Saturday, November 14, 2009

Digging In The Archives . . .

It's been ages since a poem was published in these pages, but as I've said more than once in the past, it's not just about the photos. Something in the below post about people losing their heads reminded me of this little piece written a while back; languishing ever since in a dark desk drawer . . . well, to quote Lady Macbeth : "Out damned spot ! Out I say ! One; two: why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? . . ."
. . .Brainwashing
I wish with all my heart
And my liver and my lungs
That I could find the courage
To plug in my saber saw
Turn it on and stick
The furiously vibrating blade
In my ear
And work it in a large circular path
Around the side and top
Of my skull
Returning to the point of entry
Too bad for that ear
But I’ve still got another one
Nature’s marvellous duplicity
Once this minor incision done
Turn off the saw
Ah, silence is golden
And then I could lift off
The newly released piece of armor bone
Opening a portal
On the top of my head
Which would thus permit
Me to step under a warm shower
And wash my soiled brain
Lathering with shampoo
Massaging slippery coils
With deeply probing fingers
Pouring in gallons of chlorine bleach
Industrial strength stain removers
Disinfecting toilet cleaner
Ajax Mr Clean
Draino for the really tough clogs
Over forty years
Of accumulated grunge and grime
Layer after layer of various manures
Like an archeological dig
In a sewage covered
Concentration camp cemetery
Pour in the acid pour in the lye
To burn away centuries of lies
Scrub it with a stiff wire brush
Bring on the steel wool
Laundry soap dish soap
Paint stripper and rust remover
Anything and everything
Is fair game
When it comes
To brainwashing
Oh to see all the liberated crud
Spiralling down the drain
The endless lies disappearing
Like the tears a baby cries
Leaving nothing but pure white light
Clean as virgin snow
To return no more
The images of children
Burned by napalm
Skin hanging in flaps
Mayhem murderous madness
Artillery and tanks
Car bombs spattered blood
Airliners tearing through towers
In great glowing balls of fire
Burning, burning
The awful stench of death
Memories of missiles in factories
Steel gray angels of death
Thundering through the skies
A pregnant woman cries pure terror
While those that profit most
Swear there is no other way
But any ignorant fool can see
That power corrupts
And greed is an ugly seed
Still day after day after day
After day the horror continues
We live in a constant state of fear
The fifty-first state
And I would wash it all away
Today wash all away
Wash away
Brain washed
And vanish down the drain


Nevine Sultan said...

First off, a clever play on the word "brainwashing". And the images you create: gouging out your own eardrum, shampooing your brain... so graphic and real enough for me to see them in my mind, and feel them in my heart. I do have to admit that sometimes those lingering memories deserve that sort of treatment. And yes, "everything is fair game" as you say. We want so desperately to eradicate the memories because they trouble us, darken our vision - everything we see, we see with haunted eyes, with eyes that have seen a little but known too much.

Owen, I would, if you don't mind, encourage you to open your dark desk drawer a bit more frequently, please. :-)


Roxana said...

yes, more poems, please!

i still remember the tenderness of the gaze who embraced the world of the little girl in the yard... this one is different, i hear the dark despair in this (self)-ironic voice, a powerful crescendo to the final explosion and dissolution...

it made me remember a poem on a similar topic, though different approach, written by Rachel Fox, a talented British poet:

Happy war (Xmas 2006)

I just can’t do it
Can’t write one of those inspiring
’They gave their lives with honour’ numbers
Packed full of glorious verses
Poppy fields swaying
Twelve geese a-laying
It’s not happening

Can’t manage either
An anti-Bush and Blair anthem
Would love to write one
But just can’t find the words
Blair, Blair
It’s not fair
It’s not looking good

Even avoiding the 24 hour news diet
War can be just too graphic for words I think
Men and women are taken to pieces
Some quickly, some slowly
Some end widows, some widowers
And what is the word for a mother, a father
Who no longer has any children left living?

The radio talks of war
And I see arms and legs
Loose without bodies
And lots and lots
And lots of blood
No poppies, no roses, no flowers really
Just boxes and bags of bits of people

Even the oh-so local papers can’t avoid it
Every day faces smile out of people now dead
They are gone past us but the smiles remain
Unsettling, unfair, unbearable
Smiles show strangely the pain of loss
The quite possibly perfectly pointless sacrifice
They make writing difficult, living difficult

indeed, they make writing and living difficult, and brainwashing impossible...

Jill said...

Good golly, Owen...and I thought your Foie Gras poem was gruesome! You've topped yourself on this one (literally!).

But, seriously, Owen...amazing writing here. The first reading was a bit horrifying and cringe-inducing, but subsequent readings left me with a much different impression. I appreciate the step-by-step thought process that proceeds through it, and how the poem itself is like gushing water, finally settling down the drain and leaving you with the relaxed feeling after a hot shower...The oblivion of a mind washed clean and clear does seem like a desirable state.

It's good that you're not afraid to let it all hang out...Purging through poetry.

Stickup Artist said...

Wonderful Poem Owen,

Sometimes you wonder if anyone out there is having similar reactions in their lucid, thoughtful, quiet moments as I for the life of me can't understand that which rolls right off so many makes me so despairing that I have to run away (often) where there is human silence and only the sound of the wind, the call of the birds, the splashing of water.

Thanks for being so brave facing down these sentiments and reflecting back.

@eloh said...

Wonderful poem, graphic words.

The little girl running down the road, is also burned in my mind, along with a few others.

Very good thoughts... there has to be a better way before we wipe ourselves, and everything else, off the face of the world.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Wow!!! what a poem... exactly!!!

how many times have I said words to this effect... but never as well as you have...

Lynne with an e said...

"We live in a constant state of fear
The fifty-first state"
How apt. And I want to say American, for obvious reasons.

When I visited my friends in the states, back in the '70s, I was utterly appalled by the incessant fear-mongering that was blaring from the television set at all hours of the day. Yes, we live in a terrifying world where excrutiatingly horrible things happen all the time to people all over the world and it is a relief to let off some of this built up internalized horror from time to time, through poetry or visual art or screaming, singing, chanting, fleeing to the quietude and peacefulness of the seashore or woods or river bank. Whatever it takes to release the fear and pressure of merely being alive.

And yet we know peace and beauty and can tune into that for succour. Somewhere deep inside we must find the light to shine forth onto all this darkness.

The Sagittarian said...

Oh you closet wordsmith, you!
Come out, I say!
Great stuff, adopted brother of MINE. First.

Owen said...

Nevine . . . I guess the notion is one of wanting to be able to start fresh, to be able to wash away all the horrors the human race has commited and seen, wipe the slate clean, and begin anew, in a more loving light... wishful thinking, I know. But one can always hope...

Every now and then the dark desk drawer opens and a poem emerges, blinking, into the bright light of public day... there are others, quite a few actually, in past pages that can be found all together by going down to the "labels" list on the right side, and clicking on Owen Poems...

Thanks Nevine for dropping in here...


Roxana... ask and you shall receive... will have to see what else has been lingering, languishing in the desk drawers. I tend to write, and then slip things away in notebooks that may not emerge again until years later. And wow, what an excellent piece from Rachel Fox... will be Googling to see what else might come up for her. A thousand thank you's for that. Be well Roxana, I guess we need to be able to see above, beyond the daily horrors, and imagine that reason, intelligence, love may yet win...


Hi Jill, for sure, poetry can be a good purging agent, when the frustration gets to the point that one wants to scream, then it is time to sit down and blacken white pages with words to cleanse the soul... thank you for bearing with my bouts of madness, whether there be method to the madness or not...


Stickup Artist... getting away to the hills and mountains and canyons where traces of humans are few and far between is perhaps a better remedy than actually trying to wash one's brain... thanks so much for absorbing this little rant and reflecting back... hmmm, I'm wondering if "Stickup" means you stick up for your friends ? Well, I deeply appreciate your support here...


@eloh, so many images etched in our collective minds, and once seen many are nearly impossible to forget, we recognize them even years later, so much violence seen, lying latent in our memory... how to wash all that pain away ??? As you say, before we wipe ourselves and the rest that is beautiful on this planet away...


Gwen, many thanks for your thoughts here... I suspect I may not be the only one who would like to be able to wash some memories away, forever... easier said than done I fear. No wonder that so many turn to self medication to try and do the job... that doesn't appeal to me much.


Lynne, amen, sister, amen... beautifully expressed, we must be able to find that light source somewhere...


Saj ! I thought you were going to say a closet wordsmithing SOD... So, you're my long lost sister too ? Excellent news... now, what did you bring up from the cellar ???