Monday, November 7, 2016

In a small village...

"African Skull" © 2016 David Prashker
To listen to an audio recital of the poem, click here

In a small village not far from what had once been the Czechoslovak border, I strangled an übermenschnik with a red scarf identical to the red scarf that strangled Isadora Duncan. There were no traces, no prints, no blood. That night I gave away the scarf to a nineteen year old brunette who first let me paint her body, and then took upon herself the full weight of the expiation of my conscience, elbows downward. I do not know if I am writing this as a confession, a fable, a parable, an act of nostalgia or an attempt at self-justification. I do not know the names of either of my victims.

In Warsaw I watched a child
who did not even know his own name
wincing as he watched a falling star

It was the Star of David
falling from his mother’s breast
falling as she fell
pierced by a bullet of light

at the graveside
I saw a tear fall from the eye of the winsome child
a single tear
falling like a nameless star

At Vilna I saw an old man clutch his head in shame
and wince at the sight of a falling city

At Bethlehem a Catholic priest knelt and prayed
that someone might help a falling man be saved

At Hiroshima
I saw a young girl picking mushrooms

At Bremen
when the dam broke
the culture and the crop were washed away
their roots rotted

At Wounded Knee
I saw a red cloud bursting

At Passchendaele
snow and ice had frozen into immortality
the statues of a thousand unknown soldiers

At Calvary
a thief wondered why he had been rejected

At Smyrna
I saw a woman
her belly so swollen with malnutrition
she could have been pregnant with her own death

At Deir Yassin
a young Arab hung like a rotten apple
from the branches of a dying tree

At Hamburg, and at Harwich
the whores were so starved of occupation
they were offering themselves to men for nylons

At Poznan
the scarecrows had been pecked to pieces

At Masada
I rummaged in the rubble
of three hundred living corpses
searching for the bodies of my wife and daughter

At Beijing
I turned against the counter-revolution

At Padua
I sold my soul for gold
and found my blood transmuted into lead

At Stygia
I dipped my ankle in a tub of poison

At Luxor
I saw a man pluck out his eye
and hold it up before him as a sign
to ward off any devils
that were passing angels by

(In certain parts of Africa
it is customary for the men to remove their shoes
before kneeling on the sand to pray

While in other parts of Africa
the men have neither shoes nor prayers
yet still they fall down on their knees
under an almighty sun
stretched prostrate upon infinite sand)

At Sodom
I witnessed the routing of the four kings[6]

At Babel
the cacophony of saws and hammers
rendered all speech unintelligible


The entire history of the world could be recorded in this manner, redeemed from dialectics, freed from didactic purpose, rescued from dry facts: the autobiography of Man. Quite unteachable in school, of course - how could one possibly set an exam question? Yet as each individual line filtered through the blood-stream like a transfusion, as each DNA molecule became re-attached to the universal whole, so each individual human creature might at last become bound one to the other like links on an iron umbilicus, recognising his or her own place on the Ladder of Permanent Creation-And-Destruction, the Eternal History Of Man, the account of all our One and Single Life.


I, Adam, the Egoless, the First and Only Man, born at the age of thirty-three in the Garden of Eden; I, Adam, who rode my white horse out of Medina; I, Adam, who was crucified dead and buried but rose on the third day; I, Adam, who worked as a tailor in the village of Omdurman, and married twice, and fathered sons and daughters; I, Adam, who died of leprosy after thirty years among the swamps of Africa; I, Adam, worshipper of Ashtoreth, Isis, Zoroaster; I, Adam, who was anointed Julius Caesar, Emperor of Rome; I, Adam, who was Caesar’s most humble serving-boy; I, Adam, who dreamed the grand and glorious dream; I, Adam, who conceived the plan; I, Adam, who ordered its execution; I, Adam, who was merely obeying the orders of my superiors; I, Adam, victim of the most appalling evil...

And all of us apparently different - different bones, different flesh, different time, different place - all of us nonetheless the One and Single ManWomanChild, flesh of the same flesh, bone of the same bone, blood of the same blood, guilty and innocent of the same crime, architect and destroyer of the same renascent and decaying cites, lover and hater of the same menwomenchildren - as Single and Unique as God.

At Sainte-Adresse, just a few miles north of Le Havre, along the Côte where Gide was raised, I overheard two Vichy übermenschnikim plotting their treason in a Bar-Tabac, and I waited for them in the shadows of the building like Orson Wells in “The Third Man”, and shot both silently through the neck.

At Pshishke, the entire ghetto was ordered to stand for three days and three nights, naked in the village square in thirty degrees below, whilst an übermenschnik Major paraded up and down, selecting from time to time a woman for his lust or a victim for his fury.

At Rouen, a young Catholic woman by the name of Jeanne told me of her dream of liberating France by selling the arsenal she had discovered in her basement to the Ubermensch; and I stayed with her that night, made love to her with passion; but in the morning, more for the love of poetry than the love of France, I tossed a grenade into her cellar, and left her body smouldering in the blaze.

And I, Adam, participated on every side, opening my fly before the frightened Jewess, opening my legs for the demented Major, opening my hand-grenade before the altar of Saint Joan, opening my arms to embrace a new-born child, opening a grave of earth to lay a corpse to rest, opening my mouth to protest and to betray, opening my door to welcome and to expel, opening my hand to give and take...

And I, Adam, have counted the grains of sand inside the hourglass, numbering them severally, One by One by One...

You can find David Prashker at:

Copyright © 2016 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

No comments:

Post a Comment