“I’m emotionally autistic…” (lines I just found from April 2012) [Collating Smatterings of Memoirings (6)]

Suddenly, the other day, I found this file. I’d already given up on finding more smatterings of memoirings on my hard disk (it turns out I haven’t done all that much memoiring), and suddenly this showed up. I’ve read it a couple of times now, and I think it adds some info & does a little more than that. It’s in lines (of “verse”), a form I often like to write in. Is it poetry? Maybe, it depends on how you define “poetry”. Is it good poetry? Maybe, & maybe some of it is & some of it isn’t. I don’t know if it matters. It’s another picture of me (as this brief intro is too). Was I planning to continue the story from where it breaks off? Possibly, I don’t remember. Will I take that point as the starting point for a sequel? Possibly… Oh, & I’ve also added two links to two previous memoirings…

 

120414
I’m emotionally autistic, & like a hermit, she tells me,
& it’s probably, given my history, post-traumatic,
how I don’t keep up contact with friends past or present,
might not initiate contact with my sons if she didn’t
don’t wake up one morning thinking
maybe I’ll do this or that with a grandchild
(she no longer mentions how not open I am with her
or not interested enough in her… she’s no longer frustrated
about that as she long was…& I can see it & feel it, & know it’s true,
(though I think it’s also arche- and stereo-
typically heterosexual-masculine)
& am grateful for this light she has given me.
120416
Though i’m glad when they come or when we’re where they are,
& gladly talk with them & do things with & for them when they want to,
i only rarely spontaneously imagine something to initiate with them,
& even more rarely will myself to.

120414 (cont.)
& only yesterday I was thinking displacement,
my so-many displacements since I was three,
not easily forming attachments or making friends
& when I did & then left them because we moved again
or because I’d broken with them,
hardly ever keeping up contact or even remembering them,
an early strategy for living with separation
ever since we left my loving grandmother in Warsaw
as the German bombs were falling.

yes, she said, & not having much contact with my parents before that,
both too busy with each other & their business & their socializing
(& I can’t even remember the carer I know I had all those first years of my life.

& yes the need was there, & I think I found in the youth movement a lifebuoy,
& again in later years, in the hippie times,
found a way to gather with some people around me,
& again in the Inyan, with only a couple of friends, true,
but visions of a global comradeship…

& I now think maybe it’s the autism
even more basically than the displacements
that affects also my feelings of not really belonging
to any one place, one country, one culture,
as if what I adopt & am adopted by I cannot adopt fully
as evidently I cannot fully commit emotionally
(which I stress, because where it matters practically I can and do)
not feeling fully Australian though Australia’s my home,
for more than a decade this third time around.

the first time I came with my mother when I was 10,
we arrived in Melbourne, Jewish refugees from Shanghai
I was by then no longer in any way Polish,
& from the time in Shanghai when I knew we were Australia-bound
I actually refused to speak to my mother in Polish
so that she could learn English quicker
(& have not spoken or felt Polish since, though I still remember
quite a few words, some opening lines of songs,
as of the national anthem, Jescze Polska nie zginęła,
“Poland is not yet lost”, well – it’s long lost to me).
I of course never thought of myself as Chinese, how could I have,
& the only group identity I accepted then was my being Jewish,
& though there was nothing of Judaism as a religion or of Jewish culture
in my parents’ lives, they had sent me to a Jewish school in Shanghai,
& my father spent the last year of his life
dying in the Shanghai Jewish Hospital,
as all the skin peeled painfully off his flesh
until he was swathed in bandages head to toes
with only his mouth & eyes & nostrils visible…
& died there on Yom Kippur (while I, 9, was praying
in the synagogue, because, yes, I tell the story elsewhere,
he also introduced me to the synagogue
after my parents found my rosary with its golden crucifix)
& was buried at the Shanghai Jewish Cemetery

& we lived in Elwood, St. Kilda, then again Elwood, St.Kilda,
then deep in South Caulfield for several years,
until at 23, after about a decade of membership & involvement,
belonging, to Zionist youth movements,
not one, but three, moving in dialectical leaps from right to left,
from the right-wing, militaristic Betar
(“The Jordan has two banks. This one is ours, & the other is too!”),
to the moderately socialistic Habonim
to the Marxist revolutionary-socialist Hashomer Hatzair,
including a year and a half of preparation for kibbutz living
on the Hebrew Training Farm some miles from Mooroopna
& some years of organizing and group-leading in the movement,
I boarded a ship bound for Genoa, hitchhiked for a few months
around Europe & then took ship to Haifa
to join a kibbutz in the Negev that the movement
had selected for the first Australian contingent
of which we two were the last, to join the kibbutz
because that was the ideal I then believed in & wanted to work for
more than to join the comrades who had arrived there before me
or rather fusing all these in the need to belong…
but almost three years later I no longer believed in that
& left the kibbutz, but not Israel, still feeling more Jewish than anything else,
and also thinking here’s a place where I don’t have to think about being Jewish,
I just am & so’s almost everybody else…
& all those years in Israel I couldn’t feel fully Israeli either,
I’d sometimes think of myself as Australian, but also felt I wasn’t….

the second time, I came with my wife of 16 months, also to Melbourne,
mainly to be near my mother, she wasn’t well…

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Some poetry gleaned while Collating Smatterings of Memoirings (2) / From 1987: GOOD BE WITH YOU …

When I imagined, made, & posted the ‘for / the good of all /& for / the goodness in all’ this morning, I had no memory at all of this piece (of which there is more in the file I copied this from)!

GOODBEWITHYOU

Some poetry gleaned while Collating Smatterings of Memoirings (1) / From 1987: “For Nitza”

spg from1987

_F_o_r___N_i_t_z_a

“What’s this? A poem?
“You’re working much too hard.”
“This isn’t work, it’s poetry.”
“I hope you’re writing about me.”
“Not tonight, my dear.
“Well, now you’ve asked, maybe I will.”


Thank you for the hot tea on your way to bed thank you for
lighting
my electric blanket thank you for being there, loving,
warmthgiving

mother dove
girlfriend love

you know: though all my memories
of scenes do blank
this I joyingly know

you are around me inside me beside me
also when I don’t remember

you

soft crystal
warm diamond
maybe
earth of my tree, tree of my earth
tho not
sea of my sky, nor sky of my sea

for my sea is humanity & my sky is its sky
as they’re yours,
partner

in this cell
of the world to come.

4.

let me tell you about the world to come let me
the world to come is the world that’s coming
now. Ev
ry now.
It star
ts with
CREATING
& not
looking                        here
back in                        we’re
anger or
forward
in angst
or seek
ing the A
lpha or O
mega. It
begins with the closed beginning open ended B_e_t_h of B_e_r_e_i_s_h_i_t_h_, G_e_n_e_s_i_s
which we’ve turned around, heading east as the earth rolls
westward, ho!

here
is where
we’re
at

going into
the world
that’s coming

& that’s all
I want to say
about it

midwinter midday torakina beach brunswick heads nsw +61 / 2017/7/14: 11 windowphone pics, & 11 lines

torakina coll

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After long absence, cane in hand,
made my way across the sand,
climbed some rocks, sat on a rock.
Ocean calm, surf break in this cove
maybe six inches high,
can’t bodysurf any more,
but bodysurfed enough
for my lifetime,
couldn’t stay long
with the chilling wind,
but stayed long enough.

Grenfell Tower, June, 2017: a poem by Ben Okri

grenfell
[copied (without permission) from Financial Times, June 23, 2017]

It was like a burnt matchbox in the sky.
It was black and long and burnt in the sky.
You saw it through the flowering stump of trees.
You saw it beyond the ochre spire of the church.
You saw it in the tears of those who survived.
You saw it through the rage of those who survived.
You saw it past the posters of those who had burnt to ashes.
You saw it past the posters of those who jumped to their deaths.
You saw it through the TV images of flames through windows
Running up the aluminium cladding
You saw it in print images of flames bursting out from the roof.
You heard it in the voices loud in the streets.
You heard it in the cries in the air howling for justice.
You heard it in the pubs the streets the basements the digs.
You heard it in the wailing of women and the silent scream
Of orphans wandering the streets
You saw it in your baby who couldn’t sleep at night
Spooked by the ghosts that wander the area still trying
To escape the fires that came at them black and choking.
You saw it in your dreams of the dead asking if living
Had no meaning being poor in a land
Where the poor die in flames without warning.
But when you saw it with your eyes it seemed what the eyes
Saw did not make sense cannot make sense will not make sense.
You saw it there in the sky, tall and black and burnt.
You counted the windows and counted the floors
And saw the sickly yellow of the half burnt cladding
And what you saw could only be seen in nightmare.
Like a war-zone come to the depths of a fashionable borough.
Like a war-zone planted here in the city.
To see with the eyes that which one only sees
In nightmares turns the day to night, turns the world upside down.

Those who were living now are dead
Those who were breathing are from the living earth fled.
If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.
See the tower, and let a world-changing dream flower.

Residents of the area call it the crematorium.
It has revealed the undercurrents of our age.
The poor who thought voting for the rich would save them.
The poor who believed all that the papers said.
The poor who listened with their fears.
The poor who live in their rooms and dream for their kids.
The poor are you and I, you in your garden of flowers,
In your house of books, who gaze from afar
At a destiny that draws near with another name.
Sometimes it takes an image to wake up a nation
From its secret shame. And here it is every name
Of someone burnt to death, on the stairs or in their room,
Who had no idea what they died for, or how they were betrayed.
They did not die when they died; their deaths happened long
Before. It happened in the minds of people who never saw
Them. It happened in the profit margins. It happened
In the laws. They died because money could be saved and made.

Those who are living now are dead
Those who were breathing are from the living earth fled.
If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower
See the tower, and let a world-changing dream flower.

They called the tower ugly; they named it an eyesore.
All around the beautiful people in their beautiful houses
Didn’t want the ugly tower to ruin their house prices.
Ten million was spent to encase the tower in cladding.
Had it ever been tested before except on this eyesore,
Had it ever been tested for fire, been tried in a blaze?
But it made the tower look pretty, yes it made the tower look pretty.
But in twenty four storeys, not a single sprinkler.
In twenty four storeys not a single alarm that worked.
In twenty four storeys not a single fire escape,
Only a single stairwell designed in hell, waiting
For an inferno. That’s the story of our times.
Make it pretty on the outside, but a death trap
On the inside. Make the hollow sound nice, make
The empty look nice. That’s all they will see,
How it looks, how it sounds, not how it really is, unseen.
But if you really look you can see it, if you really listen
You can hear it. You’ve got to look beneath the cladding.
There’s cladding everywhere. Political cladding,
Economic cladding, intellectual cladding — things that look good
But have no centre, have no heart, only moral padding.
They say the words but the words are hollow.
They make the gestures and the gestures are shallow.
Their bodies come to the burnt tower but their souls don’t follow.

Those who were living are now dead
Those who were breathing are from the living earth fled.
If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower
See the tower, and let a world-changing deed flower.

The voices here must speak for the dead.
Speak for the dead. Speak for the dead.
See their pictures line the walls. Poverty is its own
Colour, its own race. They were Muslim and Christian,
Black and white and colours in between. They were young
And old and beautiful and middle aged. There were girls
In their best dresses with hearts open to the future.
There was an old man with his grandchildren;
There was Amaya Tuccu, three years old,
Burnt to ashes before she could see the lies of the world.
There are names who were living beings who dreamt
Of fame or contentment or education or love
Who are now ashes in a burnt out shell of cynicism.
There were two Italians, lovely and young,
Who in the inferno were on their mobile phone to friends
While the smoke of profits suffocated their voices.
There was the baby thrown from many storeys high
By a mother who knew otherwise he would die.
There were those who jumped from their windows
And those who died because they were told to stay
In their burning rooms. There was the little girl on fire
Seen diving out from the twentieth floor. Need I say more.

Those who are living are now dead
Those who were breathing are from the living earth fled.
If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.
See the tower, and let a world-changing deed flower.

Always there’s that discrepancy
Between what happens and what we are told.
The official figures were stuck at thirty.
Truth in the world is rarer than gold.
Bodies brought out in the dark
Bodies still in the dark.
Dark the smoke and dark the head.
Those who were living are now dead.
And while the tower flamed they were tripping
Over bodies at the stairs
Because it was pitch black.
And those that survived
Sleep like refugees on the floor
Of a sports centre.
And like creatures scared of the dark,
A figure from on high flits by,
Speaking to the police and brave firefighters,
But avoiding the victims,
Whose hearts must be brimming with dread.
Those who were breathing are from the living earth fled.

But if you go to Grenfell Tower, if you can pull
Yourselves from your tennis games and your perfect dinners
If you go there while the black skeleton of that living tower
Still stands unreal in the air, a warning for similar towers to fear,
You will breathe the air thick with grief
With women spontaneously weeping
And children wandering around stunned
And men secretly wiping a tear from the eye
And people unbelieving staring at this sinister form in the sky
You will see the trees with their leaves green and clean
And will inhale the incense meant
To cleanse the air of unhappiness
You will see banks of flowers
And white paper walls sobbing with words
And candles burning for the blessing of the dead
You will see the true meaning of community
Food shared and stories told and volunteers everywhere
You will breathe the air of incinerators
Mixed with the essence of flower.
If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.

Make sense of these figures if you will
For the spirit lives where truth cannot kill.
Ten million spent on the falsely clad
In a fire where hundreds lost all they had.
Five million offered in relief
Ought to make a nation alter its belief.
An image gives life and an image kills.
The heart reveals itself beyond political skills.
In this age of austerity
The poor die for others’ prosperity.
Nurseries and libraries fade from the land.
A strange time is shaping on the strand.
A sword of fate hangs over the deafness of power.
See the tower, and let a new world-changing thought flower.

Ben Okri and Deborah Levy are organising a writers’ event in London to raise funds for the survivors of the fire and relatives of the victims. We [FT] will inform FTWeekend readers of the details in due course.