Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “History”

The Shadows

The Shadows
He intricately mapped his way
about the ancient streets
ideologically sound
or otherwise
planting bombs
living dangerously.

But when he lost
what had meant the most,
he could no longer find his way
among the shadows.

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Sketch 9: The Unbroken Circle (’76)

Our poem this month, The Unbroken Circle (’76), describes an experience I had during the Bicentennial year. It was late June, and we  were on our way to Yellowstone National Park and had arrived in the city of Cody in the state of Wyoming, a place not known so much for its progressive ideas as for its conservativeness. I mean the last time they voted for a Democrat for president was 1964.  I’m not a big fan of the Democrats or anything although they did have the only candidate in my lifetime on a major ticket I’d have unconditionally supported (George McGovern), who as fate would have it went down to unbelievable electoral defeat, and Tricky Dick was reelected:

Richard_Nixon_greeted_by_children_during_campaign_1972

It’s just the Republicans have gone so far right they’re well off the page and into the margins.

Anyway, we were picked up by a guy who I swear bore an uncanny resemblance to:

436px-John_Wilkes_Booth-portrait

He told us of a concert and invited us to a party in the middle of nowhere where we were surrounded by young people whose appearance cast serious doubt on the notion they had campaigned four year earlier for Dick Nixon.  My problem at first was simple: how to open up a can of Coors.  Before you’re too hard on me, consider Wikipedia’s entry on the contraption:

“In the 1970s, Coors invented the pollution-free push tab can. However, consumers disliked the top and it was discontinued soon afterward.”

It sounds to me like a noble but doomed experiment – a little like introducing the metric system in the U.S.

For a few hours we soaked in the sun and the wide expanse of space. Then we went to see The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

We had a great time. The music was inspiring, and their encore was a stirring rendition of this song:

Sketch 6: The Hatchet

For readers in the U.S., the poem should be self-explanatory.  For others are who aren’t familiar with the story, have a look here.

Do they still have portraits of George Washington in elementary school classrooms?  They did when I was young.

us_presidents_guides_gw

Wednesday’s Choice

Number 14 in Jazz is the Oscar Peterson Trio’s Night Train:

Origins

Origins
The hides
piled high
in the rickety
old carts
that moved along
the dusty trails.

All across
the plains
that stretched
so vast
the bodies lay
to rot.

The Hatchet

The Hatchet
I cannot tell a lie:
the tree’s blossoms
never lost their scent;
the cherries
grew
and then
were picked.

Wednesday’s Choice

Number 8 in Jazz is Billie Holliday’s Commodore Master Takes.

The Hungarian Uprising

I was not yet born when they toppled the statue of Stalin. In the street its detached head so large it could have been the boulder Sisyphus was doomed to push upward for eternity. However, on the thirtieth anniversary at the University of Munich I was handed a leaflet.

My poem:

A Leaflet (October 1986)
The quiet mourning
deep dark descent of grandeur.
Drowned elixir.
Three thousand dead as Budapest bleeds.

If I ever visit Budapest, I will certainly go to see Stalin’s Boots in Memento Park.

Hans and Sophie Scholl

In Munich I lived in Schwabing, a borough once the home of prominent cultural figures like Thomas and Heinrich Mann. I was unaware of it being better or worse than other parts of the city, but my decidedly downscale lodgings may have played a role. I am not sure whether it had become what present day Alexanderplatz is to its previous incarnation written about so eloquently in Döblin’s masterpiece.

It was very simple: a bed, a small refrigerator, and even a tinier sink, and a hot plate. I ate mainly at the University of Munich mensa (cafeteria).

In front of the university was Geschwister-Scholl-Platz, named after a brother and sister who were key members of The White Rose Movement, a small group of university students and a professor, who opposed to Nazism wrote and distributed pamphlets. Here are some lines from one of them:

Since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way … The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals … Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!

On a very unfortunate day, Hans and Sophie Scholl were caught in the university atrium. They were beheaded less than a week later.

Today you will find this in front of the university:

A poem:

I Sit

I sit even at this hour at a small university bar
having walked the marbled halls past statues.
And so this is where they stood,
and this is where the other emerged
to catch these two descending
alone among the spiraling staircase.

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