Che dir nol posson con parola integra.  

here in my
all home comforts
punishment camp, 
brutalized, allergic
to memory in the body,
penned in the muscles, concentrated
in tensors, inter-scapulars,
trapezius and deltoid,
to last a lifetime
of headache depression despair

memories in the head:
the child that I was
studying the maps,
arrows on newsprint,
armies marching.
I was twelve and a half
when the Daily Express
referred to a photo
too foul to be printed:
I studied it later that week
in the News of the World:

memories on a screen,
stills for the most part,
frozen callous
in those drained and senseless shades,
as if the horrors
had burnt through the negative,
leached out the print:
the terrible return of the repressed.

is something I never got.
it was around, of course,
when I was a child,
but so British:
we had a lodger once,
during the war,
oh him, they said, he’s a Jew,
but not at all as if
the poor fellow
could help it.
the only one I’d ever met,
--of course I knew
what else they said,
they stick together, jew you down,
they’d skin a turd to save a farthing
(this from my mother, notably expert
at shovelling shit),

I scarcely remember him,
pale and quiet,
much younger than
the other lodgers,
no better off,
he used to take me
to a workmen’s café
for a cheese roll
and the strong sweet tea
in heavy china cups.
we would eat and drink
in a warm bubble
of mingled voices,
while the radio said,
Orel, Tula, Kursk:

so I would have been ten,
and that’s all I remember
of Alf, may he have survived;

so that when later,
many maps later,
the radio said those other names,
the ones you dare not say
for fear, for fear,
when the newspapers filled in 
all the details, captioned
all the photographs,
lengthy footage on the newsreels
in ashpit greys,
skeletons barely moving, propped
by tumbled bones
with no escape,
I must have seen
in those gruesome rags
a private nightmare:

to be a Jew,
to have the right
to hate, to hate
their tormentors.
religion is the tender art
of handling guilt
with the ultimate aim
of getting God off the hook:
these images gave 
a licence to loathe
God the father
and all his clones.

images on a screen:
here today
in real time
and living colour
history’s compulsive
repetition with minimal
variation, another name,
medieval tableaux,
strikingly posed,
straight out of Bosch:
background, the town,
compact and prosperous,
foreground, the fields
and the people that live there:

it could be any old 
it isn’t Hollywood you see,
the dead stay dead
the wounded scream
then (formatted neatly
between the commercials)
the stumbling
feet of refugee
hordes surging
past drab uniforms.

Well at least these days you see
a better class of refugee
Oh change the channel

change the channel:
the Muselmann,
Medusa’s prey
frozen in time,
stands entranced:
the sirens in the naked wire
still hum their sweet electric air
for him, for him,
in a landscape
inhuman as the city of Dis,
hideous, not in black and white
but vicious grit and bonedust greys:
the cinderblock sounds,
place names from Hell,
history suffering
chronic collective
post-traumatic stress disorder,
old tapes replaying, acting out,
futureless, mislaid in time,
--stands the camp clock still at three?—
a bureaucratic
horror show roll call
of central European names,
dull provincial
railway station names,
places where
what remains
of endless lists
of names and forenames
in all the tongues of the continent
indistinguishably mingled
cinders the path underfoot

I never thought death
could be so dull

until you long 
for an unknown name,
some hamlet, some
inaccessible village
where nothing happened all the time, 
where people lived
and died,
no-one invaded,
no more of these atrocious scenes
of future dread,
flashpoints and brinkmanship,
where massacres, all
too boringly similar
are brought to you
here in your home
in newsreelcolour
courtesy of CNN.

What else is on?
‘Disasters of the Century’,
or ‘Bushmeat’, but that seems to be
a nature programme.
What about a travelogue,
‘Battlefields of future wars’?

images on a screen
as history telescopes,
twists and dilates
under our eyes,
spiralling toward
some strange attractor,

the apparent motion
giving rise to distortion
indistinguishable doubles
at a high level of logical paradox,
quasi-symmetrical variations
of greatly increased complexity
on the routine themes
of twentieth century slaughter,
murder and torture,
with one hundred per cent
blanket exposure
on numerous channels
all around the global village.

What about the Catastrophe channel?

the Muselmann
lies in his bunk 
picking his scabs.
call it self-pity.