I wrote the poem below yesterday, with the central line an allusion to something I had written a time ago. Not only did I find the original entry today morning, but I discovered, much to my amusement, that it had been written exactly 3 years ago.

At Home Again

my sobs ricochet
like glass breaking
in the empty hallway

the hanging coats
carve shadows
through the milky entrance glow

Oh, and see
What happened to the light!
She has curled up
exhausted on the floor

Her silver forehead
is a pillow
shuddering softly
on the heedless linoleum.

yet as she turns her head slowly
in teary pain
to look up at me, locked in anguish
suddenly, our eyes flash –

as if we could understand!

Oh, you gentle, silent Goddess!
your silver soul and I
caught in this poisoned well

– 5 November 2007

Epilog

Und wenn wir eines Tages
aufwachen – ohne Freunde –
vielleicht auch ohne Glück
Lass uns dann gen Himmel
schauen und sagen:
Macht nichts!
Wir verstehen uns!

– 5 November 2004

Classical favorites list

Schubert sonata D 959 Andantino
Schubert sonata D 960 in B flat
Schubert impromptu D946
Schubert impromptu D899

Scarlatti Sonata k213
Scarlatti Sonata k 518
Scarlatti sonata k 208

Bach Preambulum in C BWV 924
Bach Chaconne (Partita for Violin)
Bach Prelude in e BWV 853
Bach Praeludium in c BWV 934
Bach Goldberg Variations (perf: G. Gould!)
Bach Partita #4 in D maj. Allemande & Sarabande
Bach Musikalisches Opfer

Mozart Fantasy in d
Mozart Requiem
Mozart Piano Sonata in C maj

Pergolesi Stabat Mater

Chopin Ballade 1

Ein Versuch über das Glück I:

Über die Enttäuschung.

Ich spüre immer mehr, dass das prägende Wort in meinem Leben die Enttäuschung ist und dass ich dabei allmählich das Glück wiederfinde. Dieser Satz scheint zuerst höchst paradox zu sein, da die Enttäuschung normalerweise als Bekenntnis des Scheiterns gesehen wird, was ja ziemlich wenig mit Glück zu tun hat. Ganz im Gegenteil stellt der Satz aber gerade den Aufbruch zu einem frölicheren Verständnis her, der wichtige Facetten eines reflektierten Lebens vereint.

Das fröhliche Verständnis bedarf also Erläuterung. Dabei ist unser Anfangsansatz denkbar einfach, wir verlangasamen etwas und bedenken das Wort, worum es eigentlich geht, wohl im ursprünglichen Sinne: die Ent-täuschung. Eine Enttäuschung ist also eine Ent-täuschung, die Verlust einer Täuschung, also eine Rückführung in einen Zustand des Wahren, das heisst eine widergefundene Bindung zwischen zwei Punkte. Weil es um eine Verbindung geht, geht es um eine Begegnung und dadurch die Beendung eines Zustands der Einsamkeit. Die Täuschung, durch eine Tat, die immer unmittelbar vor ihr steht, begegnet das Wahre und geht zu Ihm über. Das Treffen von Täuschung und Wahrheit ist somit auch eine Versöhnung, zwischen uns und die Wahrheit. Wir spüren also in diesem Sinne den Anfang eines Glücks, vielleicht nicht gleich (denn wir verlieren ja die Täuschung!), sondern – und dies ist das Wesentliche – in der Gesamtheit. Weil uns aber jede Enttäuschung nur wenig weiterbringt, wollen wir so oft wie möglich ent-täuscht werden.

Nehmen wir also einen Schritt zurück. Wozu führt denn unsere Überzeugung – unsere Suche nach dem Glück, was eine ständige Begegnung zwischen Wahrheit und Täuschung nötig macht? Führt nicht unser Drang, diese neubekundete Liebe zum ent-täuscht Werden zur Apathie? Wiederum muss man sagen, vonnichten, ganz und gar im Gegenteil! Unser Liebe zur Ent-täuschung führt dazu, dass wir uns das Leben annehmen, die Ent-täuschung suchen, indem wir sie wollen. Indem wir die Mut haben, das Glück des Ent-täuschten zu suchen und uns als Ziel setzten, das Törichte, Gestellte und Oberflächlich-gemeinte aufzugeben. Wir wenden uns das Wahre zu. Und je mehr wir das machen, desto weniger werden unsere Enttäuschungen das Bild ähneln, das wir am Anfang von Ihr hatten. Wir werden sogar entdecken, dass auch die Situationen, wo uns unerwartet Gutes zustösst, ebenfalls Ent-täuschungen sind. Wir werden, falls wir dies erkannt haben, hoffend in die Welt hinausgehen, um das Wesentliche zu machen: leben, nicht nur, um zu suchen, sondern um zu versuchen.

Ein Versuch über das Glück II:

Über die Erfahrung.

Wir leben also nicht lediglich um zu suchen, sondern um zu versuchen: durch das Versuchen wird das Leben überhaupt zum Erfahrenen.

Die Wissenschaft hat panische Angst davor, während des Experimentierens das zu Untersuchende zu verändern. Unser Leben soll aber reicher sein als ein wissenschaftes Experiment: wir müssen gerade darauf achten, wie unsere Versuche auch verändern können, sowohl uns selbst als auch das zu Untersuchende. Erfahrung ist vor Allem die Beobachtung davon, wie unsere Versuche das zu Untersuchende zu verändern vermag.

Die so gewonnene Erfahrung ist Quelle der Stärke für das Leben; die Erfahrung ist eine von uns selber, für uns selbst gewonnene Erkenntnis, in form einer Historie. Diese Historie, wenn auch subjektiv, entfaltet dennoch auf uns eine unmittelbare Wirkung, die an sich nicht betrübend sein soll, weil sie den unmittelbaren Einfluss unseres Lebens und Versuchens auf andere offenbart, und uns, von uns gewollt, ent-täuscht.

Wieso sollten wir also versuchen? Wir sollten versuchen, weil das Versuchen unser Leben zum Erfahrenen Leben macht, und weil die Erfahrung, wie unsere Versuche das zu Untersuchende zu verändern vermochte, oft auch Glück genannt wird.

In my writing I cannot be honest. It is as if I were constantly caught in a maze of walls and moving mirrors… while I write, the walls seem to shift so that anything I have put onto paper soon seems at times ridiculous, overblown, pathetic or pompous; yet as I make myself to correct my fault, the mirrors again move and I hit a a wall that I was carefully trying to avoid a moment before…

European Beauty 4:

In Winter

I was at my best friend’s birthday party, to shake myself of her memory. It had been going well, I had met old friends of mine, and some of them seemed genuinely interested in what I had been up to the last one year. I was happy to fill them in on all the details: my trip to Singapore, the change of jobs, the new apartment I had moved in to a few months ago. Of course, I took great care to refrain from talking about Maarja, when possible. And when I did talk about her, I did so quickly, briskly stating the facts. Then, we ate dinner, and everybody chatted lightheartedly around the table. Yet little by little, just as inexplicably as the tide will turn, just as inexplicably did the others gradually seem very distant, and I found myself at the end of a long, illuminated table full of empty glasses, smudged plates and cutlery, with everyone else on the balcony, chatting in the warm, summer night. I stared at the group of my friends outside of the glass sliding door and was again struck by that immutable force, by that desperate, prodding question of whether she’d ever write back again. During the previous week, I would always feel my heart missing a beat at the office, whenever I got the audible e-mail notification; every time, I would check my mailbox and see that it wasn’t Maarja.

The last time I saw her had been in her little flat; I sat up in bed and lit a cigarette, as I watched her touching the giant window which looked onto the grey parking lot at the back of the apartment complex. Her eyes were set aloof into the night and I saw her breath condensing on the glass, like a halo in the moonlight.

Long ago, it had happened to me. My father would always take me to the hotel where he was seeing his new girlfriend; he would leave me in the shabby lobby while he went upstairs. There was nothing in the lobby, just an aging orange carpet, a rectangular, stained couch and a few firns with some leaves already dry. The afternoon sun would shine into the still scene, and I, the boy of nine years, would sit there, patiently staring into space, on the couch. Sometimes, I would get up and press my nose up against the window, and my breath would condense on the glass until the tears would come and my trembling lips would touch the hard glass.

She had told me she could not forget about him, though I had already felt her words before they came. She would go back to Estonia again. She was bathed in the moon’s silver glow. Her eyes had rings around them and her head jutted forward like a sleepwalker’s. She was clutching a bed sheet, otherwise she was pale and naked. Her curled little nose though, and her round face and long hair, that was still the same as the day we had first met.

I didn’t have a lot of friends in high school. Once, near the end, we had a class excursion to Oostend, a resort town at the western edge of Belgium, paradoxically. We had gone in the spring, when it was still quite cold. I don’t know who had had the idea. Near our hostel there was a sandy beach, and there was a great sort of pier made of dark, damp granite plates jutting about 50 meters into the ocean. So I walked alone to this place with my long overcoat, because the wind had been shearing relentlessly. The horizon had been obscured in a mess of haze and gray. So I picked my way down the pier into the sea, until I stood surrounded by the breaking waves and my coat flapped violently on my back. On the final slab of granite I stood, and I felt that I would somehow always be on that rock, and that things, as much as time passed, would never really change. It was not really a sad moment, more of a kind of revelation, and I saw myself from a distance, at the end of the pier, with my long, long coat flapping behind me in the wind.

She had been the shy one of the two girls who had just arrived from Estonia; I took a city tour with them in the winter, on one of those days that usually seemed remarkably silent, because of the snow slowly tumbling onto the rooftops, the gothic cathedral, the cobblestone courtyards. I had mostly chatted to her friend, who was a very loud, adventurous and sensual girl. Maarja kept in the background during the day of trudging through the city, but somehow we would approach each other, intermittently, again and again. When I saw her alone, which was quite often, I would go and talk to her. At the end, she asked me for my phone number, before parting. Her hair was golden, her skin healthy with freckled, red cheecks, her smile shy, girlish, yet omnipresent. It was clear to me as soon as we had parted, that all I wanted was to see her again. That was how it had begun.

I spent the first few years of my life in an unspectacular worker’s town in central Russia. It was before my father had arranged for my flying-in to Germany. My mother used to take me to a playground which was surrounded by five-story, crumbling gray apartment buildings. She would take me there, even in the winter, and we would build snowmen or have snowball fights, or just walk around singing in the courtyard, hand in hand, rocking our arms back and forth, with red faces and our breaths forming little clouds. The fresh snow would crackle underneath my little rubber boots as we marched around the tiny, enclosed kingdom. And then, one day, as I had been playing in the snow, I felt a sudden silence and realized that mother was gone. There weren’t many trees or bushes that she could hide behind. The buildings stood towering around me, and I had clear sight on every wall.The whole playground seemed to echo my running feet and my cries. Mama had just left me there in the snow, and no one in my family had ever heard from her again.

The week after we met, I had taken Maarja to the top of the cathedral tower, giggling and laughing the whole way, her face radiating red from running up the stairs. She clutched the safety grate on the top and looked out over the city at the setting sun. That was when we first kissed, and that was also when she first told me about her first kiss, with her childhood friend who had later become her lover. On the way home, we held hands and she told me she still thought of him, sometimes. She said it was over, but that he still loved her and that he was always trying to contact her. I felt her hand in mine, and I tried to change the subject.

I arrived home to my dark and empty apartment. As I turned the key to lock my door, I started sobbing. I walked along the unlit corridor toward the living room and gaped for air, my sobs growing louder. My eyes bulged because of the tears breaking out; I reached the dining table and my sobs became screams, and every time I inhaled my cries were a loud, rasping sound. I beat the table with my fists as the tears came down and my sobs just wouldn’t stop. I staggered to the cupboard, but ended up pressing my head, my lips against it as I felt my cries ricochet off the surface, into the darkness. All the time, I was not sure yet why I was crying; I had already known about the boy the first day. It was just that I felt something would again be lost.

I don’t have a lot of memories of the time when papa and mama were still together. How could I? I was very young. I do, however, have one memory. In the summer of 1983, we went to an orchard where you could pick your own apples. We had bumped our way up the road in papa’s Volga, a dirt road with a broad stripe of green grass in the middle; the road was surrounded by tall trees, but you could see between them into the distance of the yellow sunflower fields and the green corn. At the entrance of the orchard, an old man with a toothless grin smoking a cigarette swung open the rusty grates, and papa parked the car inside. Mama took the baskets out and we made our way into the blooming orchard. Most apples had already been picked, but every time I saw a flash of red among the green, I would exclaim and run to the tree, climb up and pluck the apple into my basket. And descending, papa would pull me close, and hold my shoulders with his heavy hands and mama would complement me and adjust her new straw hat in the scorching sun. And then, I would run off again, far away to an apple that I had spotted, and as I climbed the tree, mama and papa would seem small as ants, so I would hurry plucking the red apple, jump down, and run back with all my lungs, to make them be big again.

Dan, my best friend’s labrador, was gently beating his tail against my legs. It was getting cooler outside, and people were beginning to come back in. Yes, it had been a week since she hadn’t written, since she had left my life as suddenly as she had entered it a few months before.

It was funny, I thought, that I was still hoping for a sign, an email, a letter, anything. Hadn’t I learned to see yet? Maybe not see, but feel; feel myself standing there, with that vast, grey ocean in front of me, and my long, black coat catching the shearing, winter wind.

The Silver Glow
in: european beauty (part 1)

by Berti M.

I was playing the piano, a sonata by Scarlatti, K213. The piece begins beautifully, it really does. The notes come – chasing one another, separate, yet not entirely separated, recongizing each other, the way one recongizes another through translucent glass.
Immersed in such play, I didn’t hear the phone ring, my father picked it up briskly, downstairs. Strange that instead, it was the conversation that caught my ear.
My father was always a calm and discreet gentleman. Yet on that evening, with that call, his voice seemed to falter. It changed enough for me to lower my finger again, primed to strike D flat. I listened. My father was telling someone not to cry. There was no doubt on my mind. He was telling Anna not to cry.

It started the way many voyages start and end for me these days, on the train. Although I had only met her after arrival – a day later, actually – the train ride belonged to the encounter as much as anything else. My stare out into the flocks of passing trees was reflected faintly by the double-layered safety glass. The train was a long corridor – a no man’s land I felt comfortable in.
I arrived saturday evening, to an empty room in a dorm near the station. I was only going to stay one night. The room was designed for the handicapped, with a perversely long, narrow, tiled, windowless bathroom. A solitary toilet was installed at the very end. It was really about two meters by five. It was so bizzare, I couldn’t help laughing.
Sunday it rained, and the grey that greeted me from outside the window stayed well into the afternoon. I went to the student’s conference, in a brick building nearby. There was no one I knew, so I talked to the people I thought to be most open. The Asian students. One from Bhutan. A short guy who talked and talked. About his home. The unpaved streets, nonexistent infrastructure. About buses touching peripheral villages, once a week. Not in our category of the human development index, his friend kept reminding. I nodded and stared at his foreign, yet strangely delicate complexion. Then I nodded and thought nothing. Nothing at all.
In the second segment, a lively debate took place between Chinese students defending their government, and a manager from Argentina who was decrying the human rights abuses. You were never there, said the Chinese students. I was there last month, countered the Argentinian. A black student dressed in colourful robes brought up Africa. Some people took notes on the notepads that had been distributed. At the luncheon, an American girl whose parents must have come from India sat at our table. Said she was appalled at her country’s polititians. The guy from Bhutan insisted to give me his business card, and then hugged the indian girl for a photograph. I moved down the marble stairs to the patio, to smoke a cigarillo in the rain. It was dark already, but many were still chatting outside. I moved from one cluster to another, then back into the main hall, touching on groups of people without speaking to them, without even bothering to burrow myself into the circles they had formed. I went to the bathroom to check my stare. When I saw that there was already someone standing at the mirrors, I pretended to urinate into a nearby pissoir until he left.
Later, on the way out, the thank-you packages for those who had provided councel for incoming students were distributed. A mid-price-range digital camera. Also, a plush bear with a little t-shirt, saying something in the local dialect, the meaning of which I could only guess at. Then, on the dark street glistening with rain, Greg, the guy I had councelled, caught up with me. I had lost him in the fray. He asked me to take him to a local bar. And he introduced me to Anna. From Austria.

I think back to my time in Austria. My hotel in Salzburg had been labelled Fremdenkammer on the outside. Foreigner chamber. The people had been alright though, were pretty open. I also saw many mixed couples on the streets: blacks with östereicherinnen. Strange then, that I myself had never fit in.
For instance among 7 local students, all of them men, at a bar, with beer. The guy next to me had had a piercing, and kept talking about the army. A first-year student opposite me was irritated, feeling ignored by the rest. They joked at him for his petulance, once they noticed. My own words – perhaps my accent – seemed so out of place. Eventually, I faded out of the conversation, and was, in turn, happily ignored.

Anna, from Austria. In the rain, the black raincoat tracing her lovable proportions. Her head, well sheltered in the hood hugging it, eyed and smiled at me. Her cheeks reminded me, on that gray day, of healthy apples, two apple-red flames sprouting on both sides of her bouncing smiling grin. Eyebrows pulled high on a very oval face. Some strands of curly, brownish-blonde hair (I got a better look, later) bursting loose from underneath the tightly-pulled hood. And a smile. Anna.
She shivered as she extended her fingertips from under her raincoat. I shook her hand. Told her I was pleased to meet someone like her on such a miserable evening. I really was.

I could now describe the next two days in meticulous detail, including the extra day I decided to stay, telling my parents that I had to clean up at the guesthouse. But perhaps it would end up being too long, missing the point. Important is that I was taken by surprise: by the way she smiled so often, by how I could get her to laugh with the things I said.
So we connected, in a way. Not initially – it took a few drinks to ease off the differences, but we ended up finding things in common.
I knew from relatively early on that she would never comprehend me – but our stories, they connected. And she watched me talking about things. Art, miscellaneous experience, travel. I had extended a day, she knew it was because of her. We went to see a movie, ditching Greg. You’d accuse me of making all this up if I told you the title, so let’s just say that it was about an American actor in Japan. You know the one I mean. Funny thing is, she didn’t really get the movie. She found the ending stupid because nothing happens between the two protagonists. Well, that’s an ending, too, I thought. One I knew well. I felt like explaining my opinion to her, though then decided not to, fearing she wouldn’t understand.
That night, in front of the guesthouse. The curtain of rain illuminated by streetlights. I said bye at the entrance. She wanted to come in. At my door, looking her in the eyes, I said thank you for the great time and couldn’t help but stroke that hair of hers. She looked up at me. She said lets go inside. I said I have to leave the next day. She said you can call your parents again. I told her I really, positively had to be back tomorrow. So she smiled and said she would call them. We went inside. So I kissed her then, knowing what it meant. The rain was going outside, apart from that, the whole building was silent.
She had been wearing such a delicate blouse, with these white frills by the collar. It had touched me at the bar, when she had taken off her raincoat. So much, that I had written in my journal that previous night:

I saw such beauty in the frills of that blouse –
like the strange treasure that a moment represents
but perhaps most importantly, what I recognized in it
was a genuinely human hope – this trying to please,
this deeply creationist gesture – of trying to Be.

So now the blouse made way for her round breasts, which I fondled with my lifted fingers. It should have been awkward, but it wasn’t. The room should have been ill fit: strange, built for handicaps, not young lovers. The TV had been dumped on a little trolley which had sunk into the dirty grey carpet. The window was one giant glass from floor to ceiling. The whole place had had this kind of unpleasant silver glow. It shouldn’t have worked. Everything spoke against it. Yet it did, because of her red cheeks, and her hair, and her voice, which seemed closer now. Very close to me, her breathing was, until deep into the night, when we lay in bed.
I had gotten the palm of my hand caught underneath her head as she slept, her hair rolling over and under and around my fingers, like a silky stream. During the course of the night, I awoke several times, but couldn’t get my hands from underneath her. Slowly, my body had drifted away from hers, I was at arm’s length, but she slept motionless, head straight.

I’m not one for being timely; in fact, I have been know to miss trains. But that morning, it was clear to me which train I had to catch. The one at quarter to eight. Three-hour journey back. I slipped my hand from underneath her head, but she slept on. I gave her a last kiss (a peck), adjusted the cover, closed the door quietly. Left her to check the keys. Made the train on time – in fact, I was early. It lingered at the station as I looked out the window, with the familiar face reflecing back at me. Happier? Sadder? I had told her that I had to go. That it was a misunderstanding, I had even whispered. I arrived at my parents place late in the afternoon. Told them some things. Not much about Anna.

And now, she was calling. “I’ll call your parents” she had said, smiling. Or had it been “I’ll tell your parents?” She was doing the second. She was very smart. She had figured the whole thing out and now, she was telling them. This is what your son is… Ultimately, however, it was a message to me. This is what you are. Hopeless. Homeless.
I could hear my father pleading she not cry as I watched my tears start playing the keys.

-2004

Most people won’t get my Troy post, because it is full of puns that only those who were along for the Startwoche will really appreciate. However, my personal best of is quoted below:

Peter ist geniert, weil man mit den meisten Menschen nur auf der Oberfläche verkehren kann. Er ist frustriert, dass er das Objekt nicht penetrieren darf. Die Idee der Oberfläche stört Ihn. Er wolle mit Menschen die Oberfläche verlassen und tiefer gehen. Am liebsten würde er das Objekt deswegen auseinanderfalten und – behaupten böse Zungen – vielleicht selbst in die Mitte steigen.

good night!!!