They stand alert beside the key
To annihilate humanity,
Insane of course, they have to be,
Which is why it worries me.
Time walks towards me aglow in shadowed light,
Without remorse or pity, as a creature of the night,
Hunting for the present to turn future into past,
That eternity in the second which may be my very last,
While from the darkly distance voices whisper ghostly in my ears,
For everyone is talking and never saying much,
Wittgenstein was right you know, it’s all just such and such,
Meanings lost, or never known except by fools and saddened clowns,
While modern Cinderellas swear and tear at tattered gowns,
In disbelief the party’s done and now all they have are fears,
For Demeter is back in charge, the corn lays at her feet,
Dying, dead, decaying, wrapped up cold in winter’s sheet,
Awaiting resurrection that for us will never come,
Despite the never ceasing prayers, you’re better off with rum
And wine, and some kisses with your tears,
If love you’ll ever find again in a world awash with hate,
As if ordained, a destined end, a foretold tragic fate,
For where be now our heroes when courage is a crime,
And we live in lonely prisons with walls you cannot climb.
Have you thought of what you’re gonna do
When they’re near to drive you mad,
Will you kiss the air when no one’s there,
Embracing shadows of the past,
Or tango solo to the radio,
Wondering, what the fuck’s it for,
High on fumes of platitudes, of bullshit and the lies,
Awareness setting in too late, you’re too far gone to care,
No reflection in the mirror, only silence when you speak,
But for whisperings of those devils, the ones you thought you beat,
Or will you reminisce of taste and touch, of kisses in the dark,
Her hand guiding yours that night,
As the stars looked down and watched,
And made their bets on who’d come first,
As your hand guided hers.
So far from barren hopes they lay
They silent spent the break of day,
When from their dreams they started up
And drank their last from one shared cup.
Then, as one, they rose, with hollow eyes,
To don their arms ‘neath scarlet skies,
Red with bloody disillusionment,
The deaths of Reason, Art; Enlightenment.
They gathered round in sad conclave,
In secret grove by secret grave,
Where Justice lay in righteous earth,
Wrapped in memories of her worth.
And swore an oath with up-raised fists,
As vows rang out through gloomy mists,
To search each land and distant sea,
And slay the Hydra, Tyranny.
But doomed they were to search in vain,
With broken heart and endless pain,
For, in them, it was, the monster slept,
And, as they left, the heavens wept.
To live through life as does this tree
Would succour, sooth and comfort me,
To feel the earth as does its roots,
And breathe the sky through greening shoots,
Or feel the rain with upheld leaves,
Trembling, as a night dream weaves
Strange fancies in the birds that sleep,
Or, softly wakened, sadly weep,
Aware, alone, and lost,
Burdened by new solitudes and, expectancy of frost;
But there comes man with axe and fire,
His death machine and funeral pyre,
Mortal foe to all that grows and lives,
Who, exultant, takes, but never gives.
The old man raved the more he drank,
And the more he drank he raved,
Of such strange conceived and unheard things,
It made us almost mad,
But we knew that somewhere in his words
There lay the ring of truth,
And so we sat before him,
As he waved his glass around,
And told us of a land he’d found
While seeking shelter from the wars,
That seemed to him enchanted,
Or created in a dream,
Where people spoke with music,
And swords were shameful things,
Where philosophy was honoured,
And common folk were kings,
Where chains were made of flowers,
That bound eternal peace to love,
Where jails had not been thought of,
Nor devils, priests, or gods,
That wove a spell upon us so,
His dream became our own,
But when we asked where was this land,
In which direction did it lay,
He took his glass and drank it deep,
Then, in his raving way,
Declared he had to tell the world,
So left, but leaving, lost his way,
And spite his years of searching,
And growing old in Shangri-La,
He never found that path again,
So the dream began to fade,
But now old age had grabbed him,
Had seized him by the throat,
So remembered what they told him,
Of the universal Truth,
Expressed in Nature’s language,
That speaks within us all,
But few of us can hear it,
As we wander on our way,
At which his raving ended,
And slowly quiet he became,
And as he took another drink,
We wondered at his tale.
We walked along the sea swept sands,
And so breathed the air from far-off lands,
We felt the world was in our hands,
For we were young and full of pride.
The world was then to us a place
Where shone the eyes of Nature’s face,
Where making love was natural grace,
And no one had yet died.
We walked the dunes and watched a whale
That rolled dark back and belly pale,
Then smashed the waves, with fluking tail,
Upon a flowing tide,
And watched white sails on waters deep,
That raced on past the lighthouse keep,
Happy in each plunge and leap,
Like dolphins side by side,
While scudding clouds passed overhead
And pebbles glimmered gold and red,
As if they from the waters bled,
To lay there side by side,
Until we reached a beach-rose lane,
And as came down a gentle rain,
Did meet an old man with his cane,
Who stopped to step aside,
And next to him a lady stood,
A woman wise, as of the wood,
Who greeted us as well she could,
But for our future cried.
She sat near the window of the sidewalk café, silent, poised, and relaxed, smilingly sad, and alone. She was aged and yet ageless, gracefully old, with skin of fine parchment etched with fine lines, and she dressed with bold elegance, yet never the same; a splash of blue there, a dash of white there, a diamond worn there, a pearl displayed there, a show of small riches on the stage of despair; and she was so slight of frame she sometimes appeared just a shimmer of air, except when her jewellery glinted and shone, or her eyes glanced round with a dare.
She turned from the window, and looked towards me, as the young waiter brought her a bright silver tray with a white cup of coffee on a white linen cloth, a single biscotti and a single white rose, and her silver hair caught the sun’s cascading light and her eyes burst into sparkle, like turquoise alight. And that’s how we met, that warm summer’s day in a midtown café, me drenched in self-pity, in drunken despair, while she, ever tranquil, soft lips to her cup, caught my eyes with hers, to turn quickly away.
She appeared to me first on a June afternoon. The rain had just stopped as a rainbow appeared, and there she was standing, while gazing around, as if searching for someone who could never be found. She then took a table facing the door, near the large window, as if hoping for more. Just who she was, or was there to see, heightened the allure and the mystery for me. There was something about her, as if out of time, and when she walked in with a soft gentle air, I soon felt the presence of someone quite rare.
You may well ask my interest in someone like her so different from others, so different from me, but that was the thing that intrigued me you see. She seemed to be searching but calmly, assured, whereas I was just groping to somehow be cured.
So after three weeks, exchanging looks or a smile, one day, as she sat there with coffee, biscotti, her single white rose, I took courage in hand and rose from my chair to ask if she’d like a conversation to share. As I stood there before her, in hope of reply, I felt transported by eyes that softly scanned mine and offered my hand, she took gently in hers.
She replied, “A kind offer, but perhaps you would, instead, join me. I’ve my reasons to sit here, and, when known, you’ll agree.”
Intrigued, I accepted, and with bottle of wine, a half empty glass, my notebook in hand, I sat down before here as she gave me a sign. Once we were settled I offered my name but she asked why should we bother, to which I agreed. I called for more wine and offered a glass. She accepted with grace but while watching me pour asked what my black notebook was for, and seemed pleased when I said, it held notes to myself, that seemed once to make sense, but not anymore.
One question became many, one glass became three, and through lunch and desert and a dinner on me, she related long stories of the world of her youth. She spoke with an accent, of Vienna, she said, of a family of wealth and prestige. Prized pupil, prized teacher, a prized governess, she taught manners and music, played piano for ease. She regaled me with stories of Viennese nights that portrayed vividly things that made up her life; of dancing one night at a splendid state ball, in a palace, in summer, just before the Great War; of the troubles, defeats, the abdication and fall, of carriages, horses, and brass bands in parks, but mostly a young woman’s dreams, and only then did I realise how old that she was. I listened for hours, while sipping on wine, enchanted with a world so far from this. Her memories stirred me. Her voice was my bliss.
The tragedy of love composed her last tale and revealed the reason she’d come, so gentle and fair, to sit in the window of the Café Bellaire. In her days in Vienna, just by the grand square, near the cathedral where she once offered prayer, there stood an old building in one corner of which was the best place for coffee, for pastries, for music and life, where violins played sweet-singing airs, and so bore the name, The Café Bellaire. It was there she’d last been with the man that she loved, a youthful composer, with musical styles that he boldly arranged for the fast modern age, rejected by critics, and friends except her, for she played well the piano and played well what he wrote, even his most daring and difficult notes.
They met at a dance in a working class hall, his spirit moody, hers happy and fair, but he softened with time, while she grew intense, as their passion was focused, first smouldered, then burned. She inspired him to heights he never could dream, to write harmonies and melodies never since heard. He played them to her, she played back to him, on the piano he had where he paid room and board. The music flowed fast from The Muse to the page while her hands flew on the keys as if in a rage. His professor soon damned him for breaking the rules. The critics condemned him, but they were all fools. Still, they had their effect. His spirit was broken. He once spoke of death, but she begged him to live and played, as her plea, the music she loved and knew the world would. So he continued to write down note after note, while she shared his creation as only she could.
Then came the war, and he was called up. The music he heard then was the sound of the guns. His battalion was ready and soon called to the front. He begged and he pleaded for a last evening pass, and when it was granted, from his cold barrack bed, sent her a note, stained with hot tears, as hot as his blood. His regiment was leaving for the harsh mountain front, to face the Italians, those people he loved. He had one chance to see her, to see her face fair, and so asked to meet at The Café Bellaire. She dressed in the coat he especially loved, wore her favourite blue hat, edged in white lace, and hurriedly walked to that last meeting place. But he’d arrived first, all dressed in field grey, boots pacing the stones as snow fell on his cap, anxious, tormented; his leave was soon up.
She saw his cold form as he walked up and down, as the lights on the street cast shadows around. She ran to embrace him and he embraced her. They kissed and they hugged, ‘til their bodies seemed one as over and over she begged him to stay, cried nothing made sense, begged him please run away; but he talked of his duty, and what could be done, orders were orders, and this was his fate; he had to leave soon, he couldn’t be late. They stood there, snow covered, ‘til his last words of farewell; that the war could not part them and nothing else would.
He said he’d return, and that without fail, but if for some reason she heard no news how he was, or answers to where, she must wait for him there at The Café Bellaire. He kissed her once more, with no more to say, then turned on his heels to walk quickly away. She stood a long time in deepening cold, then slowly walked home past the sparkling lights, in sadness, in sorrow, alone.
He never came back. She never heard news and his name was not mentioned in the casualty lists. Inquiries led nowhere as long years went by, but still she returned to The Café Bellaire, week after week, and year after year, hoping her love would make him appear. Her vigil was lonely and time became swift, then came a new war which caused her to flee, to Paris, to London, and finally here. She’d never been married. She was waiting for him. So when, on that day, three weeks ago, she again saw the sign of the Café Bellaire, she had no choice but to enter and continue her wait, for she believed what he said, and this was her fate.
When she finished her story, I sat silent and troubled, knew not what to say. But she read my thoughts quickly and quietly said, “My life has been long and I am content. Love’s what’s important. There is nothing else. I wait for a dream but a dream is enough.”
She said she felt tired, then gracefully rose, and I helped, with affection, to walk her outside, where she smiled at me once, kissed me gently goodbye, then let my go my hand and passed from my view. I went back inside to write it all down hoping see her the very next day but she never returned nor has ever since though I asked all the waiters if they’d heard any news, but none of them had and none of them knew. She was old, one suggested, and so very frail. It’s sad, but really, how long could she last, and maybe that’s true. But still I am sitting, in this lonely café, waiting, and hoping, as she used to do, for something to happen, for a dream to come true.
(Lights go up to reveal two old men sitting on a bench, both with their hands resting on their canes, looking into the distance, at a pond, at ducks, at women passing by)
First man: Beautiful day today, don’t you think, the pond, the ducks, and some fine ladies passing by.
Second man: I try not to think about them.
First man: The ducks?
Second man: Hah, a comedian, you never were.
First man: I was trying to avoid the subject.
Second man: No need, they avoid us.
First man: Oh, I have my hopes.
Second man: Hopes? Who’ve you got the hopes for?
First man: The love of my life.
Second man: This love of yours have a name?
First man: I see her in my dreams. Like Dante’s Beatrice, she appears and smiles at me. Each night she appears. Wearing a long white dress. Beckoning me.
Second man: Then you’re stealing my dreams, because she visits me at night too.
First man: I’m betrayed!. Though what she sees in you I have no idea.
Second man: We all have our illusions.
First man: But the same one?
Second man. Of course,
First man (gazing up): That’s an interesting cloud, like a ship in sail.
Second man: A sea voyage, nothing like it to appreciate how insignificant we are.
First man: Maybe in the old days. Now the sea’s dying faster than we are.
Second man: (a sigh then), Yes, what we’ve done. Terrible things. But the park’s still beautiful.
First man: Yes, there are still beautiful things.
Second man: Wondrous things
First man: Which makes me wonder, would you lend me 50 bucks?
Second man: Are you kidding me-what do you need 50 bucks for? If it’s for a filly you can forget it. Last time you bet on a race with my money you lost it all.
First man: This filly is no horse I can tell you. Just thought I’d ask Diana out for dinner and my pension hasn’t come in yet.
Second man: Diana? Our Diana? The physiotherapist? Why would she be interested in you, especially when she’s made it clear she is interested in me?
First man: She loves me.
Second man: Impossible, she loves me.
First man: Has she said so?
Second man: Not in so many words but there is no doubt. Women can’t resist my charms.
First mans: Then why are you alone at your age?
Second man: My charms become the problem. First they love me, then they hate me.
First man: There you go, so why bother with Diana, The same thing will happen. She’s better off with me, then you can avoid all the trouble.
Second man. Love is always trouble. You can’t talk your way out of this.
First man: Well, one of us has to surrender the field. And it’s not going to be me. And she’s half your age.
Second man: And you-but she’s an angel- age means nothing to her-she sees into my depths, into my soul, and what she sees touches her.
First man: (laughing,) I don’t know what they put you on, but you can forget it. You’re deluded. She loves me and I’d advise you to keep your distance.
Second man: if that’s how you see things then you can forget the 50 dollars. I’m not lending you money so you can steal my woman. In fact, I’m warning you stay away or things can get violent. (raising his cane in one hand in a threatening manner.)
First man: (standing up and raising his cane in defence) Who do you think you are? Some friend you turned out to be. You’re a thief, a common thief. I’ll have you kicked out of the home. You just watch, I’ll fix you, I will.
Second man: (Standing in a fighting stance, cane at the ready)
If anyone is leaving the home, it’s going to be you. In fact if you keep this up you won’t arrive there again.
(raises his cane over his head)
First man: If this were a different time I’d challenge you to a duel and shoot you dead.
Second man: For love I’d willingly die, but you couldn’t shoot a barn door if you were in front of it-It’s you that would die and good riddance too.
First man (approaching and getting in his face) I used to think of you as my friend, my best friend.
Second man: You don’t know what the word means.
First man: It means someone who loves you, who is loyal, someone you can trust, but you-you-you cant be trusted. You only care for yourself, I’ve seen it before but kept quiet, but you know what-really, I hate you. I wish you were dead. (he again raises his cane to strike)
Second man: You phony, you hypocrite, just try me, just try me , My love is my life, take the one, you take the other (he raises his cane to strike back)
First man: Love, hah, Then for love you will die or I will. So prepare-so my anger can be satisfied, so I can love. Prepare to die.
Second man: (raising his cane and hand to block a blow from the other)
Stop, stop. Just stop, my god, what are we doing?
First man: Fighting for love, man, raise your cane.
Second man: Fighting for love, that’s what I mean, it’s absurd.
First man: Not to me it isn’t.
Second man: War never solved anything-or murder, are we going to kill ourselves over this, and my heart (grabbing his chest) my heart -this is madness.
First man: Life is madness.
Second man: It’s made us what we are. Look at us.
First man: (lowering his cane) It’s the loneliness.
Second man: The regrets.
First man: I’m regretting we came to the park today
Second man: We’ve always come here. you and me, together.
First man: Diana probably won’t like that. Women get jealous, you know. Not like us.
Second man: You’re right. And she’d take up all our time.
First man: Well, my time
Second man: You mean mine.
First man: (another sigh as he sits down on the bench and the second man follows him to sit once again next to each other, hands on their canes, looking into the distance)
I’d miss sitting here with you.
Second man: And I with you. Our conversations. Just sitting alone, together, being in the moment. What else is there?
First man; Love isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, not that kind of love.
Second man: Look what it’s done. I was close to killing you.
First man: You wouldn’t have succeeded, but I might have. Love. Hate. So close in our hearts. Killing for love. Look what it reduced us to.
Second man: On second thought, if you still want the 50 bucks, it’s ok, you can go out with Diana, I was just thinking about the nurse on the morning shift, maybe…
First man: You know what, I’ve changed my mind. Why spend all that money on a love I’m not sure of when I’ve got all I need sitting here with you.
Second man: Yeh, you’re right, what can be better than this.
First man: It’s a beautiful day, don’t you think? Sure makes you appreciate life.
Second man: Yeh, it’s a beautiful day, my friend, a beautiful day.
You walked in flowered fields with me
and talked of music, sex, philosophy,
of women, men, their loves and friends,
the fools who taught, our fated ends,
for we had read the strange Camus,
and even Dostoevsky knew,
but Kurosawa was our rage,
and Bergman was to us a sage,
as Ho Chi Minh fought our endless fight,
Guevara murdered was by night,
but while we wondered of our role
we found ourselves in Rubber Soul,
in Kerouac, Marx, and LSD,
for we were seventeen and free,
so road the rails, spent time in jail
wrote howling lines in one long wail,
drifting on a lonely sea,
of younger thoughts, of possibility,
but now you’re dead, some say it’s true,
or did you make it to Peru,
where once you promised me you’d go,
on reading lines from old Thoreau.