Killing Children

In his arms, a rabbit
Twitches like a time bomb.
In his eyes, unreason.
In the air, astriction.
I have trouble breathing.
Bosnians are herded,
Stalked by Serbs. Today’s dogs.
Worse behaved. Not a job.
History said, “It’s time.”
The rabbit looked like mine.

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Two Cumbrian Poems

End of the Summer

Autumn has come early:
Drawing clouds like curtains;
Saying, in chilly winds,
“Too late”; imposing rain.
We slip off up the hill,
Admire ignorant sheep
And watch a raven fall.
I stumble over rocks
And think of hospitals.
My brother talks of death
And wills. I admire him
For being factual.
“See you soon,” my love says.
We drift, like clock hands, home.

Yewbarrow

Against the rocks
The shepherd stands
Our cottage mocks
His calloused hands.
Yet as we sleep
The wild ones wake
And round dumb sheep
Their shadows shake.

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Giles Coren, Explained…

Some might think that Giles Coren is a lifestyle columnist who writes jokey articles about restaurants, cuisine and the trials of middle age. He is not. “Giles Coren” is in fact a morbid exercise in performance art: a fictitious sociopath who has sprung from the mind of its presumably more sane, decent and reasonable creator Giles Coren. “Coren”, the character, is, much like the real man, a middle class restaurant critic and opinion columnist, yet he is also misanthropic, vindictive, lascivious and bigoted.

This intrepretation makes a lot of sense of his career. It outraged me that Giles Coren had published a vicious hit piece libelling Polish immigrants as descendants of people who “used to amuse themselves…by locking Jews in the synagogue and setting fire to it”. I could not imagine how he had kept his job after responding to complaints with, “fuck the Poles”. If a Polish writer said that Jewish people were descendants of Jakub Berman and Julia Brystiger, and responded to complaints with “fuck the Jews”, they would be sacked, and very rightly so. Yet if “Coren” is a character, whose ranting is meant to provide an insight into dark recesses of a sociopathic mind, it is understandable.

“Coren” is in trouble for an Esquire essay in which he expressed his fears that his son would grow up to be fat. “I know what you’re thinking,” he wrote underneath a picture of a little boy who is in no sense overweight, “You’re thinking, “Fat little bastard”.” “Coren” went on to insist that “each actual fat person is blatantly just a badly brought-up, greedy little son of a bitch…I’d kill them all and render them down for candles.” To call this “fat shaming” is a hilarious understatement. This is the demented tirade of a bourgeois Jerry Sadowitz.

What is strange is that people act as if Coren is a jokey lifestyle columnist. His every outburst of depravity is thought comic exaggeration, or, at worst, over the top. Am I the only person who appreciates that this is a postmodern social satire which makes Portnoy’s Complaint look like a children’s book? What does it say about us that so few realise?

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Elsewhere…

It has been a long time since I have written here but I have been writing elsewhere:

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The Passion of the Kriss…

One thing I will give Sam Kriss is that he can write. His prose can be elegant; his phrases original and his invective perversely amusing. Take this passage from his pre-election article endorsing Jeremy Corbyn…

Britain is not just sliding into fascism; we’ve landed. This has become a deeply ugly place. Our Prime Minister – gurning, grimacing, parochial,  incompetent, rhadmanthine, segmented, arachnid, and inhuman; the Daily Mail letters page given chitinous flesh; a zealous ideologue for the doctrines of smallness and stupidity and dumbfuck blithering hatred; a vicar’s daughter distilling all the common-sense peevishness and resentment from the dingy grog of the English national spirit; a leader who doesn’t so much impose austerity as embody it, in every word or gesture that seeks to foreclose on all possibilities and draw the furthest boundaries of the sunlit world no further than your respectable lace curtains – instructs the public to give her more power, to paint over a divided country with a false unity in Parliament, so she can exercise her supreme will.

Gripping stuff. And yet this avalanche of adjectives cannot distract one from the fundamental ludicrousness of his claim. Britain is not even remotely fascistic. Its large ethnic, sexual and religious minorities have almost exactly the same rights as everybody else; its free speech is constrained mostly to silence people who resent its liberalism; it has a free press; it has active trade unions; it offers benefits to the disabled and the unemployed; it has academic and artistic classes that enjoy state subsidies while opposing the government. It could be a lot more conservative – as some of us wish – without being remotely comparable to Franco’s Spain, never mind Hitler’s Germany.

Kriss is a man whose ranting never quite coheres with the universe. (How else could he mock Nick Cohen’s “strange remnant of a haircut” as his hairline continues to retreat?) The anti-fascist paranoia is at least amusing. The communist apologetics are not. Elsewhere in his pre-election piece came a tentative, qualified defence of the Soviet Union. He wrote…

…whatever its failings, the Soviet project was our project. Socialism is not an abstraction or a negation; it’s the real attempt to build a better world in this one, and it demands our fidelity. It won’t be possible unless we’re prepared to do more than oppose the evil. Demands are made on us for the sake of a liberated existence, and the first is that we be prepared to make ourselves vulnerable, and that we accept that our faith might be disappointed.

Kriss, living in English freedom, has not had to make himself “vulnerable”. People who were “vulnerable” to actual socialist projects risked far more than disappointment. They risked their lives, and often lost them. Kriss knows this. He hardly cares. In a perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek tweet two years ago he wrote…

in revolutionary china landlords were made to self-criticise kneeling on broken glass and frankly mao was a big softy who went easy on them

A bit tongue-in-cheek, perhaps? Is it? Well, not wholly. When a girl responded that during the Cultural Revolution her dance teacher had been forced to work on a farm, Kriss sneered, without a trace of humour, that…

all these denunciations of the great proletarian cultural revolution resolve into “but they made RICH PEOPLE do POOR PEOPLE work!”

Kriss did not mention the girl’s second tweet, where she added that if the woman did not work quickly enough her legs were cut as punishment. This posturing ideologue, who is paid well to write in freedom about how we live under a fascist government, sneers at forced labour and torture as if it is nothing, while congratulating himself on his willingness to make himself “vulnerable” to “disappointment”. No elaborate similes or florid insults can obscure how pathetic and obnoxious that is.

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Four Poems About Cursed Soldiers

Freedom

Each morning is a shock.
I wake alarmed and watch
The birds fly lazily.
It is a blessed day.
A blessed day for me.

Prayer Requests

Pray for me, Father. Pray for us.
Pray for our bullets and our guns.
Pray for Nil, Szary and Harnaś.
Pray for my wife and for my son.
Pray for the tuber and the grain.
Pray that God will absolve our sins.
Pray that the Russians will feel pain.
Pray for the dead boy. Pray for him.

Mokotów Prison

There is no light beneath the ground.
Brystygier burrows like a rat.
Humer, in absurd eyeglasses,
Infests like filarial worms.
Badecki lurks, that fat old slug.
Śmietański slithers snakily.
The darkness is a thick, dry soil
That fills your insides as you scream.

Fugitive

I have been fighting for so long
I barely think of victory.
It is a haze of jokes and songs
And half-imagined history.

I walk, sometimes, in Krasnystaw
Through streets as quiet as a breath
And think of times that we shall have
In freedom or, my love, in death.

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Two New Pieces…

I had a new piece and a newish piece published yesterday. The first was for Areo magazine and was titled “Why Your Friend’s Politics Shouldn’t Make You Mad”…

Think twice, then, before lowering your opinion of a friend based on whatever policies they happen to endorse. Their ideas on healthcare should not be half as important to your friendship as their willingness to help you if you get sick. Their beliefs on law and order say much less about them than how much they will stick up for you if you are being intimidated. Their attitude towards a politician matters less than their attitude towards the people they know. Actions, as the durable phrase informs us, speak louder than words.

The second was an updated piece published at The Gerasites called “The Vicar of Glibley”…

I mention this because it illustrates Fraser’s habit of plastering quasi-theological, cod-philosophical rationalisations on his moral and aesthetic instincts. Floating in a kind of spiritual self-righteousness he rarely analyses their complexities and contradictions, or attempts to find his place in a coherent tradition.

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