Sonntag, 13. März 2011

In the South Seas

Inroduction and notes on the text

This poem intends to serve as an incentive for artists, writers and other creative people to organize some kind of help for people in distress - especially those suffering from the consequences of the severe earthquake with ensuing tsunami and threats of nuclear disaster in Japan.

The poem was written for a tsunami charity appeal in 2005 after the catastrophe in South East Asia and had its first reading there.

The title refers to the Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson (The Treasure Island) and his account of the voyage he made. Together with the opening lines it also alludes to the German actor of international renown Ulrich Wildgruber who ended his life by walking into the sea and who during his lifetime is said to have nourished a great nostalgia for those distant islands - especially the one where the crew of the "Bounty" took refuge. Other film actors are mentioned serving the same purpose.

This is a poem about names. Names are intended to single out individuals from all the others. Individualism, however, loses all meaning in the face of natural or man-made disasters - such as Hiroshima or Sumatra tsunami - just to mention a few.

Who is Trevor Howard?

My brain tells me I used to know an actor

by this name

hunting down the Third Man in postwar Vienna,

sea-captain to HMS Bounty in the south seas -

second filming,

still this name sounds strange to me

what's so special about being called Trevor Howard?

Why not Mountain Fountain or

Mushroom Caterpillar?

How many Howards were lulled to sleep

by caring mothers

so many Trevors yelled at by disappointed wives

and many more wept over by desolate widows.

What makes this one stick out from all the others,

countless Asians - all alike


Donald, Kenneth, Malcolm, Duncan,

Mathrafal, Brenin Gwalia -

what's the difference between a king and a horse?

Did this mean anything when

we and the world were young and curious

getting to know things for the first time?

Now that the world is getting older

forgetting about what was before

names lose their hair and teeth.

They are talking about “Les liasons dangereuses”

and this man Malkovich

never mentioning Laclos nor Philipe, Gerard.

Two-hundred-and-sixty-thousand instantly dead

after the bomb exploded

several hundred feet above ground zero

how do we carry on afterwards

we the survivers

do we exist in the same universe

or are we reincarnated into another?

Transferred to a distant fragment of time?

Someone switched off the light

and when it came on again

after a millisecond or less

it was in a different room

where the roses had withered and all the birds flown away.

Why do I cry over you Trevor Hopkins -

unknown to me

on a fine winter morning

the colours of the rainbow still with a peculiar smell -

your child face not shining

through the changing faces of the years

more telling than on-and-off digits of DNA

and other perishable particles

unpredictably charged?

Is it just because my brain

refuses to function

confuses words and music

losing its proper sense of proper identity?

Who will take up your life song

First sung on the day you were born,


Exit Frankie Howard, no encores.

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