Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

The Baring of the Boughs


We stand in dismay to watch
As the premature apples fall
Too soon upon the earth.

Too soon, oh too soon
They hardly realized their life
The time cut short
They hardly had their prime.

Such promise did they hold
We held them in awe
So much achieved
Yet we knew of more to come.

Sorrow we feel
For they did not fulfill
Their three score and ten
Upon this Paradise Earth.

Our sorrow too is held
Within us
And wonder too when
Our time will come.

Our sadness comes
From watching the baring
Of the boughs as the
Apples we have known
Too soon ripen and fall.

But comfort comes
To each of us for those
Who premature fell.
For each of us holds them all

Immortal.

Their name lives on
Even after we have gone.

Malcolm D B Munro
31 March, 2016

On learning of the death of Zaha Hadid

Filed under: poetry

The Sculptor of the Word


The poet of the block
The block of marble
Stands
Fruit of the earth
Rocks and soil
Life of its own
Yet at this moment
Inanimate.
Its beauty to be hewn
From its inner soul

The chisel poised
The arm uplifted
Ready to carve
Steady with unerring
Paring and parting
A multitude flakes from
The raw and native block.

The sculptor stands
With appraising eye
And sees with his
Finished, final
Perfect shape.

And to the inner
Heart of the object
Beauty to be made
Lies the path

Through the grain
And fissures
The imperfections
Advantage taken
The effortless
Work with
Bruteless force.
To release
The coiled
Spring life
Waiting to be set free.

Walking round
Weighing where
To place the studied blows
That hew from within
His envisioned creation.
To thrill with awe
The anticipated
Spectator.

The study as the block
Is eyed
Bringing the skill,
Knowledge and genius
To release his
Vision of what will
Be freed from the
Prison entombed.

With careful previsioned
Stabs, by degrees
The rough form
Begins to emerge.

In standing back
To review anew
What is being roughed
To smooth
To full view
And soon
Will see the light
Of day.

The chiselling insistent
Knowing by some Force
Hidden from us all
The path to take
To achieve the goal.

Never tiring
Nothing forced
The blows feather light
Lift off in exquisite
Chips
What enclothes
The final work.

But work this is not.
The effortlessness
With which the relentless
Piercing of the oh so
Light insistent
Blows
In measured
Strength
Exactly what is needed
To make the rough.

Now standing back
To review
What is needed
Next
So carefully
With whispered taps
To create that
Beauty
Breathless held
By us
Who come to see
This life
Freed from the living rock.

Now comes the breaking point
The smoothing and the
Polish, the glazing.
The point at which
To stop, to halt
To do no more
Lest the form

Be struck
A mortal blow
That destroys
The beauty of this
Solid sculpt
And renders useless,
Lifeless
The wonder of the work.

Malcolm D B Munro
8 February, 2016

 

Filed under: poetry

Let the Cookie Crumble


Let the cookie crumble
Let your opponent stumble
You’ve had your fight
But you have not won.

Let tempers cool
Let hot heads mull
You can always return
To fight another day.

If you can’t win the argument
If you can’t get your say
In what you begun
Best hold your tongue.

You can return another day
Pick your own fights
If you can’t win the battle
Let them have their way.

What have you to lose
Life will stay the same
You can’t will them all
What have you to gain?

So let the cookie crumble
Let things fall as they may
If you can’t with the argument
Then just walk away.

Malcolm D B Munro
18 February, 2016

Filed under: poetry

The Bubble Burst


The sudden death
Sadness descending
Enveloped
The passing
The years
Time unheeded
Dull the ache unrelieved
And then
The bubble burst
And life returned
Joy again
Release
But still revered.

Malcolm D B Munro
19 February, 2016

Filed under: poetry

Solid Is Not a Metaphor


Solid is not a metaphor
It refers to nothing else
But  itself,
As solid as is this Earth,
And all upon it.
Even water and the air
All liquids, all gases
Can be frozen into a solid state.

To speak of a person as being solid
Is not a metaphor.
It is to say that that
Person comes across to us as such,
Is dependable, is real.
Is to say that that person is centred
Just as is the earth.

Such a person says what they
Mean and mean what they say.
They stand upon the solid ground
And can look you in the eye
And see you for what you are.

At their core spiritual
Just like the molten core of Earth.
To such people you cannot
Dissemble, you cannot lie.
For they will know
And you will know
That they are not taken in
By your abject foolishness.

Seek, those of you who float,
Spending your live uncertain,
Adrift,
To be like them.
For each of them
Serves to show
This is how you can be.

Malcolm D B Munro
20 February, 2016

Filed under: poetry

Do Not Resist


Immeasurable, length no distance
Imperceptible, time not finite
Impervious, no body has mass
Invincible, no force has effect.

Imperturbable, nothing disturbs
Irrevocable, nothing can return
Illustrious, nothing so bright
Impenetrable, nothing so opaque.

Irreconcilable, no conflict exists
Irretrievable, nothing can be brought back
Irresistible, all is joined, all connects
Irrefutable, nothing can be denied.

Malcolm D B Munro
9 November 2015

Filed under: poetry

A Garden At the End of Time


Here I am sat here. Sad yet joyous. Two days after my 84th birthday. I don’t feel sentimental. Nostalgic. No, I can’t. I can’t feel that way. I am alive here, where all my family are, and there were so many of them. I survived. I have led a good life. I married a gentile. Two children by him. He died ten years ago. Yet I don’t miss him. I don’t. He was a good man, make no mistake. Two children by him, girl and boy. They come visit me regularly. Lovely now as they were when they were children. I live for them too. And their children, I love them too.

They were not caught up as children as I am, I’m relieved to say, in that dark world of the post war years when so much was uncertain. So much that should have been behind us was not. Would never be behind us. The Jewish state being set up. Many of my Jewish friends, who’d lost so many of their family, as I did my own family, would ask then,

“Shall we go? We ought to, shouldn’t we?”

I never answered, never said a word. I was torn. No, I wasn’t torn. How could I leave my country? My country, the country  I was born in, a country where my ancestors go back centuries. How can you leave that? Yes, circumstances have changed. None of us live in the luxury we once knew. I accept that. My husband was a modest man living a modest life. That suited me. It would have been too painful to have lived as I lived as a child. Far too painful.

As I say, I don’t feel nostalgic. I don’t. No, its not like that. I suppose I could have on my birthday, two days ago. But I had friends here. My children, my grandchildren. I was too caught up in the moment.

Alright, my name is hidden behind my espoused name. My children grown up as gentiles. But I never went to his church. And I couldn’t go to synagogue. Have never been since then. When none of my family came back.

So why today does it all come flooding in? I have put it to the back of my mind all this time. I couldn’t think of it. Not at all. Not one bit. Had I allowed myself to do so, I couldn’t have lived. I wouldn’t have been able to. But I had to live. Because I lived, I survived where my family did not. Papa, Moma, my youngest brother, the rest of the family. All of them. Gone. Gone in the night. Somehow they missed me. Whey they came to take our family away. How could I not live after that. Had to, don’t you see?

So this is how I have lived. Part of me living, part of me not. Put it another way. Part of me lives now. But part of me lives still back then.


But I don’t mean the time they came to take my family away. No, I don’t mean that. I mean the earlier time. The time when it all was bliss. When life seemed magical. The world so remote from us. Living within our walls. It felt so safe. So secure. Even if two of my brothers had died before that night they came. Came to take us all away. But missed me, somehow.

Why didn’t I think of all this on my birthday? Wouldn’t that be normal? But this is not normal. Not now, this evening. Not after my son gave me the letter. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t open it then. I couldn’t open it this morning. It is late. The nurse will be here to tell me to go to bed. She’ll insist. But I can’t. I wonder if I will ever want to sleep again. How could I cope? How can I cope? After all these years it comes flooding back. Not just as it happened yesterday. Not even that it happened this morning. No, its happening now. Right in front of me. I have the letter in front of me. It’s on my lap. But I can’t pick it up.

I knew. I knew more or less when I saw him first in the synagogue on Saturdays. I took a quick look from under my father’s shawl. I had been looking ever since I had first seen him. Ever so quickly. He seemed aloof, distant. I am sure he never saw me looking. So Aryan. Blond. Quite unlike any of my family. Any of my friends. Even his father didn’t look like he’d had blond hair. I’ve never seen a blond Jew in Ferrara to this day. I am not saying I have looked. But I haven’t seen anyone.

Tall, Slender. Fragile. Always with a distant look in his eyes. I suspected then. What would happen.

But I didn’t expect what happened two years later. I was sixteen. Two days after my sixteenth birthday. See, I hadn’t noticed. Two days. Can you believe that. Maybe that is why I saved reading the letter until today. But I can’t read it. I’ve tried. I can’t.

I didn’t expect to feel as I did when I saw him that day. So long after I had seen him first. Feel? No, that hardly describes it. Barely describes. No, it doesn’t describe it at all. It wasn’t a feeling. No. It was more that I was looking at my fate. Something I felt ineffably drawn to. Some force that drew towards him. A force I could barely withstand. I felt giddy. I felt I would fall off the ladder. But my guardian was behind me. I would rather have died than let him see. Let him know.

He had fallen asleep. In the grass. Just beside the path. Of course, he was older then. We hadn’t been to synagogue since it had been proscribed. The signs were then. We knew it then. But we stayed. When so many friends urged us to leave. Come with them to America. To South America. To Argentina. But where could we have gone. This is where we belonged. As I do still. Keeping the family faith. I owe to them. To keep the name alive. Even if it dies with me. The last surviving Finzi-Contini.  My children will too. Even though they are gentiles. Even though they came up Catholic. My husband wanted that. I didn’t argue. We’d already died as a family, as a name. After centuries, we all died out. Before our time. Yes. I owed to them to live. To stay alive. To not leave. That’s why I married my late husband. I knew he would never leave. Never would want to. That at least was a fate I didn’t face.

I don’t think I woke him up. I felt so overwhelmed I may have squealed or something. But I don’t think so. With that dreaded, awful guardian behind me, I couldn’t. Wouldn’t have. He got up. Still with that far away look even with sleep in his eyes.

I called to him,

“Giogio, come over.”

I could hardly speak. I was breathless. He was still sleepy. He stumbled over. I talked quietly now. I didn’t want to be overheard. If I kept my voice down, the guardian wouldn’t hear me. He had to keep that dreadful mastiff of his under control. Oh how I hated that man. Had come to tell us he had found he’d found Guido dead. In front of me. In front of all of us. I was six. I don’t suppose I have recovered from the shock yet. I didn’t say anything. I knew even then, even at that age, of my parents shock, of how  awful the news was. To be told in such a fashion. Why did they keep him on. But they were like that. Human to the last breath in their body. Would never have treated anyone badly.

“What time is it?”

“A little after 12 I think. Why?”

“I’ve got to get home. But I am dreading it.”

“Why?”

He looked like he was going to fall into tears. I couldn’t have borne that. I don’t know what I would have done. If he’d cried …

“I failed my mathematics exam. The first exam I’ve ever failed. I am dreading going home to tell them. That’s why I sat down here. To think of what I might say. Soften the blow. But I fell asleep …” He tailed off lamely, not knowing what to say next.

“But you’ll get to resit it. You’ll pass next time. I know you will.”

“Thank you. That’s kind of you. But I still have to tell them.”

“But stay a moment.”

“Alright, but not for long.”

Where did those words come from? How could I have said them? I felt hot and cold. I was sweating. The blood was pumping in my body. I felt weak. How did that voice come out? Where did it come from?”

“Come and climb the wall. Stay a moment.”

“All right. I will. Just a few minutes.”

Could he tell how I was feeling? He seemed out of breath. As if he had been running. He kept giving a sort of throaty sound. As if he couldn’t find his voice. But I could tell how he felt. You don’t need thoughts for such things. You know. You just can tell. He looked crestfallen. Defenseless.

He came towards to the wall. I must have raised my voice.

“Come down from the wall, young lady.” In that German sounding voice of his. There’s no disobeying him. He’ll tell Moma or Papa and I don’t want that.

“I’ll see you soon? I hope your parents don’t scold you too much.”

I can see it in front of me. That whole scene. That glorious summer day. On our garden wall. As if I were there. As if it were all in front of me now. I can hear his breathing. His clear darting eyes. Missing nothing. Aware, alert. Like a deer. I feel weak now. Glad to be sitting down. I couldn’t stand up if I tried. I hope the nurse doesn’t come yet. Not yet.

He came to the house three years later. To join us all for tennis. But I couldn’t bear it. I just couldn’t stand up with him around. I felt in a dreadful state the moment he came into sight. Looking ethereal. That same fragility I had seen earlier, when he was outside the wall; and earlier still, in the synagogue. Not frail or thin. But so vulnerable. Like an uncooked egg. I felt that same breathlessness, that same hot and cold, that same pumping of the blood. That same dizziness in the head. That same sense of an uncontrollable feeling I was going to fall over at any moment.

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t bear him being around. I could see how he felt. But I couldn’t hurt Malnate either. I couldn’t do that. So I asked him not come round. Well, I asked him as nicely as I could. I could see what it did to him. I felt dreadful. Much worse than I felt previously in his company. I am sure he found me cold. I couldn’t even recognize my own voice. This time I felt stiff. Rigid. I could barely move.

But I had to. I just had to. I had to tell him not to come. I just couldn’t bear it. I knew then his fate and I didn’t want to be a part of it. I knew what was coming. I knew it would be dreadful. I knew a lot of us would die. Would be dragged away. Did didn’t say anything to anyone. I couldn’t be a part of his life. Was he going to die? Yes. I couldn’t do that. Were I to be alongside him and he died, I couldn’t have lived. And I wanted to live. When so many around us were going to die. I wanted to live. To be a witness. Not to be able to tell of what I’d seen. God knows, I didn’t want to see people dragged off. To never return. But I wanted to live to tell the tale. That all those souls had lived in Ferrara. That Ferrara was their home. Always had been. And if Fate had not intervened, would still be.

That’s why we didn’t flee. Didn’t take flight like so may others. We were dying out. As a family. Where were we going to run to? How could we run away from our Fate?

The letter. The letter. I had asked my son to tidy my things at home. He’s going to sell the house. I don’t need it now. I’m here. I’m comfortable. I feel safe. I asked to bring a few items I needed over. On my birthday. When he was here.

“I found this,” he says shyly, “I thought you might want it.”

The letter from Giorgio. He’s written and sent if two or three days after I’d asked him not to come to the house. He died two years later fighting the Fascists.

I hadn’t opened it then. It lies on my lap now. But I can’t open it and read it. I can’t. I just can’t.

Malcolm D B Munro
13 November 2015

Filed under: stories

Dans la douleur miroir (français)


D ans la douleur miroir
On voit la face où il est clair
De la vie menée sans espoir.
On voit la preuve
Parmi les craintes on se sent.
De la façon dont vous êtes intimidé,
A votre vie, et comment il est dirigé
Vous avez tout oublié
La personne que vous étiez
.

V

Les déconvenues, les revers
Les craintes
Cela vous trouvez difficile de faire face.
Pour regarder vers le bas et dire,
«Je ne vous crains pas, je ne vais pas plier.
«Vous ne pouvez pas me tenir dans votre acier
«lié cage de fer.»
Et pourtant, vous avez fait; vous m’emprisonne.

V

Et vous tressaille;
Il est trop difficile à face
Cette douleur ici.
Que vous tient, vous saisit,
Ne laisser aller, cette auto-infligé
Irrésolu, la vie découragée
Pour vous n’avez pas besoin de réagir de cette façon.

 

V

Vous avez laissé ses ombres sombres
Vous surplomber,
Le lendemain matin bleu.
Les combats, les divergences,
Ces temps vous n’avez pas votre chemin,
Où sottement vous a sauté dans la mêlée.
Où as voulu contre ce que vous dit
Dans votre intérieur, que vous aviez tort
Pour faire ce que vous avez fait volontairement.

V

Vous avez donné l’espoir au désespoir noir.
Il ne vous a pas quitté, maintenant vous chaînes.
Pondéré vous êtes, frété avec ces craintes.
Voûtée vos épaules, vous avez donné à.
«Ces forces,» vous avez pensé,
«M’accablé. Qu’est-ce que je peux faire
«Mais juste abandonner?»

 

Et donc vous avez pensé,
Et pensé et pensée,
Et regardé en l’air
De l’insomnie de la nuit noire.
Et tourné et retourné
Malgré. Vos pensées sont claires.
«Je ne veux plus va dans le regard du miroir
«Mais rester à l’extérieur de cet espace mental
«Et voir ces pensées pour ce qu’elles sont
«Ce qui remplit la tête avec sombre, sombre désespoir
«Qui pendent lourdement sur mon cœur
«Et les voir de loin.»

V

Un beau matin vous vous réveillez
Et dans les rayons du soleil lumineux
Découvrez que cela la douleur a disparu.
L’espoir est de retour, une nouvelle vie a commencé,
Vous êtes plus sage maintenant, vous avez conquis
Votre désespoir.
Votre connaissance de soi acquise maintenant
Est-ce que vous mènera pas
Dans cet endroit sombre
Lorsque, avant vous avez vécu votre vie.

Malcolm D B Munro
28 Mars, 2016

Filed under: poetry

Not Just


Not just the ability to see
The ability to hear and smell
To love, to feel well
To feel joy, pain and sorrow
Satisfaction and pleasure.

Not just with the mind
The consciousness
The nightmares and the
Bad dreams
The memories that prove so
Abundant, so full.

But more, much more.
That inner world
Indescribably vast
Rich greater than that that
Croesus knew
Rich, not of a coin or a
Dollar bill,
But rich in the inexplicable
It is called intelligence.

Malcolm D B Munro
26 January, 3016

Filed under: poetry

By Clouds Obscured


By clouds obscured the vision
By crowded thoughts the mind
The haze in which we live.

By the sunlight blinded
The moon bewitched
Made insensible.

By a body frail
Prone to disease
Felled by mortality.

Not of this earth
Far detached
Awaiting paradise.

All life besides
Natural
Yet us not.

Malcolm D B Munro
17 February, 2016

Filed under: poetry

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