David Bowie Book Club #2: James Baldwin

Baldwin and his nephew.

The February read for the David Bowie Book Club was James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, an essay about America’s racial divide which is sadly still all too relevant today. I’d read Giovanni’s Room and Go Tell It on the Mountain, but only fragments of his great body of essays, both personal and political, which are incontrovertibly fused in his work:

One writes out of one thing only – one’s own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from his experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give.

The Fire Next Time is a slim volume comprising an essay Down at the Cross and a letter to Baldwin’s nephew on the 100th anniversary of emancipation from slavery which is only a few pages long and acts as a sort of prelude to the other essay.

It’s an amazing and unforgettable polemical read. I was instantly captivated by the blazing passion and fury of the language and the argument. It is heart-breakingly honest and would inspire anyone with ‘fire in the belly’ at the injustice of race relations. In the letter to the nephew, things are spelled out directly and still feel applicable to so many discriminated and vulnerable people within present-day society (the often unconscious white middle class privilege we hear in the media):

You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence; you were expected to make peace with mediocrity… I know your countrymen do not agree with me about this, and I hear them saying, ‘You exaggerate.’

The essay proper is a memoir of the summer when Baldwin turned fourteen and experienced a kind of religious fervour. Why religion? Baldwin is remarkably clear-eyed about using religion as a tool  (or as he calls it ‘a gimmick’) to help him move beyond his background:

I was icily determined … never to make my peace with the ghetto but to die and go to Hell before I would let any white man spit on me… I did not intend to allow the white people of this country to tell me who I was and limit me that way… Every Negro boy… realizes that he … must find, with speed, a “thing”, a gimmick to lift him out, to start him on his way… And it was my career in the church that turned out, precisely, to be my gimmick.

However, it is not all plain sailing. The young boy is clearly caught up in the excitement of church, the music and drama of it, but at the same time he is puzzled at the apparent indifference of a white God to the plight of black people. He sees examples of anything but Faith, Hope and Charity, the principles he believed the Christian world was based on. He finds it absurd that people claim to love God only because they are afraid of going to Hell. He sees the paradox of church ministers becoming rich while their parishioners continue to scrub floors and put their hard-earned dimes into the collection plate. He decides there is no genuine love in the Christian church.

The boy grows up and encounters the Nation of Islam movement and Malcolm X, with their doctrine of a black God. Although he feels the anger of the black movement is justified, he finds himself equally alienated by their hatred of all things white. ‘I love a few people and they love me and some of them are white, and isn’t love more important than colour?’ This leads to a very powerful examination of what equality really means.

People are not terribly anxious to be equal… but they love the idea of being superior…. I am far from convinced that being released from the African witch doctor was worthwhile if I am now – in order to support the moral contradictions and the spiritual aridity of my life – expected to become dependent on the American psychiatrist. It is a bargain I refuse. The only thing white people have that black people need, or should want, is power – and no one holds power forever.

Baldwin sets out the arguments so eloquently that it feels wrong to try and paraphrase them. It is such a brief and powerful piece that I would urge you to read it yourselves. It was previously not that easy to find, though, except in volumes of collected essays by Baldwin, but in 2017 a beautiful new edition was launched and won an award (see cover above). I will just close with a beautiful call to something one might call reconciliation:

In short, we, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation – if we are really, that is, to achieve out identity, our maturity, as men and women. To create one nation has proved to be a hideously difficult task; there is certainly no need now to create two, one black and one white.

Baldwin’s house in St Paul de Vence, France. For more information about the state of the house now and attempts to save it, see this article.

1963 – we are now in 2018, 55 years later. Why is it still so difficult to accept that allowing someone to develop to their full capacity does not take away from any of your own potential? Why do we still have the hunter/gatherers’ mentality of scarce food resources, that if we give away some of our food we will starve? Even when what is often asked of us is not as basic as sharing food, but something like sharing the limelight? Call me naive, but I still think we should unite to save the planet and its weakest souls (animals, children, whatever) rather than fight amongst ourselves.

 

Hawksmoor: David Bowie Reading Club No.1

Being such a huge David Bowie fan, you can imagine that I jumped at once at the chance to join the virtual book club initiated by his son Duncan Jones. January’s read was Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd and what an interesting experience that was!

I struggled initially with the Samuel Pepys style and orthography in the 17th century timeline (although I enjoyed the diaries of Pepys and Evelyn in my late teens). I certainly preferred the 20th century timeline, perhaps because it felt like a more straightforward crime investigation. But of course it is nothing of the sort. How to describe the plot? In the late 17th century (or perhaps early 18th), Nicholas Dyer is an architect working with Sir Christoper Wren to rebuild London’s churches after the Great Fire. He seems to believe in pagan practices that a durable church building requires a human sacrifice (see the Ballad of Mesterul Manole in Romanian folklore (and similar to legends in all parts of the Balkans). Except that the folklore versions imply that nothing of artistic merit that is lasting and unique can be built without the creator’s self-sacrifice, while Dyer seems more eager to sacrifice other people, usually vagrants he finds on the streets of London. In the 20th century timeline, Nicholas Hawksmoor is a detective who is investigating some serial killings on the site of Dyer’s churches in London’s East End.

Past and present seem to brush against each other. Names, characters, places, events are mirrored, sometimes in unexpected ways, in both narratives, but it takes a very attentive reader to keep precise track of the similarities and differences. Certain themes are handled obsessively in both timelines: dust, shadows and time (running out of time, in particular). London appears as a sulphurous, sinister city, harbouring all sorts of evil thoughts and deeds, riddled with real and metaphorical plagues.

Certain streets or patches of ground provoked a malevolence which generally seemed to be quite without motive.

And for a moment Hawksmoor saw his job as that of rubbing away the grease and detritus which obscured the real picture of the world in the way that a blackened church must be cleaned before the true texture of its stone can be seen.

This is a multi-layered work and therefore open to many interpretations, but one aspect which stood out for me was the struggle between rationality (Sir Christopher Wren’s ordered, mathematical world – and that of Hawksmoor’s assistant Dyer) and irrational urges, impulses or dark passions of the architect Dyer and Hawksmoor himself. As someone who prides herself on being a rational creature of the Enlightenment rather than of dark medieval obscurantism, yet I keep demanding a pathos to go with all the logos, a heartbeat to go with all the analysis, I somehow felt stuck in the middle. But perhaps that’s the point: that these opposing forces exist in most of us. A fascinating read, but a bit exhausting, I have to admit.

I began to wonder if that was the reason why it’s been out of print: that maybe the patience and close attention required for such experimental fiction has fallen out of fashion. In my student days in the 1990s this would have been precisely what would have attracted me to this book: that feeling of co-exploration, of being made to work for your enjoyment. Perhaps true crime podcasts have replaced literary structural wizardry and the detective work required for piecing together clues finds its outlet elsewhere.

Library Haul for January

I’ve been trying not to borrow too many library books these past few months, since I still have so many unread books on my shelf. But I cannot help but heed the sire call of the Senate House Library just above my workplace… I went in yesterday for just one book and came out with four.

I have the English edition, of course, but isn’t this Romanian cover pretty?

The one I went in for was Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor, because this is the first book chosen by Duncan Jones, David Bowie’s son, who is starting an informal book club in honour of his father, who was ‘a beast of a reader’. Apparently, online booksellers have been inflating the price of this book since he announced his choice, because it is currently out of print. I’ve only ever read biographies by Peter Ackroyd, so this will be my first novel by him.

 

On the shelf above this book I found Leila Aboulela’s The Translator. As if the title alone wasn’t enough to entice me, the blurb says it is the love story between a young Sudanese widow working as an Arabic translator at a British university and a Scottish academic. Intercultural relations and university environment? Count me in! Maybe I really am an old Romantic after all.

On my way out, I then stumbled into the French literature section, as one does. I had to check quickly to see if Marie Darrieussecq‘s latest was available, as one of my writer friends recommended it, but instead I came across an early one, My Phantom Husband. The first paragraph proved to be irresistible:

My husband’s disappeared. He got in from work, propped his briefcase against the wall and asked me if I’d bought any bread. It must have been around half past seven.

Of course I had to get the original French version Naissance des fantômes as well, to compare and contrast the two. It has been a while since I’ve done that – the last book I read simultaneously in two languages was by Maylis de Kerangal and I really enjoyed that experience.

See what I mean about the joy of open shelf libraries and serendipity?

 

Review: On Bowie by Simon Critchley

Let me begin with a rather embarrassing confession: no person has given me greater pleasure throughout my life than David Bowie. Of course, maybe this says a lot about the quality of my life. Don’t get me wrong. There have been nice moments, some even involving other people. But in terms of constant, sustained joy over the decades, nothing comes close to the pleasure Bowie has given me.

bowie

How could I resist this opening paragraph? Here was someone who understood me perfectly, who felt the same way I did. This slim volume of essays (although that seems too pretentious a word, perhaps ‘meditations’, as they call them on the blurb, or ‘riffs’ would be more suitable) is perfect for Bowie fans to dip in and out of.

Each chapter is quick and easy to read, but provokes you to think deeper, with references to Roland Barthes (bane of my student days), Nietzche, Georg Buchner, Paul Celan, Samuel Beckett. This is a philosophy professor with a passion for music, after all. Yet he keeps it all very down-to-earth and accessible, simply talking about his own personal emotions and thoughts while listening to and watching Bowie. In describing these, however, he touches upon the universal:

What’s striking is that I don’t think I am alone in this view. There is a world of people for whom Bowie was the being who permitted a powerful emotional connection and freed them to become some other kind of self… Bowie was not some rock star or a series of flat media cliches about bisexuality and bars in Berlin. He was someone who made life a little less ordinary for an awfully long time.

This was a library loan, but I think I will buy a copy for myself.

Quince Blossoms in Frost

Photo courtesy of Toni Spence from dVerse Poets.
Copyright Kanzensakura, all rights reserved. Used by permission.

I eat quince to keep me sober. Its bitter, astringent taste wakes me to a world where sweetness is not the aftertaste, where juiciness cannot be taken for granted. It is the fruit for grown-ups.

Yet when you roast it, what a transformation! It melts in honeyed dew on your tongue. Do I likewise melt and linger when the fires burn me up? Or do I blend with molten iron to form a steely backbone?

Prickly bittersweet
Memory of golden fruit
Flower in the frost

This poem, written for Haibun Monday at dVerse Poets Pub, is dedicated to my favourite fruit, the hard-to-find and even harder-to-describe quince, and is dedicated to the memory of my favourite musician, David Bowie, who was likewise unique and hard to describe.

Of Ear Worms and Pop Philosophy: My Favourite Song Lyrics

I was listening to classic songs on the radio this weekend while cooking. I was singing and jiving along, when two things occurred to me:

  1. There is a part of the brain uniquely specialised in song lyrics you acquired as a child and teenager. You will remember them and be word-perfect even decades afterwards.
  2. No other songs since have quite captured that uncertainty and angst which threatened to overwhelm you back then… and which have periodically reared up their ugly heads. You vaguely realised back then that life is unfair and hard, but you have to keep trudging on. Now you know for sure. And, just occasionally, there are some moments which make it all worthwhile.

So here are my favourite songs from those teenage years. Little wonder I turned to noir novels and dark, emotionally-wrenching poetry later in life… [I hope it’s OK to use these excerpts, by the way, I know that copyright for song lyrics are very, very tricky in books and the like.]

Album cover, from soundcheck.wnyc.org
Legendary album cover, from soundcheck.wnyc.org

Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here

We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Pink Floyd: Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Well you wore out your welcome with random precision, rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

GloryDaysSpringsteenBruce Springsteen: Glory Days

… I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

 

 

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes

talkingheadsTalking Heads: Once in a Lifetime

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?…Am I wrong?

And how could I leave out my favourite Mr. Bowie?

David Bowie: Changes

And every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test…

Finally, just in case you thought it was getting all too masculine and self-important, here’s one of the wittiest songs in existence (and so true of me and my passion for shoes):

From KirstyMacColl.com
From KirstyMacColl.com

Kirsty MacColl: In These Shoes?

Then I met an Englishman
“Oh” he said
“Won’t you walk up and down my spine,
It makes me feel strangely alive.”

I said “In these shoes?
I doubt you’d survive.”

If you know these songs, I’d encourage you to remind yourselves how gorgeous they all are. And if you don’t know them, you should set to discovering them at once.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Berliner Freiheit – Youth and Freedom in Berlin

tigermilchTBR3 from #TBR20

Stefanie de Velasco gives voice to two 14 year old girls in this coming-of-age story entitled ‘Tigermilk’.  It’s a summer of hanging around outside their council estate, going swimming and shoplifting, smoking and drinking their ‘doctored’ (alcoholic) milk, eager to lose their virginity but also to find love. Nini is German and Jameelah is Iraqui, they also have Bosnian friends, Serbian acquaintances… but society will not allow them to forget the differences between them, and it’s not just ‘leave to remain’ that marks them out. The playground between their block of flats is divided: the German and Russian kids never go on the slides, the Arabic and Bosnian children never go on the swings. Living in a new country does not necessarily mean that their past doesn’t catch up with them, and, even though Nini’s life is not a walk in the park, she discovers that she has more privileges simply by virtue of being German.

This is a YA book – the protagonists have that self-absorbed voice of teenagers everywhere – which makes it very heavily dependent on just the right nuance of voice, but it failed to fully convince me. I read the book in the original German and was a bit disappointed by the lack of obvious slang. The girls have their own secret puns and speech inversions (quite rude and funny at times), but there is no Berliner Schnauze (dialect) or real youth slang in here, which makes it sound a little false.  I can also attest to the lack of speech marks, a deliberate choice by the author which has infuriated many readers, but  which gives this book a feverish quality, as if everything happens in a nightmarish half-aware state. Which is the state these girls seem to be in most of the time (while Nini’s mother seems to be almost comatose, seriously depressed). Until they witness a frightening event which truly tests their loyalties and their friendship.

The stigmatised Gropius neighbourhood in Berlin.
The stigmatised Gropius neighbourhood in Berlin.

Yet, for all of the serious consequences of this event, there is perhaps not quite enough self-awareness or introspection or growing up going on. It’s a sad story, there are many poignant moments of realisation of the emptiness and possible hopelessness of the lives of these young people. Things that these young people only realise in momentary flashes of insight, but that we as readers are aware of all along. There are some memorable scenes, for instance when Nini’s younger sister and another little friend from the neighbourhood jump around on the sofa watching porn films, with carrots and courgettes stuck down their pants. Overall, though, it doesn’t quite gel for me.  I would have liked this better as a series of short stories, perhaps, vignettes of life in the tower blocks of the poorer parts of Berlin.

I suppose my main disappointment stems from the fact that I was expecting it to be the voice of a whole generation. I thought it would bear testimony to the millenial generation as Christiane F. did for my generation (well, strictly speaking for the generation just before mine). However, it most certainly does not do that and I don’t think it’s just because I read Christiane F. at the right (impressionable) age. It can’t be a coincidence that the initial premise for Tigermilk is so similar to Christiane F.: a girl living with just her mother and younger sister in a soulless block of flats in a deprived area, a mother apparently oblivious to her daughter’s dodgy deeds, the mother’s boyfriend trying to make-believe all is fine, her admiration for a friend who seems to be so much cooler and knowledgeable than her, her desire to experiment and be different. Yet there is some kind of affection and solidarity amongst the druggies in Christiane’s Berlin which seems to have gone missing in the present-day.

The more touristy image of Kurfurstendamm, from  economist.com
The touristy image of Kurfurstendamm, economist.com

Of course, Berlin has changed enormously since the 1970s, and Tigermilk shows us a more multicultural society. Christiane’s friends were all white and German, while Nini’s are almost all non-German. Clubbing and drug-taking has given way to going to the pool and drinking. The area around Bahnhof Zoo has been cleaned up, so the pick-up spot for part-time prostitutes has now moved to the very posh shopping street Ku’damm.  Yet Tigermilk seems to be trying too hard, keen to manipulate the reader’s emotions, to drive me to tears or pity or shock. In contrast, Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (We Children of Zoo Station) is matter-of-fact, without a trace of self-pity, narrated in a ‘take it or leave it’ tone which sends genuine chills down your spine. What both have in common, however, is the lack of happy outcome.

It did make me curious to see the Christiane F. film again, which I have in my collection. I intend to show it to my children when they are a little older. We watched that film when I was about 11-12 (recommended age is 16+), as a class at school, and I can say hand on heart that it put me off drugs completely. [So the educational aspect of it worked, even though the book is not preachy at all about the evilness of drugs.] Even the fact that it had David Bowie appearing briefly in it (he was already my hero back then) was not enough to make drugs seem ‘cool’.

Rewatching it, I realised that the most frightening aspect of it all was that 13 year old Christiane is not from a particularly horrible home or traumatic background [the book is much more explicit about her abusive drunk father and neglectful mother]. Her parents are divorced and she lives in a rather depressing block of flats, but we all could recognise bits of ourselves in her: her hero-worship of Bowie, her desire to fit in with the cool crowd and escape from the ‘dreary ordinariness’ of her life, even her ‘well brought up girl’ attitude initially to drug-taking. At first, as they all meet up at a club and then careen wildly down an empty shopping-centre and up on the roof of the Mercedes-Benz building in Berlin to the soundtrack of ‘Heroes’, you get swept up in the thrill and apparent freedom of it all. What the film does very cleverly show is the gradual decay not just of the children but also of their environment, to the truly awful, graffiti-filled public toilets.

Movie poster from 1981. From the ironically entitled berlin-enjoy.com website.
Movie poster from 1981. From the ironically entitled berlin-enjoy.com website.

*Play on words: Berliner Freiheit is a rather ugly-looking shopping in Bremen, while Münchener Freiheit were a German pop/rock band popular in the 1980s. Freiheit means freedom, the location is Berlin and those young people believe they are looking for freedom… but find nothing but disillusionment and their own inner prisons instead.

Songs of My Life

There is a website where you can enter your year of birth and get to ‘see’ the top music tracks of each year of school, the soundtrack to your early life, as it were. Which got me thinking… what are the songs that meant most to me in my life? They weren’t necessarily the ones that were the greatest hits at the time, nor are they trendy, cool, or chosen for their artistic merit. I probably should be embarrassed to death about at least half of them. I’m certainly somewhat surprised and frustrated that they are so often related to ‘other people’, to falling in love and such things. But, like it or not, these are the songs to which I developed a personal connection and which are vivid reminders of certain periods of my life.

1982 – The Wall – Pink Floyd

Is there any school child who did not rise up and sing ‘We don’t need no education…’? Even though I actually rather liked school. At least in those early years.

DavidBowieScaryMonstersCover1983 – Scary Monsters (Super Creeps) – David Bowie

The first single I ever bought. Then I bought the album; then some of his earlier albums. This was David Bowie of the Serious Moonlight Tour, the pastel suits, the ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Little China Girl’. But I preferred his earlier music… and his film roles in The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and his cameo in Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo. I was completely besotted with him and convinced that he’d wait for me to grow up and we’d get married. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

1987 – I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight – Cutting Crew

Cutting Crew
Cutting Crew

My first big love affair with a boy with turquoise eyes… who vaguely resembled the lead singer of this band and taught me nearly everything I know about skiing.

1989 – I Want to Break Free – Queen

A secret anthem during my teenage years and my difficult relationship with my parents. But also the year that all of us young people finally broke free in my country – or at least found democracy and capitalism. For better, for worse…

1990 – She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals

I was interpreting for international television crews during the first free elections in Romania. I was often the only (young) woman in a gaggle of (older) men, but I think I managed to make them toe the line. This was the song that they said reminded them of me. It reminds me of the world of possibilities that was opening up to me just then.

1992 – Pata Pata – Miriam Makeba

One of the happiest years of my life, when I did my M.Phil. in Cambridge. I learnt ballroom dancing for the first time and fell completely in love with it – this was our cha-cha music. This was also the year that I met the great love of my life. Sadly, it didn’t last very long.

2003 – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Andy Williams

The song I used to croon to my first-born, waltzing with him in a kangaroo pouch up and down the living room. How can a mother not identify with these words? ‘You’re just too good to be true/ can’t take my eyes off you/ You’d be like heaven to touch/ I wanna hold You so much/ At long last love has arrived/ And I thank God I’m alive…’

2014 – Sweet Darling – Frero Delavega

This is a really silly (and somewhat sexist) song, but it’s the one that my boys have adapted to sing to our beloved cat when she is debating whether to go outside in the wet, cold or snow: ‘Oh, my sweet darling Zoe/ don’t go!’ It perfectly captures all their humour, tenderness and silliness – and their affection for their ‘little sister’.

Will 2015 bring any memorable songs? I intend this to be a year of movement, of leaving lethargy behind and getting stuff DONE. So it’s either full circle to Pink Floyd and ‘Shine On, You Crazy Diamond’ or else… I’m rather tempted by this:

 

For Days Now, Mr. Bowie

Space Oddity Album Cover 1.
Space Oddity Album Cover 1.

For days now Mr. Bowie

has withered my poetic vine.

He absorbs all thought, each molecule

of passion.

So dreams turn monotonal

and pastel-grey wins mornings.

Twelve labours turn to twenty,

each step backbreaking toil.

Ears hum with his songs, not mine.

(So easy to find solace

when others say it better.)

Tempted – oh, yes! – to stop searching

for the word forever lost, crooked, faulty…

For just one minute I stopped upon a rock

with Sisyphus

lost in contemplation

of the melody of life.

Hunky Dory Album Cover
Hunky Dory Album Cover

But tell me, Mr. Bowie,

you who have known sorrow

– and great joy too, no doubt –

what do you know of my heart?

How can you show in my place

where fear fell  away,

out glistened unfettered soul beneath?

You cannot speak for me

so haunt no more my mind and senses.

Leave me to find my own laborious words.

 

Despite the pictures and the name-dropping, this poem is not really about David Bowie at all, although you know that I am a fan.  It’s about writing, finding words to describe your experiences, finding your own voice, inspiration: all the bees that are currently flying around in my bonnet.  Buzz over to the dVerse Poets Pub today, where they have Open Link Night.

Where Are We Now?

This song by David Bowie from his latest album ‘The Next Day’ always has me in tears.  Not because it is a love song, but because it talks about Berlin past and present.  Berlin has always exerted a powerful fascination over me, because it is a symbol of more than one dictatorship.  I visited it back in the days when it was a very sad, divided town. [Incidentally, a journalist friend of mine at the time said that nearly all major cities starting with a B are heading towards destruction and unhappiness: Beirut, Belfast, Belgrade, Bucharest…]

Berlin, Germany
Berlin, Germany (Photo credit: OSU Special Collections & Archives : Commons)

Of course, Berlin is no longer gloomy and schizophrenic. It has become the trendy place to be for creatives and young families. Yet this song reminds me that the revolution we hoped to achieve in Eastern Europe – and which entailed quite a bit of human sacrifice  ‘walking the dead’, as Bowie puts it –  was supposed to be about more than having more consumer choice or becoming trendy.  It was about starting over, about being brave and honest, about establishing new ways of thinking and listening to each other,  a new kind of culture.  Where are we now?  Very far from all that.

So this is a very long-winded introduction to this draft of a poem that I wrote – am still writing –  for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night, based on this idea of a failed revolution. But then, perhaps all revolutions are doomed to fail.

That night we bade farewell to fear.

Tanks and bullets became real.

No game.

No bystanders.

Fences fell.

A few days later when we buried

the old regime,

we thought we’d given birth

to hope.

flagWe drove down roads in whooping glee

waving cut-out flags.

Fists pumping in air so cold

we knew we could cut it

into purest blocks

to conserve that moment and our courage

forever.

Then start afresh.

Breathless with hope,

giddy with joy,

there was no wall we could not climb,

no paths we could not forge.

How we dared dream.

Till undergrowth smothered us.