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Category: back tracks

“Anything Goes”‏

Anything-Goes

Anything Goes

________

‘nough said

just click

Richard

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finding miracles

these earlier “back tracks“, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while

please enjoy

                        _______________________

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        November 9, 2006

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  this has been a year of only a clutch of miracles

of course they always abound, but some years, beset by crushing ordeals, miracles seem few and far between, and pale and falter beside the anguish and despair you suffer

 yesterday I marvelled at the colours of the leaves, the reds, the golds, the purples, that still and magnificently clung to the branches of much thinner trees now that they had lost the weight and splendour of their foliage

the sun upon the colours made them quiver, gleam, glimmer

look, I told my walking mate, a painting, and spread my arm across the panoply that contained what I saw

Monet, he replied

indeed, I said, but also Klimt, the gold, the glitter

I could barely listen on for the wonder

and Van Gogh for the branches, I continued, caught up in my world of live Impressionism, crotchety, angular, mad, I described

and there are millions of these leaves, I went on, transported beyond Impressionism into verily awe, not two of them alike, an infinity of numbers

that’s a miracle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     a day earlier a friend had come over to lunch, after which we’d amble on over to the art gallery for an exhibit that was on

a gull sat on the ledge of my window, at my aerie on the twelfth floor

maybe it’s your father, she said

maybe, I replied, but couldn’t then and there make the connection

it stayed long enough for her to mention it again after I’d gone on for some time more, she was facing the window, I was not, I’d returned to our conversation

the gull looked in, on, curious, spirited

but I still saw just a gull
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

last   evening I remembered that it would’ve been my parents anniversary had my father survived, called my mom, asked her out, we had dinner nearby, the date had slipped me by

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            later still I remembered about the gull, who perhaps had not forgotten

            

                                                                                                              

                              _________________________________________

yesterday – December 28,2006

           Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, 1657

                                Johannes Vermeer

                                    (1632-1675)

             ______________________________________

these earlier “back tracks“, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while
please enjoy 
             
                       _______________________
December 28, 2006
                                                                                                                                                                  yesterday for the first time it snowed, as I left the apartment a light but steady moisture began to fall that I suspected might be more than rain, sure enough by the time I´d walked the several minutes to the number 8 which would take me to the Old Masters Picture Gallery, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, in the Zwinger, snowflakes swirled about us like whirling dervishes, light in the flustered air and as merry and playful as the season 
I hopped the Strassenbahn, the tram, which sleekly sailed us along to, then a short length of, the river, which was shrouded there by thickets of trees, but as we turned onto the bridge, the Augustusbrücke, the stately steeples and spires of the Altstadt appeared magically transformed into the enchanted setting of a fairy tale, sprinkled with the dancing fairy dust of the very Brothers Grimm
I got off beside the Catholic Cathedral, St Trinitatis, built in 1738 to 1755, heavy with age, light with spirit, its saints and significant clergy standing watch along the balustrade that lined and determined its roof, surely the bells were ringing but I can´t say for certain, the music was all in my eyes
across the cobblestone square before the Semperoper – the Opera House that Gottfried Semper built between 1838 and 1841, rebuilt from 1871 to 1878 by his son after it burned down in ´69 – people were scurrying about, taking pictures, catching their own trains, while flanking the building´s entrance Goethe and Schiller stood watch, impervious and staunch, beneath the steady and playful flakes, they bore the white frost upon their shoulders and pates with patience and resignation
further along the walls but protected by the shelter of each their private stone niche, Sophocles and Shakespeare to one side, Euripides and Molière on the other, sat soberly watching, unruffled, the snow fall
next door the Zwinger warmly awaited, I checked my coat and scarves with the hat check girl I´ve befriended there, she eagerly announced to the others that I was her friend, I´m sure I smiled and blushed, then made my way to the section I was exploring that day
of the many paintings in a room I always choose the one that I would like to take away more than any of the others, that way I need to examine them all, sometimes even closely
yesterday I quickly passed on a Cornelis Corneliszoon van Haarlem, “Venus, Bacchus and Ceres”, all heavy-haunched and cornucopian, a bird concert complete with sheet music in the trees by a Melchior de Hondecoeter no less, I spent some time with Mathias Stom´s “Old lady with a Candle”, which seemed to owe a lot to Rembrandt or he to him, with Jakob Isaacksz Ruisdael´s “The Hunt”, a dark but stirring landscape with a huge tree dominating the centre and reflected subtly in a river that rippled at its root, a deer was trying to flee across the foreground hunters approaching
a couple of Vermeers were of consequence, one, “The Procuress”, a madam in other words, accepting guilders from a group of men, one of them being so bold as to fondle her breast, left me surprised at so untypical a work of his, but another of a girl reading a letter at a window, replete with his tapestries and textures and a more modest and composed young woman intent on the message that she held, was nearly my first choice, her soft reflection in the open latticed windowpane was genius
 
but a Salomon de Bray, a name unknown to me, had painted in the mid sixteen-hundreds a young man with a crown, but of black roses, the youth could not have been very old, an open mouth spoke of being still eager and curious, age shuts men up and makes them open up only to declare, propound, pontificate
he´d turned to one side so that his neck was lithe and swift, probably alert to a sudden sound, a staff he held in strong but still supple hands suggested he was a wanderer or a shepherd
a white undershirt was mostly buttoned up but a string had not been tied at its neck, its either ends hung loose above another darker red shirt, equally not quite fully buttoned, there was no suggestion of a breast but only the soft spread of the clavicles
I would´ve taken him home
the crown of roses of course sported thorns in fresh, clean, but unguarded hair, the reference was unmistakable
                                                                                                                                                                    from a window I watched the thick snow still fall, the ground was covered, but left were the precise lines of the pristine architecture under the icing that outlined its edges
the sages and the deities at the Zwingers own many parapets looked timelessly, unswervingly, on
                 __________________________________________                                                                                 
though the Old Masters Picture Gallery, die Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, will not allow transfer of their artworks to personal blogs, their entire collection is available through their own website, which I’ve linked you to here, click “Online-Gallery” at the home page, there under Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister click “motivliste anzeigen“, “show collection“, make your way through the 64 “Seiten, “pages“, of masterworks
thoroughly enjoy
                                                                                                                                                                  yours in timeless art                                                                                                                                                                   richibi
                                                                                                                   __________________________________     

C*r*s*mas greetings from Dresden, December 24, 2006

Bellotto Bernardo - Dresden Elbufer

    View of Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe with  Augustus Bridge

                                                        (1748)                      

                                                 Bernardo Bellotto

                                                      1720 – 1780

                          _________________________________

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           these earlier “back tracks“, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while

please enjoy

                        _______________________

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       December 24, 2006

through the good graces of a dear friend, a lady I met last year, my teacher in German at the Goethe-Institut, I´ve been afforded the wonderful opportunity of spending the next several weeks, while she is away with her family in their hideaway in rural Belgium, here in shimmering Dresden, the jewel, I´m sure, of central Europe, I´d already rendered her the use of my own apartment in Vancouver when in September she came to visit and I could use my mom´s place while she was away touring for most of the month the Iberian peninsula, Spain, Portugal, as well as, across the strait, Morrocco

Dresden celebrated its eight hundredth anniversary this year and, though its buildings don´t date back that far, much of it has worn its architectural robes several centuries, the Zwinger, Dresden´s answer to Versailles, was built from 1609 to 1611, I was yesterday informed as I marvelled at the Bernardo Bellottos, Canaletto the Younger, the Elder´s nephew, who was court painter there, I believe I understood through a charming attendant´s perhaps too rapid German, and whose views of the city then were as detailed and precise as his uncle’s famous masterpieces of Venice, their styles are indeed so similar that until recently I´d believed, to my great embarrassment when I found out they were not, that they were one and the same, that the uncle had spent time in both Dresden and Warsaw, which he had not, the nephew rather had, I inadvertently discovered in a book I read on Dresden that cleared everything up, the one had superseded the other, channelled him there, more darkly perhaps due to those cities’ darker tones, but not at all less brilliantly 

not only the Canalettos of course but many other masters adorn the Zwinger, the city´s most sumptuous art museum, the Madonna of the Sistine Chapel of Raphael (which you’ll find below) with its couple of attendant cherubs for instance holds a place of the highest honour, and during the past couple of days I took in a wonderful exhibition of Cranachs there, both the Elder and the Younger, was mightily impressed by the latter´s “Adam” and “Eve”, which tall, naked, and still innocent beneath their modest leafy branches, graced either side of a doorway that led onward through a row of precisely positioned doors partitioning a long narrow corridor into a series of smaller rooms that seemed infinite, like a mirror reflecting itself in a mirror, in a rich burgundy throughout

but on the opposite side in the next room behind the “Eve”, a demure and elegant St Catherine stood large as life leaning upon her eponymous wheel while before her she held upright a heraldic sword whose blade rested on the pebbled ground, a work of the Elder Cranach

her medieval robes were golden, as was her headdress and hair, a prim plaited bodice attested to both her youth and modesty, her eyes shy and discreet gazed softly on the beholder and upon, as in all timeless art, I´m sure, infinity

I would´ve taken her with me but am caught up in the fleeting here and now

Dresden itself is of course much reconstructed after the scandal of its destruction, quite equal I would think to the ravages of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, its center lies across the Elbe, the river that runs through the town, from the Neustadt, the New City, so called already several centuries ago

in the Altstadt, the Old City, there along the river´s opposite bank beyond the several bridges, are the exquisite Baroque structures, churches and palaces and stately buildings, that make up her glory

in the evening as the city lights are reflected in the meandering river the shimmering city achieves the quality of high art, a tribute through the ages to the very best in culture and civilization

it hasn´t snowed here yet, already on December the 24th, Christmas won´t, it appears, be white, it´ll nevertheless be for me quite special as is evident I´m sure in my attitude of awestruck reverence

may it be as well for you, may it be happy, healthy and thoroughly blessed

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     with all my heart

Richard

            

 

                            _______________________________________

dinner out

                       
                                 The Birth of Venus, c.1482-1486
                                                                                                                                        
                                              Sandro Botticelli
                                                                                                                                     
                                                (c.1445-1510)
                                 ___________________________
                                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                       these earlier “back tracks”, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while
                                                                                                                                      please enjoy                                                                                  
                                     
                                    ____________________ 
                                                                                                                                dinner out:
                                                                                                                                     the night was clear, a slender moon shone in an indigo sky, I thought instead of staying in and watching Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Tony Randall, and a gay-as-a-goose Paul Lynde in “Pillow Talk” in German I´d venture out instead the day after all after Christmas to find a place to eat, preferably something Italian, I had in mind a restaurant I´d visited when I’d been in Dresden last that might be open, it was
                                                                                                                                        a place for one, I asked somewhat meekly, if you have one, and pointed to a table in a corner that seemed unoccupied, I´d worried about reservations on the special occasion that was that night, but the table was free, and rendered somewhat grudgingly, I suspected, where a couple at least would´ve been more, to their mind, worthy
                                                                                                                                        I sat at a table that could’ve been cleaner, whisked it off with a brush of my hand, a candle on the checked red and white tablecloth in the very colours of Christmas in the otherwise dim light made me overlook the slight if unconscionable inconvenience
                                                                                                                                     cutlery arrived and a soft but sturdy napkin, on a silver platter no less, that I felt would duly resolve the remiss, I spread the serviette, folded primly under, on my lap, sipped an excellent Valpolicella while I waited for the main service, a green salad that I would have, I asked, in concert with the fettucine, not on the same plate of course, I had to explain, but that I would enjoy at its side, a delicious pasta with salmon and yellow asparagus in a light cream sauce
                                                                                                                                        I was left to my own private devices, the restaurant was full, the staff busy, I savoured the endives, the steaming and succulent main course, indifferent to the indifferent service, but precise nevertheless about a second glass of wine
                                                                                                                                      out of nowhere, or out of a fantasy perhaps, once many of the early diners had departed and many of the tables had been cleared, a woman, or rather a vision, had arrived, was seated across from me alone at her own private table, I was entranced, I rarely see women eat alone in any even moderately elegant restaurants, they´ve always expressed fear and modesty, I´ve always thought that so impractical
                                                                                                                                      she seemed alone, so conscientious, so present yet so dependent upon the courtesy and good will of her suitors, whoever they might turn out to be, I saw Botticelli´s Venus being born from the waters, aquiver but unaware yet of any possible adversity
                                                                                                                                      the waiter, an older gentleman, who´d been merely polite to me, tended attentively to her graces, she opened to him a defenseless smile trusting his recommendations, she turned her neck, nubile as a swan´s, back to the menu´s pages pondering them closely as though they were priceless art, pointing out with a querying finger an item, hoping tentatively for clarification
                                                                                                                                      he was of course obsequious
                                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                    later she sipped her wine, tasted her food with elegance, poise, poetry
                                                                                                                                        I watched mesmerized
                                                                                                                                        
what should I do, what should I say, I wondered, should I let the moment pass, knowing full well that I could never tell this story if I were simply to walk away
                                                                                                                                        I practiced my German rendition as I savoured my second glass of red wine, the waiter had taken my fee, been politely inquisitive about my whereabouts, Vancouver, I of course replied, on the Canadian Pacific, where they´ll soon hold the Winter Olympics, so far from home it´s a surprise to find that some have no idea
                                                                                                                                        I sipped my last drop, stood up, but the server had returned to her table, I sat back, waited for him to move away
                                                                                                                                          I left my coat at my table, boldly crossed over to her side, excuse me, I started in German, entschuldigen Sie mich bitte, if I could have a moment of your time, German, French, English, I will speak what I must, but I suspected that so bold an apparition would speak English, my muses would have created that, or maybe some arcane but serendipitous nevertheless cultural affinity
                                                                                                                                        I don´t wish to offend you, I said, and I´ll be gone in just a moment, but I´ve seen you, watched you from my distance eating all alone the day after Christmas, I think I´m something of a poet, I´ve seen your grace, your poise, your poetry, you are a poem to me, I needed to tell you that, I thought this would bring you some enjoyment, I hope you will forgive me if I´ve been too brash
                                                                                                                                    thank you, she said, thank you, her eyes gleamed, shimmered, her hair soft, I´m sure, as sunlight, glowed in the golden candlelight, I noticed her russet freckles
                                                                                                                                        I took my leave, turned my back to her as I donned my scarves and winter coat against the winter cold, moved towards the door
                                                                                                                                          I waved a last goodbye, she waved back
    
  
      
       __________________________________

to Greg – October 21, 2004

these earlier “back tracks”, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while

please enjoy                   
                    
                                       __________________ 

                                                                                                                                             

October 21, 2004                                                                                                                                                           Vancouver, B.C.   

                                                                                                                                                                  gold and russet leaves, dear Greg, rustling in the wake of a serendipitous wisp of wind, glittering and glistening in the crisp, clear autumn light, skateboarders’ silhouettes skimming along the edge of a ruffled ocean, sleak as the flight of the birds above, inspired an otherwise gray day, the sun has been out only in patches
                                                                                                                                                                 after a truly therapeutic massage yesterday and a promise to my physiotherapist then to resume my too long interrupted exercises I started the day after some Proust of course and, I confess, also some irresistible Shakespeare – where a piteous Arthur, a boy who should be king, pleads of his executioner not to have his eyes pierced by hot irons, “cut out my tongue”, he says, “So I may keep mine eyes: O, spare mine eyes.” – I started the day at the gym doing a good run of vigorous exercises, a sure sign of a reinvigorated spirit, I’m returning to health and life

and to continue the day as though it were my last I lunched luxuriously afterwards instead of eating at home, on eggs and wine, a newspaper and a coffee, at my usual beachfront restaurant before heading out to Wendy’s where we were to read any old Shakespeare this time, I’d given her the choice, which turned out to be “The Merchant of Venice”, she thought, she said, she’d like that, imagining especially Venice, and also, I think, cause I’d mentioned that the movie, well reviewed, should be coming out next month

I smoked a joint along the way to her place along the water, where the “gold and russet leaves”, the “skateboarders’ silhouettes”, the “flight of the birds above”, left their wistful impression

then after a passionate discourse at her place on art, inspired I’m sure by the puff, and some references admittedly to my wounded heart, which she took in with great concern and compassion, I read

at first of course the language was rough and unfamiliar – a thicket of words, a bramble of indecipherable locutions – but as together we sorted out the subjects from the verbs, the art within the convolutions, we discovered poetry and enchantment, I’d told her to tell me if she got bored, uninterested – it should be fun, exhilarating, art, inspirational – but we made it to the end, Act 1, scene 1, it took two hours, Antonio’s ships were out, his friend Bassanio needed money to woo the lovely but expensive Portia and so was steered toward the city’s moneylenders to borrow on his friend Antonio’s assurance

Shylock, the famous Jew, nor for that matter Portia, have appeared yet

later at home after some television I determined to answer your letter, another sign of returning health

I hope you will enjoy my composition
 

I imagine you adrift in London, impressed and agog at so much of the history and the institutions, thick as traffic everywhere, even the city’s air and colours seem suffused with the stains and strains of a crotchety but golden nevertheless antiquity, a walk along the Thames suggests a time too long ago before it even all began, before there even was a London, and any street will conjure Dickens, Conan Doyle, and if you’re lucky and literate, even himself the Elizabethan Shakespeare, while Big Ben dependably tolls out in a deep reverberant voice not only the hours but the very centuries

I hope you won’t miss a thing


you are in my thoughts of course, and prayers


love

Richard         

 

 

        ______________________________                                                                                                                                 

a welcome inspiration

these earlier “back tracks”, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while

please enjoy                                                                                  

                             __________________ 

                                                                                                                                                                    March 15, 2006 

                                                                                                                                                                      as though the fire were out I was finding no spark of inspiration lately, though spring now, and some verve, have conspired at last to reignite my flailing prose

not even that I couldn’t match the noun to an apt and attractive adjective, that I couldn’t find the time or case of an ornery verb, that the metre of an iambic was perhaps recalcitrant or the lilt of an onomatopeia tired and worn, but rather and more decidedly, more fatally finally for my few sputtering words, for my flagging, foundering vowels, for my crumbling, turncoat consonnants, that were deserting me in droves, that I couldn’t turn open even the page, couldn’t find my way even to the paper that would allow me to write, to fill the vast waste of whiteness at my hand with the bouquets of wild and fragrant flowers that usually I find along the path of my itinerant imagination

this is no longer, evidently, the case

the ink is again flowing, the spring of art is in the air along with the spring of sap and blossoms

today I drew fleurs-de-lys on my walls, heraldically, which I’ll anoint in several colours to stand out against the variety of colours painted there already, I live in an array of colours, just like in a fairy tale

yesterday, to enhance that fancy, I received a mirror, a beautiful mirror, its craftsman told me it is made to reflect specifically one’s inner beauty

what if that could be

perhaps that craftsman ‘s a magician

he was at least a wise man

and a welcome inspiration

 

 

    _______________________________________

the stone angel

these earlier “back tracks”, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while

please enjoy

__________________

for Greg, its champion

the stone angel:

miracles are of course in the eye of the beholder, like beauty, truth, and love

I remember being told by my mother about the wife of a cousin of my father, she was notoriously unattractive, indeed downright ugly, everyone said, her daughter later worked for my father in our family’s store, she was cheerful, industrious, and eager to be working there, one day when her mom came in her daughter called out to her mom as she entered, hi beautiful and altered forever my conception of beauty

miracles are also such entities, they happen in the heart and in the soul, without these there are merely serendipitous circumstances bereft of either reason or wile

but to the wide-eyed innocent still dazzled by the glory of a sunrise, the splendour of a sunset, the iridescent grace and beauty of a shimmering rainbow stretching its improbable arc across a sun-strewn sky, hot on the heels of routed clouds and blustering but receding thunder, miracles are a sign of heaven, the consequence, the stardust, of faith

we’d been headed out to dinner after a day of taking in Buenos Aires, making our way along one of its more popular streets, Avenida Florida is closed to traffic but teems with the to and fro of shoppers, tourists, merchants, and of course minstrels, entertainers, we’d seen a pair of men dancing the tango together for coins, each in a formal though somewhat worn-out black suit, young novices, a girl in black as well, in mesh, sultry hose, dark, beautiful and mysterious, stood to the side awaiting her moment, we thought they were probably students of tango, their steps were informed but not quite yet smooth and silken as the dance requires

Greg had been telling me about a mime who’d done magic for children, they would drop a coin into a box for her and she would then somehow make a light glow in their palm as she dropped something into it

I’d listened inattentively, making my way through the crowd instead, that flowed like a turbulent river all around and kept me alert especially to its currents

look, Greg said, it was a stone angel he was pointing at, a charcoal statue about the size of a man, the wings hadn’t been intricately described but they were the right size and spread convincingly above the reverent posture, the head was bent forward somewhat in prayer, the hands piously enfolded, a stone tunic fit the shape and turns of the heavenly body as though it were indeed cloth, the feet, the articulated toes, rested mystically upon the charcoal pedestal

I don’t remember seeing that there, I said to Greg, we’d been along that street before but I’d also always paid more attention to the traffic than the storefronts, and wasn’t unduly surprised that I’d missed maybe even this angel

do you have any change, Greg asked, I noticed a box at the foot of the angel, also charcoal, part of the sculpture, though I thought it strange in fact on public art

no, I said instinctively, careful not to squander my meagre pot, but when he asked again after I’d further considered, rued my initial ungenerous response, I dredged up a few pesos from an alternate pocket

Greg held out the coin to a little girl who stood nearby with her mother, offered it for her to take, whereupon she came by, accepted the change, then proceeded to the sculpture, and dropped the offering into the box for donations, then withdrew

but by then the angel had quivered, was coming to splendid life, and like a revelation had begun to unfold

of course this was a man, I understood in the very moment, but a man in the guise of an angel, which of course is an angel in the guise of a man, for where does the line begin or end which divides them

with a wave of his hand he beckoned the little girl back, she returned and in her palm which he held in his own blessed hand he bestowed a gift, which didn’t glow, I incidentally thought, but must nevertheless be wondrous

already I quivered, frozen in awe, but quaking like a leaf in a mystical wind

the little girl turned around to Greg, held out the gift in her little palm to give it safely and dutifully back to him, but when she opened her hand for him to retrieve the holy thing he merely touched it back again enclosing it there for her to keep, the act itself of another angel, spontaneously selfless, selflessly spontaneous, munificent

by this time of course there were tears in my eyes, I’m a sucker for the acts of angels, but the angel himself had been observing the kindness being proferred in his name, he signalled Greg over and bestowed upon him a gift which again he retrieved from a breast pocket stitched in the stone above his heart

Greg returned with a miniature silver crucifix that gleamed and glistened in his palm, not a glow, incidentally, but an incandescence, and indeed wondrous

but the angel was not about to leave me out and beckoned that I might too receive this blessing so that I advanced to receive also my little cross, he must’ve recognized my fervent admiration, my dumbfounded awe, and would honour me also, I gathered, with his favour

others followed suit, deposited their pesetas, received their little crosses from an always consummate angel, calm, poised, respectful, and profoundly inspirational always, until the wave of them wore off

I still quavered as though the earth had moved, like any creature stunned by for instance lightning, like any one of us before a force of nature starkly and grandly manifested, there is so much we overlook

but driven by finally logic and the practicality of moving on – even mystical experiences are finite – we wended our way forward toward our dinner out, but only a few yards on, meters if you will, out from where we’d had our visitation, I felt I’d left something wholly unfinished, wholly unsaid, asked Greg to return and with me, for me, tell the angel he’d been miraculous, magnificent, that I’d been so very much inspired, in Spanish, for all I could speak was English, and Greg was versed in their tongue

in his ear Greg spoke a fervent Spanish, he’d been there too, was also eager, I slipped a larger, more appropriate amount, I thought, into the coin box, more in keeping with the experience

but the angel didn’t move

he probably didn’t hear, Greg later pointed out, paper won’t sound like change will

but unresponsive to Greg too, I’d wondered, who’d poured his Spanish heart into the angel’s ear, maybe wax from the makeup, he’d thought

for a moment then the angel remained a sculpture, still, and in character, and of stone

then with deep generous eyes that slowly he opened, heavy with the weight, I thought, of maybe the very world, he peered deep into my own

beautiful, I responded, beautiful, the only word I could utter in exalted admiration

then in English, clear and reverberant, like an oracle, I thought, for us all to understand and behold, he replied, simply but wondrously, cryptically enough indeed but with great portent, thank you

to which I could only add, amen

a souvenir of Vienna

these earlier “back tracks”, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while

please enjoy                                                                                                           

                       __________________                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                    April 9, 2004

this is for Alice, who has only recently lost her only son, and for also her husband, who must be also equally profoundly aggrieved, it is about maintaining faith

                                                                                                                                          a souvenir of Vienna: 

a friend came over yesterday for the first time, I had my usual concerns about my apartment, it’s modest, I call it my thimble, but I also call it my aerie cause of its unobstructed view of the mountains, and the sea from the bedroom on the other side

I soon enough began to display its features, the walls painted each a different colour, a gift from an artful partner, who also appended a fleur-de-lys of a contrasting shade in each their upper right hand corner as a tribute to my heritage, upon the walls many of the photographs are mine from when I used to enjoy photography and they hold up remarkably well after some over twenty years, of London, Athens, Copenhagen, places I’ve been

I tried to sit her down with a porfolio of other pictures there but the conversation was lively and she followed me to where I fidgeted and fussed, and  as I flew to one spot or another, the kitchen to get a glass, the washroom for a tissue, I pointed out some article and its associations

“That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall”, I quoted from Robert Browning and told the story of my own wall-hanging, a menu that many years ago I’d brought back from Vienna when I used to fly there with my work, I’d of course told the story of the restaurant where I’d found it to my mother, my father, family, friends, who’d admired it when I put it up

because the restaurant goes back to the fifteenth century it’s entertained Viennese celebrities going back through history, Mozart, Beethoven, probably Freud, the like, and had at the time of my earliest visits a scroll you’d unfurl to read their offerings, which were printed in High German and in a medieval-like script with a lot of ornamentation and curlicues, and seemed ideal for framing, black print with some red illumination on artfully tarnished parchment

when my parents returned from a visit there the following year my mom brought back one for herself but hadn’t for my sister who’d also wanted one, she was upset and I, because I love her and could carry the experience in my heart, gave her my own

many years later I would return to Vienna to take lessons in German this time to follow up on some that I’d taken earlier in Germany proper, Berlin for a couple of months and also a little hamlet south of Munich called Murnau nestling at the foot of the Alps 

in Vienna I would not only study at the prestigious university there but stroll the elegant streets, visit the opulent museums, revel in the art and magnificence that still hold court there like an ever benevolent grand duchess who  despite the times cannot forego the manners of an earlier age for a more modern and more democratic way of seeing things, and remains dutifully dusty and magnificent

my mom had proposed to meet me at the end of my stay, we’d amble the elegant streets, revisit the opulent avenues of the stately city this time together, and we’d devised to of course forage out our fabled restaurant

but when nearly thirty years later we couldn’t remember of course its name she went directly to the menu that still hangs on her wall, made out among the items on its fare a few that were prepared according to apparently the house in that “à la” was always followed by the same set of letters, which she then spelled out over the phone, the “G” had become a “B” to her, the “s” an “f”, unfamiliarity with a not only foreign but also ancient script and text, but enough for me to decipher “Griechenbeisl”, which in German stands for Greek inn

and there it was in the phone book with a telephone number and location

                                                                                                                                                                         I didn’t go there till my mother showed up, but when she did we were there several times cause it was not only reminiscent but delicious, the food was hearty fare, savoury and succulent with an atmosphere to match, the service matchless
 
we had the good fortune, I believe an angel was sent, to have wait at our table always the same young man

                                                                                                                                                                         my father died several years ago, that same year also my beloved, and to deal with the grief we each my mother and I after having leant an ear to heaven had our own channels of communication, “adagios always remind me of John” I’d read at his memorial from a text I’d composed for him, the slow, deliberate pace of this sonata extract advanced always in his step, and lo and behold I’d found that afterwards he would descend in spirit when fortuitously one was on, like a key I’d found, invented, to a transcendental visitation, my mother had found an esoteric tune by an obscure composer, something not quite baroque with birds twittering for maximum kitschness but which spoke to her in spades, she would rush to her player to crank the volume up whenever the music came on, still does, and was, is, then, imbued with the spirit of my father

I sit  in silence then rapt in the mystical moment until the moment and the miracle has come and gone, evaporated

                                                                                                                                                                     but meanwhile back in Vienna where we were contemplating this other gift from heaven, the golden waiter who stood before us to take our orders, he had the height from our sitting positions and therefore the authority, and of course he was at home in this environment

his German was fluent, more fluent than mine, but he was discreet about my inaccuracies and hesitations, for my mom he spoke a perfect English brushed slightly and beguilingly with the exoticism of an accent, a deep, resonant voice inspired confidence, even mystery and enchantment, as did his imagined but resplendent wings

“I’d eat him all up”, I said to my mom

“so would I”, she retorted

                                                                                                                                                                      we sat then enjoying our Austrian fare, good wine, in our historic surroundings, imbibing the centuries and traditions that graced the walls, the tables, the chairs, the very air of the place, we would’ve been savouring venison or quail in a deep, rich probably wine sauce, something particular to the region, and trying to anchor a memory to the experience

but suddenly my mom pointed up for me to heed the music, there had been a few musicians who’d presented a jovial set, full of sometimes lively, sometimes plangent good cheer, to get us all in the mood and they’d done so, conversation bristled through the several rooms in the house, and the cutlery and dishware clattered, but now there only sounded from the system above, sweet and simple but unmistakable to us, the voice of my father, the little esoteric tune which in the fifteen years since he’d died I’ve only heard at my mother’s, speaking to us

I love you, Dad, I said
 
I love you, Dad, said my mother, as we both looked up to where he was

and then he sat beside us making us three one

we had never been there together of course, but we’d all individually at least been there, and now we were together reunited, and we all knew we were reunited and always would be, it gave us all great strength

                                                                                                                                                                          later the waiter would ask us about our stay, when we were planning on leaving

“tomorrow”, we replied

“because I leave as well tomorrow”,  he informed, to return to Poland where he would continue studying law towards his career, and I knew that here again God had spoken, had sent this messenger just for us

and that finally God, or love, in all Its infinite variety of manifestations, is everywhere

                                                                                                                                                                       later I talked to my mother about the menu that still hanged at my sister’s, surely nearly thirty years since I’d first handed it over, and how it would be nice to have it in my own home, now that it would speak so eloquently to me of my adventure but also of my beliefs, the voice of my father, God, she might merely bring it up to my sister that I might want one, but they’d been no longer available, without indeed outright asking for it, I knew my sister would hear even so indirect a request with the ear she also cocks towards heaven, for she listens also with her heart, but I didn’t want to press her if perhaps she did not, might not want to let go of an item she had once ardently coveted

but she knew as well that my father had spoken and she had it with her the next time she came around

                                                                                                                                                                    and there it hangs upon the wall
 
                                                                                                                                                                          I could choose to call this my imagination, to consider these juxtapositions merely coincidence, perhaps they are, then perhaps again they are not, but I’ve found that to believe in merely coincidences, the mere association of fortuitously conjoined incidents, leaves me dry, arid, empty, on the verge too often of existential despair whereas believing in the voice of my father has brought me miracles and poetry, which is to say faith, grace and boundless love

and all there is to do is listen

 

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from my diary

these earlier “back tracks”, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while 

please enjoy                                                                                  

                         __________________ 

                                                                                                                                    December 19, 2002 

                                                                                                                                        in a few hours I’ll be headed out towards my mom’s
but already earlier than even the birds I’m up, have
dipped into my daily dose of poetry, an inspirational
text I’ve been reading for years in the morning I think
of as my prayer

this morning I perceived it as a constant, independent
of time and place, an act that rhythmically returns like
a heartbeat, a refrain, and defines me, gives me a character
outside the variegations of every day I can hold onto like
an anchor

and the text itself of course slips into my consciousness
and being and gives me guidance and shape
                                                                                                                                                                           

in return for my gift of laser eye surgery Greg got
me the complete works of Plato, which I intend to read
with him, and a plaster angel, a cherub, which he either
bought or found, and painted

the feathers are brushed with gold, the wings glisten,
golden silken locks seem to also carry light, the lips
a Cupid’s bow of cherry red are nevertheless innocent,
rouged cheeks flesh out the figure with freshness and
health

crouched on my bedside table it sits, its head rests
sideways on folded arms, piously, keeping an eye on me

  

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