Sunday, March 7, 2010

“…the War was Always There”

la génération perdue
by Charlie Leck

“In the Fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it anymore.”
[Ernest Hemingway]*
I feel the release that the young volunteers of the Great War must have felt when they turned away from it and sought to find themselves and sanity again. It seems, in America, the war is there – always, always there – but I am not going there anymore. If it isn’t Afghanistan, or Iraq, it will be somewhere else where our fragile national psyche feels threatened or, even, tormented. Is it possible that America needs her wars to fulfill her voracious appetite, her enormous need to be laid by every young, handsome dude who comes along?

Aside and removed from the war, I’ll think of an old, unknown poet this morning. Somewhere, in a vague and common place, he toils at his craft too infrequently, but nearly each time he does he produces pieces worthy of hanging and admiring; however, sadly, they are never neatly and publicly framed and, alas, they are never hung in places where readers can step back from the wall to admire them.

I wrote about this campy, undiscovered poet nearly three years ago in another blog: An Extraordinary, Undiscovered Poet.

Here I can post one of his works and it won’t draw but a trickle of attention; and he can remain, as he parsimoniously wishes, the great, anonymous American poet – le poēte laurét de la gérération perdue.

Thoughts of An Older Man
a poem by Arthur Mampel

The bulk of what I thought was true
Is lost in angst and disrepair
The finest things I thought I knew
Are only shadows of despair.
Is this the reckoning of Time:
What once was fast is now made slow?
Is this the weight of the Divine
That ages creatures here below?
Or maybe it’s just heaven’s joke
That doesn’t stay, but passes on
And we from a shaken dreams are woke
To find the night has turned to dawn?

It takes great effort to write this well and remain in obscurity while lesser writers beam with pride when they hear the stumbling mumblings of their public praising them, as in ... “holy cow that was… that was… what shall we say?... holy cow!”

*"In Another Country" first appeared in Ernest Hemingway's short-story collection Men Without Women (Scribner, 1927). In 1998 it was reprinted in The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (Scribner).

What’s the connection here? I would likely not have read the complete works of Hemingway, sipping it slowly as I did, had it not been for this obscure poet who hides from the public and the glare of attention.

From: In Another Country,
by Ernest Hemingway.

"In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more. It was cold in the fall in Milan and the dark came very early. Then the electric lights came on, and it was pleasant along the streets looking in the windows. There was much game hanging outside the shops, and the snow powdered in the fur of the foxes and the wind blew their tails. The deer hung stiff and heavy and empty, and small birds blew in the wind and the wind turned their feathers. It was a cold fall and the wind came down from the mountains.

"We were all at the hospital every afternoon, and there were different ways of walking across the town through the dusk to the hospital. Two of the ways were alongside canals, but they were long. Always, though, you crossed a bridge across a canal to enter the hospital. There was a choice of three bridges. On one of them a woman sold roasted chestnuts. It was warm, standing in front of her charcoal fire, and the chestnuts were warm afterward in your pocket. The hospital was very old and very beautiful, and you entered through a gate and walked across a courtyard and out a gate on the other side. There were usually funerals starting from the courtyard. Beyond the old hospital were the new brick pavilions, and there we met every afternoon and were all very polite and interested in what was the matter, and sat in the machines that were to make so much difference."

Drawing in header of the blog is based on a photo from Time Photo

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