Poem draft

Was up to 3 last night trying to get the first draft of my poem down. Its a tricky subject to tackle without becoming overbearingly sentimental/didactic.

Decided to focus on Zurich and the idea of the displacement caused by dying in a foreign country. Switzerland becomes this surreal half-way house between life and death. It seems quite fitting then that Zurich is the home of the clock. It's also the city of Caberet Voltaire and the Dadaist movement...so I tried to use that to give everything an air of ridiculousness (without becoming too facetious, I hope).

Here it is: would love some comments on this. I'm not too sure if some parts become too busy.

117: By the time you read this, I will be in Switzerland

"Tourists come at lunchtime and by the afternoon they are dead.”
- Dorle Vallender, Swiss Parliament.

There has been so much tears and ears popping
But now comes the time, now
As the Alps gouge the cloud cover, and the fuselage
Shakes us into shifting states of near-hysterical grief: Our obsolescence.
Our happy ends…. Now all that remains of the world is Zurich.

Home to the biggest clock-face in Europe,
Home to black truffles, bittersweet and peaceful evenings,
Vaults of gold buried beneath the immaculately swept Bahnhofstrasse,
Home of Tina Turner for the last nineteen years, where
Gentlemen sit down to pee between 10 and 6am. It is heaven.

It's the kind of place where you stop for a day and stay forever, says Joe Ritchie,
American entrepreneur who lives in Geneva and visits Zurich often.
Litter doesn’t seem to even touch the ground. We buy matching
Cabaret Voltaire limited-edition Swatch watches; only 70 francs.
On the strap, they quote Kurt Schwitters: Immortality is Not Everybody’s Thing

In Limmatblick Hotel, each room is themed on a different Merry Prankster.
Ours has a plumbing trap set on a mitre entitled "God",
A remake of a piece by Baroness Elsa, the brochure tells us.
Down in the hotel’s Da-Bar, tourists are listening to a sound poem by Hugo Ball:
“The Caravan of the Elephants”, apparently, at the end of which
Ball had to be physically carried off-stage: a sweaty bishop, lost in a maze of his own irony.

We watch some TV together, a dubbed edition of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,
Until Uncle Phil dissolves into a transmission of illogical twisted phonetics.
We finish our crime novels and reluctantly raid the mini-bar, the Gauloises taste strange.
Across town, twelve Giacometti statues are carefully positioned to avoid each other’s eye contact,
Old men play giant chess amongst the trees in Lindenhof Square.

At seven, the lobster rings. Apparently, our longing for death
has been sufficiently consistent for the authorities. We have the address of an apartment
in Kilchberg and a time. There is a coffee machine and some champagne glasses
and a collection of walking sticks which we’re welcome to add to.
We’re seriously advised not to arrive early.

A woman in the lobby informs us of a performance of Stravinsky's
"Rite of Spring” this evening. But we don’t go.

For dinner we have veal steak accompanied by sautéed vegetables and galettes,
A dessert of rhubarb and strawberry charlotte.


Anonymous james said...

brilliant work ross.

the play i'm working on at the moment follows a patrol of british soldiers in malaya in 1942. when they are surrounded by japanese forces and know they face certain, imminent death, a calm descends and they talk at length about a watch that one of the men once owned. a tranquility descends in the face of death. not so much fatalism as acceptance of the inevitable.

for me your poem beautifully captures that sense of tranquility. the minute details of life that we take for granted. the constancy of existence in the face of individual mortality. the inexorable passage of time.

i look forward to hearing it on sunday.


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