I am living in a hole in the
ground somewhere in South East Asia. Why is everyone shouting, tricking, hating and
I am bricked up inside
a wall in Belfast.
I am sitting with my
back broken in a football stadium in Kosovo.
I have had my leg blown off in the underground in Moscow. Strangling the truth bootlegging
innocence. We can't eat money.
I am hungry my children have died in this latest famine, here in Ethiopia.
My wife has been burned she is completely disfigured, a bomb has just gone off in
the school were she works.
Okay that's enough!! We all know about the horrific reality of life on this planet.
A voice interjects and continues.
The things that are happening here have always happened here. Are you some sort of
Commy? Trying to exploit the sympathy of freedom loving people for those who have
suffered from the blindness of ignorance and darkness of bigotry. And plain bad luck,
that's all there is to it.
I have to think carefully about how I answer that question in order that I don't
say ìYes" out of pure exasperation.
I respond technically.
There are differences between what freedom is to some people and what it is to others.
Those differences are arbitrarily designed by economic and social forces that are
linked to who produces what, where and for how much.
I'm not a Marxist.
I am an American. America is already communist. Two hundred years ago we went through
these phases of transition. Civil War, Indian genocide, our founding fathers were
all revolutionaries. Our way of life, the American Way, will one day conquer the
It's a Wednesday afternoon the big leaves from the plane trees are being swirled
around the courtyard rounded up in the wind never being given a rest. They remind
me of the immigrants that are refused entry into Marseille, France, blown back across
the sea and blown around the coast of some other country. Their hopes and fears rising
like the wind and dying like the day. Then swept up by autocratic nepotism but always
falling more and more. That's what happens when you are living next to a continent
that has been shut down. Africa has been shut down. Like South East Asia was shut
down thirty years ago by a force with no integrity.
I love Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers but the show has got to stop goin on.
" Arbitrarily" that should be the motto for our age. Translated into Latin.
Nailed to the doors of every English speaking home.
Engraved on the gilded letterbox of every rich person. Written on the walls of schools
and hospitals that fight to stay open. The kids are coming home from one of those
So I hope they are healthy so I don't have to take them to one of those hospitals.
Who decided to infest Africa with AIDS Who did that thing ???
You see my own father was traumatized by World War II. He was damaged by the eight
year combination of profound grief and exhilaration of combat.
He would tell me stories of his exploits, a captive audience who learned all about
the idiosyncratic brothels in Lebanon, in Damascus, in Suez and in Alexandria. How
they could pay two pence to watch a donkey fuck a woman. As if the whole of Oriental
culture was based on the Harem and the donkey. Therefore was totally worthless. He
told me about things that he could have kept to himself .
How the orders came to bomb and set alight villages that were collaborating with
the Germans and the Vichy French. Apparently he was guarding the oil pipeline. The
village was attacked at five in the morning with rapid armored car mortar and machine
gun fire. Every house was destroyed every body, man, woman, donkey and children of
the donkey were buried in a mass grave There were no witnesses and it happened lots
of times. A Story teller is immortal when his stories are told.
I bought " Apocalypse Now" at the flea market this morning. Brando was
Gargantuan as Kurtz. His voice was like the voice of my father telling me those stories.
Stories that I should never have been told. It's just finishing as they come home.
I have to explain that I ran away from this war at the age of twenty. I knew they
realized that our family was different that we don't have the same concerns as other
We are active politically. Support the Palestinians yet we aren't Moslems. Dad paints
pictures that don't sell, drives a car that he is always trying to fix. He lives
in France cos he can't stand to live in his own country. He ran away from a War that
had the Doors playing in the background.
They understand the INTIFADA, my children are radically awakened.
They know that in Palestine the donkey children rise up in their millions from their
mass graves and throw stones at tanks. Bible throwing, story throwing, holy throwing,
holy holy throwing.
When I came to the Mediterranean region in the late sixties I read the Koran. I was
living in a cave at the time on the hard stone. My guitar was left against the cave
wall open stringed to the wind and it played all the time. An Aoliean harp played
by nature only changing the position changed the song it sang.
The cave opened out to the sea. I was a hideaway poet who read the Koran.
Now thirty odd years later I touch my heart when I shake hands with a friend.
I am still reading the Koran.
Identifying with those big dying leaves levitating and spinning in the courtyard
of rent collection. My wife tells the bedtime stories to the children, she realizes
that trauma is systemic that with any luck it will die in me when I die.
There was no heating in the bed room that I had as a child. He would cover me with
his great coat with the brass buttons the coat was so heavy like metal, like a World
War weighing down on my young body. My father wanted to make sure I was warm as he
told me those daring stories of the marines who died and the sergeants who sent them
to their deaths. One story always filled me with wonder as well as dread. It was
the story of the hidden bolt.
An infantry man has only his wits and his gun to keep himself from being killed in
or out of action. The wits were supplied by the soldier, the survival skills supplied
by experienced boot camp officers who knew all the ropes and gave everyone a hard
time proving it.
Training is an assault on the hubris loaded immortal corpse of the young whatever
the profession. You have to love your job. If your job is a murderously dirty one
you have to love it all the more. I could never take training and I dodged the draught.
I live out the events in my own country that I love in garbled second hand newsreels.
I didn't loose much, I lost a hunk of my soul.
Any way back to the story. So Pa is eighteen and he's in boot camp learning his trade.
Like in " Full Metal Jacket" The sadists have it all worked out. How can
we get out of this primary assault is the question they are all asking. The sergeant
is a goon, a victim maker a cold executioner of youth.
Sure enough he picked on the wrong guy, he picked on my Papa. He laughed as he told
me this bit, his breath smelling of beer and gravy from his supper. The sergeant
started to beat up on one frail rookie kid and began to threaten the others by his
side. My papa threatened him with the Geneva Convention and that's how you find yourself
He found himself running with a full pack for two weeks at the fragging double.
Even this sportsman had reached a limit of endurance. Late one night he went into
the sergeants quarters and stole the bolt from the rifle of out sadistic sergeant;
the next day was the great parade and the sado sergeant committed the greatest crime
that any infantry man can ever commit. To lose the bolt from your rifle. He was sent
to the army prison for two months and stripped of his rank. He knew who had done
this and had messages sent out from the prison to find the ears of my father. When
he came out of the prison he was given the toughest job of all re assembling the
targets on the rifle range. It isn't difficult to imagine the possibilities that
this posting offers for vengeance inspired shooting. This sado was blown away so
many time that his arse was aflame at one point from very intentional and reckless
FIRE Fragging shooting from hurt men and non hurt men alike. Needless to say his
career was over he was shipped back home and became a grocer. The smiling boy was
like a chocolate coon. Papa had turned the tables on the world and that was that
I always wanted to do the same from under the warmth of his greatcoat. But life was
never black and white like that not since the Everley Brothers sang " Good Love
go Bad " The identification with those who suffer and are broken in this life
has given me vision of human existence sometimes it's like an open road sometimes
it's like being thrown into a labyrinth. I am just a man. I am asleep under my fathers
full of metal great coat. But I am not afraid to tell my own tale.