Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Read, Dream, Pray - and Do Not Kill in the Happy New Year 2014!

The New Year came too fast for me, as I was buried in a mountain of books I simply had to read in order to stop writing nonsense. You know, the more you know, the more you know... and the better writer you are... I welcomed the New Year in a Venetian mask, barely had time to watch the Rose Parade on TV... and flew on a red-eye to Washington, D.C.

                                          At the New Year's Eve Ball, with appropriately dressed Sylvia,
                                                    she had a lovely peacock-feather fan...

But my reading and writing recently had nothing to do with poetry, actually it has been on one of the least poetic of subjects. As Adorno said, after Auschwitz no poetry... So I read on Hitler's Willing Executioners and Lissa's 1952 essays written at the height of the Stalinist take-over of Polish culture, with Soviet imports of mass songs, ideologically "proper" poems (they had lots of problems with that), and socialist realism permeating all aspects of creativity.  I'm glad I do not have to comply with such external requirements just to stay alive and put food on my table.  My research project into the presence of Jewish composers in Polish musical life continues after two conference presentations and countless revisions of my text. 

What about poetry, then?  How about a call to prayer? An old one, from a Museum, but still vibrant, still resounding with that unheard Tibetan Horn. 

A Call to Prayer

The blue-eyed dragon roars.
The air fills with flames.
Time to drop the mundane
Tools and thoughts. Time
To go inward, stand still.

The call to prayer spreads
Throughout the world,
From blaring loudspeakers,
Brittle rosaries hanging from
The taxi-drivers’ rearview mirrors.

The call is loud, omnipresent,
Loud, unheeded. We are
Too fast for blue-eyed dragons,
For rosary beads carved from
Olive trees at Golgotha.
Too busy. The dragon roars.

                                      © 2008 by Maja Trochimczyk

Is prayer a good thing? It depends what we are praying for. Fervid beseeching for more money, or for a misfortune for an enemy - No, not really. But singing a prayer in an unknown language, chanting the words not knowing what they mean? Would that work? 

Scholars from the cognitive music study field have done a lot to show how important music and singing is to personal well-being. We are simply much more happy if we sing regularly with others; the hormones start working, the serotonin flows where it should. Recent advances in neurobiology and the study of the brain have shown the mechanisms of these actions. But people knew this for centuries. That's why choral singing fills in temples and churches. That's also one reason why the personal electronic listening devices are a major threat to humanity's happiness... with those headphones on, we do not sing.  

Here's a poem about a building built to resonate with and amplify the choral sounds...

     The Cathedral

     waves of song
     bounce off the cobblestones
    spill on the rooftops

    stay still, watch
    shadows fle the bronze
    majesty of bells

   morning brightness
   rises in the rhythm
   of the ocean, caressing

   ancient mounds
   of cooled off lava
   at the edge of the dying world

   inside the rib-cage
   of a cathedral
   we learn to breathe

   in the beached whale
   of a building
   the city’s beating heart

     (c) 2013 by Maja Trochimczyk, October 19, 2013

Sometimes, when the forces of darkness take over, the "beating heart" becomes a hologram, empty gesture... That certainly was the case with the Churches in the 1930s and 1940s.  Filled with Christians and racial hatred. But sometimes it is still true. The heart beats with love. Two of my mother's uncles, Feliks and Karol Wajszczuk were prisoners in Dachau. Arrested after being denounced by "not a nice person" they were subject to experiments with malaria, brutal beatings, back-breaking labor without clothes, tools, or shoes, and starvation-level food rations. Karol died in 1943, Feliks survived. Did I mention both were Catholic priests and both were involved in the anti-German resistance? 

Let me end this New Year's story with a great poet and an inspired poem... that's close to the topic of my study, and my heart. 

Ice, Eden
There is a Land that’s Lost,
Moon waxes in its Reeds,
and all that’s turned to frost
with us, burns there and sees.

It sees, for it has Eyes,
Earths they are, and bright.
Night, Night, Alkalis.
It sees, this Child of Sight.

It sees, it sees, we see,
I see you, you too see.
Ice will rise again before
This Hour shall cease to be. 
Celan committed suicide, he could not live with what he experienced and saw around him, with what he lost. By remembering him and other poets of the Age of Darkness we may bring some light into our own world, filled with new perpetrators and new acts of cruelty and horror. 

How about a new New Year Resolution: I will not kill? I will not kill anyone with hatred, rejection, indifference... As the Dalai Lama says, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”  Cheers to a year filled with pomegranates, a year without grenades (both the love-bringing fruit and the love-destroying weapon are named with the same word in Polish, the explosive "granat").


Photos by Maja Trochimczyk

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