T be called to give blood until you’re 17.

And yet some of our politicians want to give sixteen-year olds the VOTE?

Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I’ve no axe to grind regarding sixteen-year-olds. I was one myself once. What concerns me is the huge inconsistencies in what a sixteen-year-old can and can’t do – under UK law.

I feel certain that there are MP’s sitting today who feel ‘democracy’ is a menace – outranked in villainy only by public protest, revolution and coup d’état. A lowering of the voting age would be anathema to such people. They would prefer voting to be scrapped altogether, or at the very least the voting age raised to fifty.

I would ask: why lower the age to sixteen? Why not thirteen? Or Twelve? Eleven, even?

Politicians could then market themselves to the new electorate accordingly.

I would take great delight in seeing eleven-year-olds placing their cross against Dennis the Menace’s name on the ballot paper. Or Roger the Dodger. Or, even better, the Fix-it Twins – can you imagine a general election where Boris the Beetle ran as prime minister?

Wonderful.

There are politicians, of course, whose quest for power within the UK is equal to, if not greater than, Ming the Merciless’, the ruthless tyrant who ruled planet Mongo. This is especially true north of the border. Where Mung the Mirthless grasps continuously at straws, talking the talk but never, NEVER walking the walk!

However, that may change. If the voting age could be lowered to cover all those thousands of potential nationalists in kindergarten. Then things would be different – wouldn’t they?

Alas, most political visions are Unicorns, perfect imaginary creatures we will chase and never find. Yet still we walk on, face lifted toward these remote, inaccessible objectives, these Chimeras, and believe all will be so much different if only we could just touch them…

Nothing in domestic or international law forbids border checks between the U.K. and Ireland. Nothing in the Good Friday Agreement prohibits economic checks taking place between the two sovereign states that jut up against each other on the island of Ireland. The question of erecting physical infrastructure along their border is NOT a legal one, but a political one rooted in history, identity, and violence. Indeed, the Good Friday Agreement reaffirmed Northern Ireland’s legitimate constitutional place within the U.K. and, by extension, the border that exists on the island of Ireland between North and South.

the condition of women

July 25, 2019

In Europe, the women’s movement has done a lot to change their (women’s) position. Starting with civil rights and laws. Today, on paper, men and women are equal. Of course, in the shift from paper to everyday life, things aren’t so simple. It’s easier to change a law than an age-old mentality. Deep down, many prejudices, many hostilities, many fears persist. But if we take a look at all the peoples in the world, we have to realize that the condition of women is very backward and sometimes very sad, from both the social and psychological points of view. There are still countries where women don’t enjoy basic rights like the vote or the freedom to study or the freedom of choice in marriage. Every year there are twenty million little girls in Africa who are deprived of their sexuality through brutal genital operations. Basically, there’s still much to be done.

Dacia Maraini
The Silence of the Outcasts: an interview with Dacia Maraini
Words without borders March 2008

soul set in motion

March 23, 2019

For a poem is a mental affair: for its reader as much as for its author. ‘Her’ portrait is the poet’s state conveyed through his tune and choice of words;  a reader would be a fool to settle for less. What matters about ‘her’ is not her particularity but her universality. Don’t try to find her snapshot and position yourself next to it: it won’t work. Plain and simply,  a love lyric is one’s soul set in motion. If it’s good, it may do the same to you.

Joseph Brodsky
section IX of Altra Ego,
On Grief and Reason

Knife crime

February 12, 2019

Knife crime is on the increase in England. Kids carry blades for protection against other kids carrying blades. The police can’t find who’s carrying a knife without ‘stop and search’ – and the ensuing complaints of racism that follow such police activity means they do as little as possible. So what’s the answer?

Easy.

Parliament passes a law to ensure anyone under the age of twenty-five must wear (at all times while away from the home) a skin-tight leotard – no coat or hoodie. Also, any bag carried must be see-through! A knife, then, would stand out like a sore thumb, wouldn’t it?

Simple!

We live in a culture where violence or violent behaviour has become the norm. Violence is widely assumed to be the best way to resolve conflict. We witness it in the actions of government: the UK has engaged in almost one hundred years of conflict since the first world war, small wars with inevitably large casualty lists. Just to mention a few of these more recent military actions: Northern Ireland between 1968 and 1998, the Falklands war, the first Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afganistan, Iraq, Libya, Sierra Leone, the list is feckin’ endless, boys & girls – and we now have a Minister of Defense preaching confrontation with Russia! Was the Crimean war not lesson enough for these idiots – ?

Remember, kids learn by example. Violence begets violence. Confrontation is met by confrontation. Throw economic insecurity and hopelessness into the mix, then you’ll have kids on the streets carrying knives – so why be surprised?

A toxic mix of racism, austerity, societal deprivation and corporate greed is ultimately to blame for this situation. As a nation we should get ready to purchase and supply “free of charge” several millions of those skin-tight leotards – and thus eradicate the problem of knife crime for good! A fresh tax levied on squillionaires would easily cover all costs; but I suspect that any action engaged in by the government will fall far short of what is required. It’s more likely that Ryan Air will introduce flights across the Andes by green gulper frog than a UK Government will find a solution to this problem of knife crime. No, best the government continues to concentrate all its attention on Brexit – after all we don’t want that to end up in a mess, do we?

prototypical woman

January 6, 2019

Eve has long been advanced as a prototypical woman. There have been allegations to the effect that Eve was ignorant and easily duped into eating an apple by a wily serpent. She then used her feminine wiles to seduce her husband, Adam, into eating the fruit as well. In so doing, Eve is said to have brought about the fall of humanity. Men in Western culture have used this story for millennia to explain and justify the subservient position of females in society. They have claimed that women, like Eve, are easily duped into committing wrongful acts and should therefore be under tight control of their husbands or fathers. Many also view women as dangerous temptresses who will lead men into wrongdoing. To bolster this argument, they point to the “fact” that Eve used her wiles to get Adam to eat the apple. Men are thus urged to mistrust even their own wives.’ Similarly, women have at times been barred from testifying on the theory that they, like Eve, cannot be trusted. Women are also viewed as weak in will and in thought. People have pointed to God’s statement to Eve, “[Y]our urge shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you,” to explain and justify the argument that husbands should rule over all in their households, including their wives. Eve is the source and symbol of many of the negative traits assigned to women; the story of Eve has been used to justify the punishment of women throughout history. Given an opportunity to stand before a tribunal herself, it seems unlikely that Eve would be able to escape punishment.

[ .. ..]

More recent feminist interpretations of the narrative also take a more favourable or sympathetic view of Eve. One writer, while accepting that Eve committed a sin, thanks Eve for bringing about the desire to come closer to God and to improve conditions we face.’ Poet Miriam Oren “clearly admires Eve, portraying her as a model of righteousness, strength, and courage.” Anda Amir believes that Eve’s actions bring sexual knowledge and pleasure to the world, which she sees as a positive change.” Phyllis Trible writes that woman is the “culmination” of creation.” She argues that the serpent spoke to Eve rather than Adam because Eve was capable of engaging in philosophic and theological discussions, whereas Adam was not.” Finally, she sees God’s response differently than some other commentators. “They describe; they do not prescribe. They protest; they do not condone . . . . This statement is not a license for male supremacy, but rather it is a condemnation of that very pattern. Subjugation and supremacy are perversions of creation.”

Sally Frank
Eve was right to eat the apple: the importance of narrative in the art of lawyering

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, ‘The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her void. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

Pablo Neruda