Monday, August 12, 2013

Schrage Musik (1986) - for my father

Schräge Musik

for my father

History of Sensation 3
from Twentieth Century Blues 6


Torn shreds of Meccano, where the child has learnt to build a ruined city, using a tray of sand for debris, plasticine for the ground-plan of destroyed buildings. Hollow windows; machines decked with convolvulus.

Three silhouettes of Halifaxes, buffeted into turbulence, passing over a world they cannot gauge, because the lights were low, motionless, austere against a tableau of lightning and fire. Below it – why below it? I thought – a Mosquito was already making its escape. The flak was dying out, so I turned to the sky, the ghostly pearl of the illuminated clouds absorbing the blaze and destruction below.

Her grace and languor: a flicked curl across a wrinkled smile. Do I see her, did I ever see her? I looked at the smooth flesh, reached out to touch it, and felt her shiver. Suddenly, I ain’t together, kitted up, just for a pose. Carrying my flying cap, a distorted squash in my hand, a Holbein deathshead.

This room of representations. Vague radial roads visible, but most of the area a spattering of random craters, a Max Ernst dream, still drying, across which a tight-toothed comb has been scratched for effect. Somewhere, like the brain of a sensualist, the yellow tips tear through the red markers.

The men crowd into the hut; some keep their hats on, as if the band has already left the stand. Two bodies flighting: Pearl’s sister, Lorraine, playing the Gestapo, raised by high heels. She has flash explodes. Photograph taken. She kicks, she separates, smacking into rippling flesh. She breathes in: the tango, very strange and masculine.

The plane looked as if it were a photograph of itself that had been rubbed and creased in the pocket of its lover.

She reached and coiled, an eloquent quickstep: the darkness, scratching the surface of an Air Ministry notebook. Where did he think we broadcast, and her voice, singing those songs? The girl swooping over the wireless in the mess, the weekly: ‘And now we present the Frank Sydenham Orchestra, with Pearl Rust as the featured vocalist, And now she’s going to sing A Fine Romance.’

A controlled space: dressing table, with her back to me. Misery everywhere. The wireless made Pearl, waiting for the vocal, become a story, standing in her underwear, selecting outfits. The chorus of voices: able to pick Pearl’s out. Attractive silhouette with their searchlights flashing her legs, while she waited for the well-groomed, balanced couple, who were dancing on a cloud.

Exploding with flares before his caffeinated eyes, burst nebulae over Berlin, against which he can see, and be seen: a globular target. Bombs fall, like a row of rough ticks down a page of boringly correct answers.

The receding familiarity: a melody haunts my reverie, subverting the dream into a battle-cry. Barker thumping the rhythm on the table as he read, reminding me oddly of bursts of flak – a great comfort! But at the tracer fire, whole populations burst into song.

I always carry Pearl’s suspender belt as a lucky charm, stuffed into a map of its own contours, sitting in that pose that you see in that book. As if in answer, a huge bat of dirt on the Perspex could be taken for flak down, fighters up.

Camera: arrows wind over two frames. Fresh film ready. We strolled along, a sheet of targets to be scribbled over with a monopoly of outrage. And he was gone, leaving us rather dumfounded. But I could never take a photograph of you, because of the horror-blackened grain of the board: black and white etchings of cloud and flak lines.

Caress him from your dream. Who was it you held? He landed in a tree and injured himself releasing his parachute. Floating to the margins of ecstasy, black, terrible, a … a … a superstitious lot. We couldn’t be religious in any orthodox sense, as if …. Each night this foxtrot with death, trying not to tread on her toes.


A city of fire-glow, gleaming for half an hour, as she dreams in somebody else’s sights. The middle face was the actual ‘me’ figure. A tap dripping throughout the two minutes, the buzz of the wireless, the hiss of a silent figure of the dark. With no congruent self. Poetry as a model for a change in mental attitude, perfecting the dream, as memory. After the war, George was to become known chiefly as his finger. After some time, soldiers arrived, arrested him, and had to stop civilians from attacking him with stones. All the charts had been sucked through the broken fuselage. All the statistics of the Penguin Specials had got us nowhere. Jumped onto dispersal trucks, hunched over his maps, fiddled with something that resembled a bomber going down. The stench of piss on the rear wheel. The mask froze and George was free, floating through the air. More direct, it would deal a disguise. In doing so, Sgt. G.A. Grey, POW, Stalag Luft 3, loses you, to find you again, parting to meet and parting again: ‘a poet of the last train’. Somewhere in the ghetto lives Chaplin, waiting to usurp the other, with a walk that takes on the irrational grace of a dance. Leave me. After the war, I’ll never fly again, that’s for certain. An image like the first insistent words of an unfinished question: that exhaustive moment when the false enthusiasm wanes and they begin – one by one – to step away, half-waving, half-smiling, and start to disperse. You refuse to mark the night on the blanched page. Pressing the girl: oasis jazz. Scarecrows: flares which looked like bombers exploding, complete with simulated debris, to lower morale. An image, here, of a world scattering itself between the ringed heresies. A design of metal thrown at the earth and on permanent display. ‘We ain’t got a chance. There’s four horsemen drunk on the floor, masks blown to bits.’ The bubbles that come from people’s mouths float to the ceiling and accumulate, trees grow out of the open windows into the bricked streets. Any word is quite clearly what it is. A lethal dose had just hit the dance floor. The man with the mask-tormented voice never touches drink. ‘I think I’ll dig a little hole; it’s for them as in power. Oh, this lot stinks and will do best.’ There is no adequate single symbol: no golden ghostly holes in a world full of holes. He shows his teeth; the flash wrecks most of London’s open spaces. If it’s your name on the bomb, it glides into the aerodrome to land; there’s a paddle in your waving arms. Vampiric Halifax over London. Best silk knickers for an air raid – just in case. ‘It’s them waves that is a beautiful dancer; they leave heaven in your arms – and moonlight.’ Nearly a hundred fighters intercepted the stream. Grey reversed the turret and fell into flak and flares. Lovemaking bombs were dropping all around. 102 Squadron: Halifax 227-X. Shot down by a fighter. Günter was found dead the next day. One was the book of this story of demonic possession; and the other was this sort of dark woman with a slightly demoniacal face, and then, lying down, was a pretty, innocent-looking girl. She stood leaning against the heavy, thick-tyred, masculine machine. To the English bombers, aborted missions. Although you weren’t there, there was something like a mental image of you sitting in that chair, there, reading that book. Günter stroked Paula’s taut belly. Grey was arrested and taken to the Göring Hospital. Paula’s precarious character in this state. Random spray from an underbelly. Personae out of a metaphor of crude orders. A rubber dinghy floated down over Berlin. Flares burst in mess-room conviviality, high and dry on the shores of a dream. A Halifax of 102 fired 500 rounds at a fighter, from the rear turret. Hooded sharks, scenting blood, gaped for me, diving and twisting in the puppeted sky. Got a letter from home about John; they read it in the papers. High, in the bright, bedazzled air I floated, wailing, as they squirmed on the bed. The powers of Left and Right battle it out on the dance-floors, each song a binding correlative for a particular danger. Undercarriage down, as if in an act of supplication. In almost no clothes and no questions. Both excited and worried by this. Pearl would enter her bedroom, startled to find Ft. Sgt. Campbell – together for once. Flurries of snow outside…. Could the Government have foreseen…. The dream slips through the seams suspended, draws near to the heel under billowing silk. Paula began to fuck her Sirens. Game of deception. One night, barnacles and star-fish exploded. This fellow speaking of codes and false messages. Because of the war and because of the war. The dream of the stop-watch. Self-preservation as a sort of pickling, here. Call themselves Apocalyptics, but really Utopians: to build a sensibility into the brickwork. Berlin during a raid – the one time I experienced it – was ten times more terrifying than the Blitz. The scale of a fish a metallic sheet torn from the plunderer as he scraped my tattered sides. Music from somebody else’s patent dancing shoes, bejewelled with the Man-great glitter of war. A request on the wireless for the poet, already dead. But they are smiling at this. Their story was not to be a happy one. I think I’ll read The Playboy and the Lady. A sight to watch them struggling with the cookies, wrapped now in cardboard, trussed tight, and packed with Nazi propaganda. Lady Whatsit throws darts at a map of Europe. Jackboots with high heels. Sad sky: sad eye. Perpetual forgetting: perpetual longing. With the Sydenham band, desire, restrained, obscured by all I have become, and they, out there, feeling it, but not going for a further vision. Book-spines: industrial muscle; putting a little Anarchist pamphlet together on the outbreak of war. Play a record of myself singing Day In, Day Out, over and over – only leaving to go to the bathroom where I’d shit all over the seat. I’d style myself Georgi Arturo: The Ageless Wonder.


Again, and again. In the mind, in the eye; and again this

Schräge Musik

Out of a sky-shaft of moonlight;

The bomb-blast personalities:

Trump them up into

Sparks and steam in the poem.

Citizens stood by, watching, numbed, motionless. Pearl, mature, awaiting Sgt. Death to give her the sign, collapsed on the coffin. I dreamt the jackboot on the dead man’s shirt. Spooky choruses. But she gets up, strides out of the paragraph, rises in the hearts of Men.

I don’t just mean a new political system. The world has toyed with that for decades; I mean:

Pin ups that smile at us

Falling from the walls

Robinson Crusoe

Only multiplied by hundreds

Everybody else


Each his own Robinson Crusoe

And each of the others

Is Man Friday

Waiting for the postman

There’s not the expected letter

Evasive and unsubstantial

Strong man at the fair

So the little ball goes up

Ersatz RAF


Billowing over the hillsides

The bones of Russians

Shrugging allusiveness in your gestures

As the German territories diminish

Who lodged in the rafters

The Dutch family

Many of their own men would be shot

As hostages

Watch the goons

Their over-security when they find

Lines of political calendar ethics.

Petrol tin tea-pot

Experiencing future nostalgia.

Ghetto wailing

With a message in German.

Structured dream paper,

Rare sheets,

While the others are reading

Trying to compose

But nothing of worth

A communal splash with the others.

A bruised landscape

Bound in barbed wire

Around the tree

Year after year with each new bark

Symbol, here, perhaps of.

Spray of the unknown given

Comes from somebody else’s

Satin babe with silk stockings;

Pearl could not move.

I knew, watching,

This would be the last time I would ever see her

Out on the tarmac

The plane was taxiing

Or would she travel too

The Gestapo lady

Walked up to me

I was led out into the courtyard

I was now well-dressed

Where before

Topped with barbed wire

Had been turned into a Gestapo HQ

I told them nothing


And number

Was written in the face:

George A. Dorsey

I was an old man

With a walking stick

Conductor raised the baton

And froze

Into a statue

To the memory of music:

Hackney hat-scape


The gloved hand

Tied to a chair

There’s no privacy


In anticipation

Of nothing

Delete the aggressor

Delete the war

Delete the army

Delete delete

Everything must swing

Politics must be easy to dance to

To the memory of a body

Gramophones with broken mechanisms


Stuck like a mangle

Large horse shreds

Bag them up

Brick Lane had been in Poland in another


Photos of the op

A bomb-blast aesthetic

A pot of light

Pressing down on the flat plain

But the same mass

Weighing down upon us

Fatal steps screaming


It was an own-goal

Only they didn’t even know it

Without anybody being informed

The goals had been switched

Two minutes silence

The whole city

Palace revolution

Stillness over the huts

Unceasing searchlight


Taking in the compound

When the RAF bombed the camp

That’s social realism getting back at them

Delete that

Begin the deletions

Delete the message until


With a message in German

About her body

All the men who’ve

Written about the other men

Pickled character

Swing and communicate

Delete Harry James

Had died

Had survived

Was the love seat

Thorned like the head of Christ with barbed wire

In her slow motion


The stubs of a city


In the still air

The citizens had stopped

Shovelling the ash

Pile of rotting potatoes

Stillness over the huts

For undelivered letters

Talking into a metal ear

Cobwebs spun between the parts the moves are so slow

To think how fresh this all appeared and yet

Seen unframed


At the heart of the machine

I see your myth


A hand of bananas on your shoulder

A Great War battleship

Utopian vision

Heels of thought clicking

Contributes to orderly resistance

Of Parliaments and


Yes-no questions

Where’s George

In a child’s chair

About Benjamin Peret towards the end

As a receptacle of tradition


There is so little

A crow flaps out

From underneath

Useless description

Standing at the farthest perimeter

Looking out

Is George whatever-his-fucking-name-is

We shook hands

He shuffled off

I’ve been made the star of the show

And it was a bit like girls at school

Hate-thing and teasing

I began my act by putting on

By striking

Bits of erotic lingerie

And striking obscene poses

And you came in for this bit

I sat on the love-seat

To be filled

A dance without rhythm


Looking for rhythms

That will carry us

Not meanings

Nothing personal I don’t think

The teleology of checkmate


On one chord

Big band of cardboard boxes

The spotlight catches me

What if I were to escape

The demagogic machine

The bunched democracy of a queue

Door out to the shit house

Back in the mess

A glass of beer in your hand


Use your intelligence

The scenery for the play was rather like

Hanging up to dry and our suitcases and


Sit in the park

Tube-train rumble underneath you

In the air raid

Bombs’ dull thud and vibration

Fresh brick dust air

Down and down

Dance continental foxtrot

Pretend I’m some

Mystery and intrigue Englishman

Now be honest

Calling Germany

The great voice of God on the wireless

Shunted in goods wagons like

Half way across Europe

At the age of 29

Rather silly of me

Purple outfit

Dress trimmed with ostrich feathers

Except for the mask


You liked it but you also

Didn’t think it was respectable

Exposing herself to all those men

The evening was ending

The machine man

Has failed

The machine man

Has failed

Plump and respectable

Very sensible 1914 dress

You’d been sent away to war

You weren’t terribly well

We’d all wait for letters from you

Very very respectable

I couldn’t work it out

Bedding strewn along the platform; we were

Extremely grey

Glittering cities

Feeling disruption

Learning the whole of Samson Agonistes

The home front in Germany from

Her face became contorted

Icy fingers up and down

Exchange gossip they’d accumulated since

I was in tears

Marked ‘LMF’. It was

Your parents’ sitting room

And there were people; somebody started yelling

But I still didn’t feel convinced that you were alive.

It was impossible to carry on. The mistakes had been his and

You became then that devil figure:

Huge great room

Milling about

Huge great family

People were appealing to me to do something

And I

My feelings were mixed

About you

Saw you as someone else

And understood that

Jealous about it

Reluctance on my part but also I did want to

Break the spell

Save both of you.

Big house

It was split up into bedsitters

Something like your family mansion

Your family house

Zhukarovski Mansions

Bits of it were semi-derelict;

Of Pearl

The sequence plays over and over

Tight in its glove

Clenching and unclenching fist;

And this young girl was very enthusiastic

Involved in the poetry world

You were very pleased

Took your name

Living two doors down the road;

The marriage obviously had been postponed because you’d gone to war

I would receive letters from you but;

Dribbling peasants going Use the Whistle

Use the Whistle

And you shouting for someone to bring you the girl

That you were using her name;

Because she was so innocent she was like an empty vessel

For all this evil to rush into;

Long flowing hair

Pulled by animals

Which definitely were pigs

Always sows

Cross between horse and pig

And this is what I’d tell you about in my letters to you.


Scribbled in tiny writing

Stuck together

Till we’re stopped

’Raus ’raus


Train pulling into Finsbury Park

Was Pearl

Thin German

Gestapo lady

She stood with her hands bound behind a pole

Crease of buttocks

Forced back

As they buried the Russian soldiers

’Raus ’raus

Let’s go and pearl the ‘Earl Grey’

Forehead to forehead

The brain


A smile on the cinema screen

Twenty foot wide

Doing the Lambeth Walk


When not stooging

There are some records I can play in my head.

Rumbles and pavilions

The light flickers on and off.

Perspex ovens.

Pearl now

Long silk gloves


Eyes were shut

As if she had surrendered.

Nothing from Pearl

Bricked up in her cell

I had one piece of paper with me


It wouldn’t be a map

Would it

I tore it to pieces


Jargon over my ears

Prison camp was

The capitalist system in miniature

Disgusting stuff


Bartering this

On the principles of mutual aid

Good Anarchist republic


The ersatz padre

The smoky stinking huts

Like fishboxes

Screaming up in the middle of the night

Not quite a Nazi salute

Wire fevered loonies

Looking out from the barbs

Landscaped gutters

The rippling girls’ wartime

Melting ornaments

Wins England

War will have been lost

Craft whittling peace pipe

Anarchist pamphlet

Thumping oddly

And discovered the piano

Thumped out the boogie-woogie



To hear him play

The solid voice and its single plea

Tragedy rationed by death

Fellow shadow

A professor of German poetry

I could see nothing through

To try to see outside

Fibrous visible mind

Polished vibrations

Already misted with memory

Foxtrot toes

Exhilarated her

Bled remains somebody else’s world

Trying it from a different angle

Hugged sentiment

Trumpet-skids across the path

Candle flares

Flourishing into the air

It happens that way

All those memories

Curious black and white


An image

But through the screen

Nothing but tatters of light flaying around in the air

May-June 1986