Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “Europe”

Sketch 8: Descent

This particular poem deals with an image from my grandmother’s funeral. I’ve always thought smell to be my most acute sense so it’s not surprising that incense should be an important part of my memory. A single smell can easily transport me back in time.

My grandmother was Catholic, and Catholicism was very important to her generation, defining them in a way it never did me. But then again, I lived in different times – a Catholic would soon become president of the United States, and it had been a long time since No Irish Need Apply signs were seen. When I visited relatives in Ireland, and they took me to the rubble that remained of my grandmother’s house, they also brought me to a landmark where Catholics used to secretly meet to worship when the religion had been outlawed. I was asked, “How would your parents feel if you married a Protestant?”

Although titles for me are more often than not a necessary evil, I do like this one and the double meaning of descent.

Advertisements

Sketch 2: Some Wide Pastoral Spread

I love trains. There is nothing quite like sitting leisurely admiring the landscape rolling out before one’s eyes, talking with fellow passengers, or just being engrossed in a book. I’ve had some good reads over the years including The Glass Bead Game and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I once had a timetable of train routes throughout the world. I’d lie in bed and calculate my journeys, the longest being the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok.

While I never did make it to Russia, after finishing my B.A. I did get a three-month Eurail pass and spent the summer of 1984 travelling across Europe. It was and will probably remain the longest trip of my life.

Not having much in the way of money, I stayed in cheap hotels or hostels or slept on the train. For food, I usually got bread from a baker’s (is there any better than a French baguette?) and some cheese and lunch meat, and voilà! I found wine in shops incredibly affordable.

Although it was the day before MP3 players, I did have a mini-recorder with songs. Here is one of the ones I brought along:

I got as far west as Sligo where I visited relatives, and as far east as Vienna, which did not, I should say, exactly greet me with open arms. I got as far north as Bergen, and would love to have spent more time in Scandinavia, but the prices drove me southward to Rome.

I fell in love with Italy. I remember the sun, which has always seemed to me the most logical heavenly body to worship, the wonderful gelato, and the noise of Rome.

The poem describes the Italian landscape I saw.  One can read here about the pastoral. Speaking of which, why not listen to Beethoven’s symphony:

William Carlos Williams was the first American poet to really speak to me.  It was likely through him that I became aware of Ezra Pound, who was a friend of his for more than half a century. Pound’s poetry never did much for me. To some, he is known as a champion of Modernism.  Others, myself included, remember him as a raving anti-Semite/fascist, who after spending WWII in Italy broadcasting propaganda over the airways was arrested for treason:

Ezra_Pound_1945_May_26_mug_shot

Security_cages_where_Ezra_Pound_was_held,_Pisa,_Italy,_1945

Post Navigation