poetry, prose, autofiction, musings, reflections, words
Author: Mathias Schulze
professor, linguist, writer, blogger, manifestor
Reflecting on change and complexity. Puzzled over the words. Thinking about learning – learning to think. Smithing words and professing. Personal on texterium.org, professional on pantarhei.press
These Rumi words have been playing in my head – on and off – for weeks now. We all see pain. A lot of the time. In a lot of places. We all feel pain. Sometimes we know. At times I did not. Not even that it was pain, that feeling. We all have pain. I believe. From what I saw and felt.
And I don’t like it. Pain. I used to say that. Often. Then I began to qualify. I don’t like unnecessary pain. For myself. For others. For others, especially. It used to make me angry. Why wage war on Ukraine, for example? Unnecessary and painful. Why ignore what your friend needs? Unnecessary and painful. For both of us. Why leave the table dirty, when you get up and go? Utterly unnecessary and pinprick painful. For your neighbor and your mind.
Cure for the pain: clean the table. Yup. Now. Cure for the pain: mind your friend as you mind yourself. Just do it. As they say in some advertising. Cure for the pain: learn that no country is ever yours. As president, pawn, or peon. Just steward. Steward just. And serve.
Then the opposite of pain is peace. Cured. And the word cure is somehow related to care.
Shoelaces still not tied bombshells beat my dream head morning whipped radio waves scape nannies stay afloat
Since a.m. we are blasting back holy war mosques queer magic lamps oil runs dry sky dawning abruption
I have rediscovered this poem, which I wrote in German on January 17, 1991. I woke up that morning and found a note on top of two library books: Could you return the book on top and renew the other one? Thank you. PS: You might not want to turn on the radio.
This is a text for my year-long online writing course Uncovering the Authentic Self on dailyom.com. The prompt was rediscovery. Previous texts are on Home and Giving. Rediscovering this poem, editing it a bit, and translating it into English today reminded me that I only wrote poetry again twenty years after in 2011.
What’s the time? Alright. A quarter to seven. Fifteen more minutes. To sleep. Stretching the left leg. Why can I only ever hear my left ankle? The right one bends and stretches quietly. I can’t sleep anyway. Bathroom. Today, I do my yoga. First thing. Oh, in a minute. Let me sit outside for a little first. It’s not good to smoke on an empty stomach. Dad said this many times. He never did, he said. I will stop one day. Today is not the day. Nicotine relaxes the brain. Yoga will be easier after. Let me sit down to wake up slowly. Where is the iPad? I opened it to start the yoga app, not to play solitaire again. Alright. Get up. Get the mat out. Start the Yoga Smart Coach. Stop playing solitaire. Click Start. Whole body fat burning. Fifteen minutes. It’s seven thirty. Deep breath. Plank. Downward facing dog. Bend your left knee. Put your left foot between your hands. How am I going to do that? Lunge pose. Can you feel the burn? Sure. Left leg on fire. Drifting thoughts. In one direction. Deep breath. Be in the now. Here. Listen. Follow the video. Bridge pose. Roll down your back. My back does not roll. Core strength cushions its flat fall onto the mat. Final relaxation pose. Finally. Palms facing up. You can stay in this pose as long as you like. I hear. And I get up. The coffee maker just finished. Remember to always make the coffee before yoga. With Milk? She said I should be careful with dairy. Something about inflammatory. My joints. A little bit can’t be bad. Hey, Siri. Set alarm for nine forty-five. Bagel in the toaster. Tidy up the kitchen. A sip of coffee. You should drink more water. Let me get some water from the fridge. Tidy up yesterday’s pots and plates. Let me turn on the radio. Some water. It’s so good to make your own soda. I have to press my ear against the dishwasher to check whether it’s on. It is. These machines are reliable. Press the right button and they start. Immediately. What am I gonna do now? If it takes two or three minutes, do it right now. How much time do I have? Where did I put the coffee mug? Good, about an hour. Read the news. HuffPost, Tagesschau, CBC, Guardian. There is pain in this world. Focus. Answer that email. You wanted to write to S and B. Do it today. First, order milk. Yes, pay for shipping. You are self-isolating. Order done. Got the shoelaces and yoghurt, too. Nine forty-five. Breathe.
I read the other day that my routine is not having a routine.
This represents another week – eleven – in my 52-week writing course Uncovering the authentic self. Steadily catching up and tidying up … We are in week 24.
The prompt for that week was Rituals. You find the texts from other weeks in the category Shaping circles.
Auferstanden aus Ruinen
Und der Zukunft zugewandt
Lass uns dir zum Guten dienen
Deutschland einig Vaterland.
These are the first four lines of a national anthem, penned in 1949 by the German writer Johannes R. Becher, an expressionist before this poem and a minister of censorship after.
Risen out from the ruins
And facing futureward
Let us serve your good
Germany, united land
I learned this first verse in elementary school. Even its clever melody I could sing. A few years later, the apparatchiks, who failed to govern the people of the country of superlatives – the tiniest, the huffiest, and the greatest German Democratic Republic of this world – banned their state’s anthem. Only the words. The music played often at olympic games or when the flag was raised or when other old men in grey suits or fantasy uniform came to visit. That’s what they called news on TV until 1989. While many were not listening, they erased notices from the news, the hymns from handbooks, and buildings from boulevards. Why? Maybe, they could not forgive the failures of their past. Maybe, they wanted children to reside in their ruins. Maybe. But it was not the line with the ruins, which made them obliterate the words. They did not want to be united. With nobody.
And yes, the prompt for this little writing exercise was Ruins. And you will find other such exercises under Just texts.
Delia was the first one to arrive, anxious to be on time. She picked the chair at the top of the table, directly across from where the prof always sat. She had to get a chance to ask her question. Lucy and Mark and the others came in. One after the other. Rushed.
My dog threw up this morning. Oh, I love dogs. My boyfriend wants to get one from the Humane Society. Yeah, I am taking my boyfriend to a wedding; I am the bridesmaid again, spending too much on the third new dress this spring. You have too many friends. Looking after a pet takes so much time.
The prof walked in a minute to ten. Good morning. How is everyone? Give me a moment, and we will get started. Alright …
The chatter had quieted. Delia was waiting for the prof to look at the group. Then she said – just a little too loud – I have a question about the assignment you gave us. Lucy closed her eyes. Mark sent Delia a smile. The prof laughed warmly and leaned forward, looking straight at her.
No, I don’t do that. There are no trick questions. No trap door. I am interested in what you know, not in what we all don’t know. Just do your best. There is nothing to worry about.
Students nodded with each sentence. A short laughter from Delia, her voice relaxed. But don’t you know: worry is my middle name. The prof laughed again. Lucy opened her eyes and looked at Delia. You know he is not like that; he is just. A mensch.
That’s when the small group picked up the discussion on linguistic minorities from last week.
This took a while. Text 9 from my 52-week writing course. It looks like I will take more than a year for the 52 weeks. The prompt this time: how others see you. If you’d ask me what the genre of this text is, I’d tell you it’s a shortest story. Shorter than a short story.
Home is where the heart is. I was editing a chapter in a book on migration and acculturation, and the Transylvanian author said so. I scratched the back of my ear and thought, is the heart where home is?
Home addresses I had too many to count. When I learned to count, I also learned to spell. The return address on an envelop. Ponnsdorfer Weg 15, 7980 Finsterwalde. The word Germany I learned much later. It was the only house I knew, until I wanted to leave to see this globe. I shared barren rooms with young men, neatly shaven, hairs trimmed, and in a grey uniform. Home addresses changed in those years and had cryptic numbers. I was discharged and began to learn. My home station was a shared dorm room with bunkbeds. We debated and changed the world in our minds and only snored exhausted after midnight. One dorm room for four was special and surely not home. It was Russia. Kutuzov was in town briefly and plotted Napoleon’s demise in a winter almost two centuries before. I could still feel the continued cries of Mother Homeland, listening from my bed to the cacophony of church bells next door. And the learning continued. The rooms changed. Into apartments that I shared. With a fellow migrant I went to England. The apartments changed. The learning continued. I changed apartments. All had a bed and none was home. Until I bought a repossessed semi in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. We made it our home with sanding and sweat, with plumbing and paint. After I covered my study in dove grey, my son was born. For this room to be his first home, I changed its walls to morning light yellow. And then we crossed the Atlantic to Ontario’s southwest for a new house. At the corner of Marshall and Montclair, it was in the center of my Canadian garden. The trees I planted, the roses I kept were my safe space. My home from home. I left them behind to search to settle and found a century house in one of the many Cambridges of this world. Gothic Revival – the architecture of my house and life then. Moved on. Gone west again. West coast. San Diego. Million dollar houses. Sold too soon.
Objectively, home is an object. Of what? Subjectively, home is where the heart is. And the heart is my center …
This is prompt 8 – Objects – from a 52-week online writing course, with a prompt each week. Week 8 came and went almost 8 weeks ago. And I have written about the first 6 prompts. I am committed to re-alingning the number of prompted texts and prompt weeks. 45 to go …