POINTS 17 was published in the autumn of 1953. Sindbad Vail made a number of changes to the journal with this issue. The cover displayed the authors and titles of most of the contents of the issue, the inside front and back covers were printed in contrast to previous issues where these were blank, and most notably, title headings for the stories and poems offered some bold and different type fonts, an element of design long overdue.
The editor of merlin, Alexander Trocchi, and the publisher of merlin, Jane Lougee, were featured contributors. Daniel Mauroc and Alan Riddel had pieces published in POINTS 15. Patrick Bowles had also appeared previously in POINTS 13. The short biographical information on new contributors that had been a feature of previous issues was absent from POINTS 17, but we have included some information on Trocchi and Vanderwal at the end of this post.
Commentary © James A. Harrod, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Commentary © James A. Harrod, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
(inside front cover)
(inside back cover)
Advertisements and subscription pages
Notes by the editor – Sindbad Vail
THE HOLY MAN – Alexander Trocchi
TWO POEMS – Patrick Brangwyn
MAY I POACH A DUCK – Theo J. Vanderwal
APPROACH – Claire McAllister
THE DESOLATE – Robert Wells
LAMENT – William Redding
5, FROM AN OVAL DOZEN OF APPROXIMATE SONNETS – Christopher Logue
THE DIARIST – Selwyn Kittredge
DREAM – Alan Riddel
THE EASTER PASSION – Joseph Witt
THE NEW FRENCH LITERARY AVANT GARDE – Daniel Mauroc
EVERYMAN HIS OWN OUTSIDER – Patrick Bowles
FISH – Jane Lougee
NOTES BY THE EDITOR
This issue of POINTS is again late in appearing. This time we have a more valid excuse than usual, as the great strikes in France during August, curtailed almost all activities for
In this issue we are again experimenting with the cover. It is hoped that the new design will be more explanatory, and attract more readers.
We have in this number five short stories, more poems than usual and two articles. The book review section has been omitted, as the books we receive are usually too old to review by the time the magazine is actually distributed in Paris and especially in the U.S.
We are continuing our policy of publishing works of young and usually unknown writers. We intend to do so as long as the magazine exists.
On February 15th, 1954, Points will be five years old. We hope by then to have compiled an anthology of the best short stories (and perhaps articles and poems) to have appeared in the magazine. So far this is still a hopeful plan, depending naturally enough on the amount of funds we can raise. A subscription campaign will shortly be launched to help us achieve this ambition.
Some examples of the title headings in this issue of POINTS:
THE HOLY MAN
THE hotel waslocated in a short impasse near the Bal des Anglais. The street face bulged outwards and upwards from street level, receding again after the first storey like a long narrow forehead until it was cut short by the skyline. Back from the ridge of the roof, out of view from the street, there was a single attic window and above it an uneven row of dilapidated chimneypots, yellow and black, and tilted in oblique postures. There was no break in the tenement structure of the street, and the hotel wasdistinguishable from the building on either side only by its more pronounced bulge and by the peeling yellow paint which covered its outside wall.
It was not a light street. The sun seldom percolated downwards beyond the second storeys and, except for a month or so during the summer, the street at ground level was in shadow. There was life in the street, and an occasional outraged cat; but more than anything else it was a street to die in.
The groundfloor of the hotel had at one time been a bar, frequented by North Africansand by the prostitutesof the quarter, and it remained shop-fronted. Above, the windows, tilting at various angles from the perpendicular, looked out through absence of sun and through grime like mucous eyes of some of the blind or half-blind men who in latter days came to stay there. Access to the passage which led to the staircase was by a single narrow door. A man entering from the sunless street into a darker corridor which smelt of dampness and urine and decaying ordure was in a passage twenty feet long; on his left immediately was the yellow slit of light which came from under the door, the former back door, of what used to be the bar. Through that door, often, and especially at night, came female laughter. The room was inhabited by three German women who had come to France with the victorious army and who, like other odds, ends and chevrons of the defeated army, had been ambiguously left there. Their names were Liza, Greta and Lili.
The staircase at the end of the corridor was a wooden one. Its steps, worn smooth and concave by centuries of climbing feet,had absorbed grease, dust, sputum and spilt water until their surface was like soft graphite. What fell soaked in and remained. Halfway between landings at the turn of flightsthe water spouts dripped into iron bowls inadequately gridded against garbage which sank to the drains and caused each bowl to overflow its contents on to the stairs below. The rooms were small. Except for those which gave on to the street, their windowsopened on to an airwell which was their only source of light. One of the rooms on the second storey was inhabited by a thin Hungarian. All night he stood near his uncurtained window, old and stark naked, and a candle flame ranged across the skin and hairs of his little abdomen as he picked over and examined the rags he had collected the previous day. His room was full of old clothes, but except when going abroad into the streets he did not use them. Sometimes he spat through a broken pane and his spittle descended down the airshaft to itsbottom below street level where broken boxes, discarded bed-springs and other debris were piled. When he did so, he leaned forward slightly, with an air of attention, as he listened for the sound of its break…
Opposite him on the second storey, with a window that gave directly on to his, lived a one-legged woman nearly as old as himself, a native of the city. Her muffled curses rose to the other inhabitants up the airwell. Sometimes the Hungarian paused in his task of inspection and gazed with his one good eye—the other had receded into what was now a pink rim of hair—across to the lightless window where she cursed. Each morning before seven she hobbled downstairs with her crutch close at her left armpit and the thong of her amputated leg in a grey woollen stole just visible below the hem of her skirt. Her face was twisted in a fixed red sneer and her free hand against the wall prised her torso into balance asit descended. In the roadway she looked this way and –that before she set off, like a bent hinge, always in the same direction.
Apart from the German women, and they were all over thirty, no young people lived there, and as the old died off, or moved to the almshouse, or to the sanatorium, or to prison for, petty theft or chronic alcoholism, no young people presented themselves to occupy the rooms. Alwaysanother old man or another old woman, younger or older than the previous tenant, but old, and often emaciated. Already there lived in the rabbitwarren of live storeys one hunchback, one dwarf too old for the circus, one strong man too weak to break chains, two blind men whose white probes brushed walls and stairs to the side or in front of them like the antennae of insects, one dumb man, and the woman already mentioned with the amputated foot. For the rest, they came and they went, on foot and sometimeson a stretcher. And not long ago a man died on the stairs.
But above all. and of a power that was intact because it was undivined, there was the holy man.
Why this man washoly or what holy was none of the other tenants was quite clear. That they were one and all willing to concede his holiness was quite clear from the fact that all referred to him and without a trace of humour as the holy man.
He was above all the othersnot only in the sense that he suffered from no physical disability—at least if he did no one knew about it—nor because he neither had, nor appeared to require, means of subsistence, nor even because he was admittedly holy, but also in the sense that he was above them in space, for it was he who inhabited the tiny attic room at the apex of the house, a room which, were it not for the fact that he had shuttered the dormer window with boards painted black, alone of the rooms in the hotel commanded an uninterrupted view of the sun and of the blue heavens.
The holy man had shut out the sun and the blue heavens from his room. He came years before, almost beyond living memory, clad in a dark mantle against recognition. Accepting the key from MmeKronis, the proprietrix, he had mounted the stairs for the first and for the last time. He had carried with him a black blind of wood of the exact dimensions of the attic window, and with a hammer and nails he had boarded himself into darkness like a vegetable. From that day onwards he had never set foot on stairs, nor for all they knew on ground or floor, but had lain in a prone position beneath a grey blanket on a narrow bed like a long cocoon.
It was known, or if not known suspected, that he had occupied this horizontal position for more than ten years in his black box at the apex of the hotel.
Now, none of the tenants loved the sun, unless it was the German women who, during the short period ofthe year when the sun struck down to street level, sprawled untidily on their doorstep (that of what had once been the bar) and scratched the pendulous deathly-white flesh of their thighs which, in their reclining position with knees up, called out like jaws at the sun. But evidently no one hated the sun as much as the holy man, not the thin Hungarian nor any of the tenants who went abroad daily to beg in those parts of the city frequented by tourists during the summer. For a beggar in summer must sweat, and those who laid down their truncated limbs near the bridges where the tourists congregated did so in full sunlight, that the sweat might aggravate the emaciation, and the horror the charity.
And so at the beginning this strange hibernation, in spite of its occurrence in the twilit catacomb where all flesh was white from lack of sun, caused a great of comment, and various theories were advanced throughout the years to make it less foreign to the general comprehension.
The first was the obvious one: the man was dead.
Such an explanation would have occasioned lessdismay than any other. To live, to grow old, and to die: the process excited little interest. Those acquaintanceswho were not already dead were dying, or were preparing to die in the near future or in the winter, for most of them felt that they could hold out at least until the winter and the frost. It was true that few died in the hotel. The man who died on the stairs, a vast man from Lille with a mountain of weight to carry up five flightsof stairs, had been taken by a spasm during his climb. That had been unexpected, the sudden thump around midnight as his body toppled backwards down the narrow staircase, but he had been drinking heavily and he had a bad heart—usually he had climbed very slowly, taking a few steps at a time. For the most part they went away to die, to the almshouse or to the sanatorium, and if somebody came round to enquire about a vacant room Mme Kronis would say she was expecting a key in a few days’ time. For each dead man, a key; it was usually returned to her by a policeman who climbed up the stairs behind her to make an inventory of the effects of the deceased. Later she would say if questioned: His key came back today. There’s a key if you want it,
But it was not unnatural for a man who was about to die to make a crypt of his room. The sun was an irrelevance. If the holy man had died it was as well he had died in darkness. A man wanted to die with a little dignity. Dark made that easier. It shut out the world.
Yes, it would have been easy to believe that the holy man was dead had it not been for the stubborn recurrence of the symptoms of life. An hundred little facts combined to make the theory untenable.
In the first place, and perhaps most significantly of all, there was no key. Secondly, there was the direct evidence of the German women. For a number of years past, Liza, Greta, and Lili, in strict rotation and in complete submission to some unknown authority, had borne his food and later removed his excrement.It was true, or so they averred, that they had never seen the holy man. The room was in total darkness. Sometimesthey had tried to make conversation, but the mass on the bed—their only experience of that masswas the sound of heavy breathing—remained inert and voiceless; nevertheless, they were aware of him. There was something there,they said, you could feel it on your skin, and the fetor of the place was suffocating. All the air that got in must have been with their exits and entrances, so the stench was understandable. But that a man could live in such a stench aroused neither disgust nor disbelief in the other tenants. It was interesting but not important.
Of course, the German women might have been lying. But that they should lie over a number of years, climbing daily to the attic with food for a dead man (or a non-existent! man) to relieve themselves up there in order to be able to return with the chamberpot, seemed unlikely. It waslaughable—unless they had murdered him and were trying to cover up for themselves. That theory was suggested and caused so much indignation among the tenants that a few of them got together and without consulting Mme Kronia brought a policeman to the hotel. In spite of her protests, the policeman insisted on going to the room to see for himself. She allowed him to do so only on the conditionthat the rest of the tenantswould remain below and they heard her bicker about interference and lying thieves as she climbed slowly and painfully upwards ahead of the policeman.
It did not take long. A few moments later, the policeman descended and without a word went off into the night. A short while afterwards Mme Kronis herself came down, still muttering under her breath, and disappeared into her room, locking the door behind her.
The procession of days continued uninterrupted during which, as usual, Liza, Greta and Lili bore food and carried refuse to and from the holy man. Some said Mme Kronis had bribed the policeman. That was quite possible. Mme Kronis was rich and policeman were human. Wasit not so? But, generally speaking, the tenants were convinced. The holy man was alive, even if his life was not what one would expect of a man—it was more like the life of a slug or of a bedbug—what did it matter? Perhaps he hadgone up there to die and had not died after all or was dying but was taking a long time over it. That would have been commendable. They were all of the–opinion that a man should take a long time over hisdying.
And perhaps that was what it was:he was merely taking a long time over his dying. He had boxed himself into his death-chamber in anticipation of his immediate death, and then, finding each time he woke up that he still lived, he had concluded he would die on the morrow and therefore had not troubled to take down the shutter that shut him off from the sun and from the blue sky. That would have been proper. After having outlived for so long his expectations it would have been a shame to be caught napping with the shutter down. He might even have had a stroke if he had made the great effort that would have been required to tear down a shutter so firmly fixed with long nails. He was presumably no jackass or halfwit who wanted to die before it was strictly necessary to do so.
On the other hand—it was the thin Hungarian who suggested this—it was quite possible that the holy man thought he was dead. That would have accounted too for his passivity. If he thought he was dead he would also think, and logically, that there was no need to act, neither to act nor to decide to act,for he would most certainly be of the opinion that the will—the personal will as distinct from the all-embracing will of God—ceased to be effective after death. And the fact that he had existed in darkness over a period ofso many years would naturally conduce to the belief that he was suspended in Purgatory to await God’s final judgement. That, the thin Hungarian thought, would explain everything, including the deaf ear he turned to the husky-voiced conversation of the German women which, as he was now dead and beyond the failings of the flesh, he would most certainly interpret as the hallucinatory temptation of that part of his soulon whose account he was condemned to Limbo. He would be afraid to be taken in by his hallucinations because if he were so taken in it would prove his basic carnality beyond a doubt, and that proven beyond the grave even, he would feel himself in imminent danger of being toppled right out of Limbo into something much worse. The holy man, the thin Hungarian concluded, waswise as well as holy.
The theory ofthe woman who had her foot amputated wasless subtle, and, on those rare occasions when she ventured beyond her monotonous blasphemies to express an opinion, hers was expressed with hard and brittle conviction. The holy man was no more or less than the Devil himself, right on top of us. God knew; the German women all three of them were witchesas well as Germans and should have been burned.
The German women, indeed, were not popular, never had been since ambiguously they had come to be there. In relation to the holy man, they were suspected of witholding information. That itself was exasperating and grounds enough for dislike. But that was not all. Their full bodies and their thick loud laughter was out of place. It was the laughter of the living against the condemned; it seemed highly unlikely that they would be dying soon and probable that they would outlive the rest for half a century. A female tenant could not be expected to forgive that insult. A male tenant might and, when alone, did more often than not, for was he not a man before he was old?
THE summers passed, and after the autumns, the winters and the springs. No one again sent tor the police on the holy man’s behalf. Indeed, in the course of the years he was seldom referred to. During the winters more keys became available. The percentage was alwayshigher during the winters. Amongst others were the keys of the hunchback, of the dwarf too old for the circus, of the strong man too weak to break chains, and of one of the blind men who, crossing a boulevard, got accidentally run over by a bus. Tenants came, tenants went, some to die, others to linger on. During the summers, Liza, Greta and Lili lounged on their doorstep, their fat thighs exposed and their broad haunches warm from the warm stone under them. They joked with the North Africans, winked or guffawed at a stray tourist, and amused themselves by scratching and comparing their knees. At one point each day, one of them did the chores for the holy man, Liza or Greta or Lili, climbing up stairs which, in former days and with a strange man’s eyes following the slow swing of her haunches, she had climbed for other purposes. All the year round, discreetly, they received visitors in their room which used to be the bar or, alternatively, went with them to the hotel round the corner, for some men, some times, prefer privacy in lovemaking. The thin Hungarian continued to exhibit his nakedness to those who faced him across the airwell, to pick at his rags, to spit and wait as a bird might, and to elaborate his theory of the holy man. Daily he pushed a small tub–like pram around the neighbourhood and beyond, in search of rags. The female citizen continued to mingle curses with the dank odours of the airwell and to break startlingly out of the hotel at dawn into the quiet street. The rest of the tenants prostrated themselves before their old habits, or, if they were new tenants, brought new or old habits to the hotel. And then, quite abruptly, it was the early spring of a certain year.
The end came quickly. One day all was as usual. And on the next day it happened.
Lili, in the midst of her chore, had the sudden ungovernable impression that the holy man was dead. The atmosphere in his little black box contained a new and frightening element. She sniffed and her skin prickled. Taking the chamberpot to a light part of the staircase, she found that it was empty. She returned at once to the room and spoke quietly and urgently at what she believed to be the holy man. It had apparently stopped breathing. There was, as usual, no response. But this time, with an irrepressible sense that something had changed, she put her hand forward and touched. She drew it back quickly. What she had touched she did not understand. With trembling hands she lit a match. At this point she uttered one long blood-curdling scream and hurtled downstairs as fast as her short fat legs would carry her. She reached the room which used to be the bar before anyone had time to intercept her. Locked fast there, and in spite of the loud knocking that came sporadically to her from the outside, she was able to slip out of the hotel at dusk, having spoken to no-one of her experience.
Liza ran off that same night with a sailor from Marseilles, and Greta, the biggest but most buxomly beautiful of the three, moved up to Pigalle where (in nights that followed) under myriad coruscations of colour her flesh gleamed whitely and naked in a darkened nightclub. She left barely an hour after Liza.
MmeKronis had taken control of the tenants. There, was an uncanny power in the woman. None of the other tenants was allowed to see the attic where, according to Mme Kronis, the holy man, poor soul, lay dead.
The following day there was the funeral. Mme Kronis, the thin Hungarian, one blind man, and the woman with one footmissing, turned out to follow the coffin.
Mme Kronis, now that the German women were gone, decided to reopen the bar. Meanwhile, she let it be known that there was one key available.
© The Estate of Alexander Trocchi
TWOpoems by Patrick Brangwyn
The roundabout that waits for none
Turns now into the night;
Clockwise go the jugglers’ steeds
To keep the balance right.
Who’ll be our spinning hero
Or spinning heroine,
To sit astride or side
On the great weighing machine?
Look upon this common wheel
Observe the tireless gait;
The choice is ride the way they go
Or walk till it’s too late.
He is our spinning hero
She is our heroine,
But they burn as the earth turns,
Grey as the organ steam.
Who turns the mighty zoetrope,
Whose fingernail the agate edge,
Who blows the giant threnody,
Who takes the threepenny pledge?
Find me an empty saddle,
Hand me the broken rein,
For I have holy jingling spurs
To summon day again.
And I will make these horses leap
Off the circumference;
He who breaks us on the wheel
Will never get my pence.
I’ll be no spinning hero
No spinning heroine,
I will not burn as the earth turns,
To balance the weighing machine.
Who’ll ride out of the roundabout
And choose the way to go,
Turn widdershins to the sunlight,
Wheel without such woe?
made sail of her mantle
mast of her body
wind crucified Fayaway
Her golden flame sits like a grinning monkey
upon the dead lips of the Handsome Sailor.
© The Estate of Patrick Brangwyn
may I poach a duck ?
THEO J. VANDERWAL
TO be quite honest (though nowadays it is very hard to be honest) I must confess that I have trespassed against the law from time and even liked it.
The law tellsyou that poaching is a crime and so does the judge, for he sentences you to prison if you are caught in the act. They never caught me though. Look here, they have brains, those constables and gamekeepers, but so have I. In fact I have more. But what am I talking about? I didn’t want to speak about myself, but about a man called Udo, whom I first met in a peatery somewhere in the North.
Holland is a beautiful country. In the dunes of the coastal areas there is the briny smell of the sea. On the moors and in the woods there is a smell of resin and another sweet smell as well. And in the North there are peateries in the midst of meadows.
I had applied to someone there who rented a patch of ground for peatcutting. I had been told that he wanted a man. The man he had before had left after a row about the amount of peat he was to have for his own use. And when I saw him, I understood. He was a short, slow, bow-legged man, who looked at me a long time with small piercing eyes when I asked for handsel. But in the end it was all right. Together we drove to his patch of ground in a farmer’s cart. The peateries were intersected by canals. The black moist peat was stuck fast in the soil. On top of it were the lighter coloured pieces, already shrinking; and in between the rows grew sappy plants, thick reed, willow-herb and yellow loosestrife. Far off lay lonely farmsteads and from fading ribbons of green rose the spires of small country villages. There was only the sound of ducks, of the wind blowing through the reed, and of fishes jumping in the water.
And now about that man called Udo. He said that was his name, but whether it was his Christian name or his surname, I don‘t know. It doesn’t matter anyway.
He must have been hiding behind a row of peat, for I had just taken off my jacket when I heard him behind me. I quickly turned round. He came up to me with a kind smile, striding with the assurance of a man who has a right to walk somewhere.
“So you’re going to start now,” he said, “The other one wasa bit balmy. I told him I was going to lend a hand and what do you think he said?”
“He said no,” I said. “Yes, that’s what he said, but in a different way. Why shouldn’t I lend a hand? I offer it, I like being here and after all God made the earth, and what did man do? Run away.” “What do you mean. God made the earth?” I asked, for when a thing getscomplicated I can’t follow it.
“I mean that I have a right to walk here. The earth is there for all of us.”
“Oh”, I said; “well, as far I’m concerned you can help me. But I’m going to keep my money to myself.“
“Am I asking for money? I don’t ask a thing.”
“Fine,” I said, and we shook hands.
His hand was one which had known little toil. The callosity was fresh on it, and there were scratches which had not yet healed. You could tell he was not used to work. His skin was sensitive. And because I was observing that hand I looked attentively at his face too. His hair was close-cropped and dark, just like a dog’s pelt.His brow was low and narrow, but free. Frank, I mean, without falsehood; guileless. His eyebrows were bristly and under them, rather deepset, were his eyes, pale blue eyes, bright as aquamarine. Nice eyes. His nose was straight with thin nostrils.His mouth was mobile and his chin stuck out a little and was broad.
I’m just mentioning all that now, but when I was looking at him I didn’t take stock of him like that. No, I only saw that he was a nice man, somewhat primitive, I mean, a natural man, a person who knows. neither letters nor fancy phrases. I had already noticed that there were lots of ducks here and towards evening I could easily catch one, for supper. And this man looked like a person who minded his own business, and would certainly let me have my own way. “What’s your name, anyway?” he asked, taking off his jacket and putting it next to mine in the shade of a row of peat. “Smith”, I said.
“Mine’s Udo”, he said. Then we worked.
The sun burnt on head and arms, scorched through our shirts on shoulders and back. A waft of scent came to us from the earth, bitter and sweet. The wet peat clung to the bottom of the fermenting bog. Rapidly shot up plants veined the peat with their roots and covered it with their colourful bloom; we turned row after row.
Our backs began to ache, for we had to remain stooped over all the time, turning the peat to allow it to dry, and our hands were smarting under the dirt, biting in all the furrows. He made a good job of it. We worked from the middle of a row down to the sides, each of us to one side, I mean. He did it just as fast as I and I had done it before. And then I thought of my money, and here he was working for nothing, just for fun, some silly fun. I did not care. I was not going to give him anything. After all, I didn’t ask him, nor was I the boss. And every time we met near the middle of a row, he smiled at me and we exchanged a look ofmutual understanding. He was a nice fellow, he certainly was. I glanced at my jacket. His was lying beside it. But my money was in my trouser-pocket. I have learnt that much, no money in my jacket.
And we worked. It he hadn‘t been there I should have rested long ago, but he just kept on. I had arrived in the afternoon and it was towards evening now. I was hungry, and when I had come to the middle again, I streched myself and said with a groan. “That’s enough for today.”
“Very well,” he said and also stretched himself. He was not very tall, but broad-shouldered.
“We’re going to have supper,” I said. We put on our jackets. My sandwiches and the thermos with tea were in one of the pockets.
On either side of the peat-rows was water. It had been land before the peat was cut off. Now there were straight canals between narrow strips of ground on which the peat was piled up a yard high, all the rows broadwise on the strip. We sat down by the waters edge. The umbels of the valerian, the fragile flowers of the arrowgrass, the thin curtains of the waterplantain were very still above the unrippling water.
And there we sat. I took the packet of sandwiches. He was looking at the water. I might have known. He had no sandwiches. He had nothing. He looked quietly in front of him, his hands folded round his knees.
A primitive man. I again felt to see if the money was still in my pocket. It was. And so, I gave him half of my sandwiches.
“There,” I said and he took them. Another glance passed between us.
“A man’s got to eat,” he said, taking a good bite.
Later on in the evening I said: “ The village over there has ducks, village ducks. The people put out baskets by way of nests and they may keep the eggs that are laid in them. There are hundreds of village ducks. I should like a duck”.
He made no reply. He was lying on his back, asleep. What did I care?
It was getting pretty dark and I walked down the bog to the village.
By the side of the road stood pollard–willows and I cut off a thick branch.
When I had removed the lanceolate leaves, I had a nice tapering stick.
The village was in darkness. The houses were scattered. Still ducks drifted on the quiet water of the wide ditches. I sat down by the side of the road looked about me. In the yard of a small farm burned a lantern. After some moments I saw a young woman take up the lantern and walk to the shed. She entered it and I saw a window lit up. I had noticed that she had fair hair which fell down to her shoulders. She might be a beautiful woman. I looked at the ducks quietly drifting there. I waited. The woman didn’t come back. Later on the light went out. So she slept in the shed. She must be a servant, I thought.
Again I looked at the ducks, but they were too far off. I threw small clods of earth into the water, pretending to feed them, and one of them swam slowly towards me. I poised the stick on my hand and then I struck. I hit the head, but in spite of that it screamed, and then they all screamed and fluttered away in all directions. By now all the ducks of the village were screaming. I quickly took the beaten drake and hid it under my jacket. I glanced round and saw light again in the yard near the shed. The woman was standing there and looking in my direction. Whistling, I walked back.
It was a warm night. I looked for Udo, who woke up. I showed him the duck. There was blood on its head and dark brown stains on the green and blue feathers. The neck waslimp.
“You can’t live on bread only.” I said.
He looked at the duck and said dreamily: “ No, you can’t do a thing like that, you can’t kill ducks.” And he looked at the drooping head.
Then I’ll eat it alone, I thought and I started to pluck it. The next day he said it again :“You can’t do a thing like that.” This time I had bought bread from a baker who passed along the road. But I was roasting duck the over a peat–fire, while Udo was working. There he went between the rows, working. He didn’t want to eat it. Well, if he wants a slice of bread only, it’s all right with me. The meat was nice, it was not savourless, for the fire had given it a a smoke taste. When I had finished my dinner I didn’t want to work any more. Why should I? The sun was high in the sky and this was a fine country. All those smells and that stillness on land and water.
Udo was working on bread only. He did it quietly and ungrudgingly. Then there was a rabbit, which I caught. I like rabbit, wild rabbit, but this one was tame. That was not my fault. It crossed the road and I caught it in no time, I had gone to the farm with the shed, where the young woman slept. I wanted to see what she looked like by daylight. It wasn’t bad.
I got a bowl of milk, and she swayed her hips as she went into the house, for the farmer called her. I saw then that there was a road behind the farm, past the rabbit–hutches. I opened one of the hutches and that’s how it happened. One blow behind the ear and its head also hung. Udo said again : “ You can’t do a thing like that, you can’t kill rabbits.”
Then I got angry:“ Look here,” I said, “ next time you’ll say I mustn’t catch a fish!” But he started to work and ate a slice of bread only. He can’t do that, I thought, and therefore bought butter and cheese. He ate it; we exchanged a look of mutual understanding.
We were getting on with the work, for the two of us were quick at turning a row. The pain in the back had gone and our fingers were supple again.
We liked the work. I dug out the roots of septfoil, for they are a remedy against all diseases. You never can tell, can you. We slept out in the open and sometimes there was a haze in the morning. Then we woke up before sunrise, quite cold and covered with drops of dew.
He always slept peacefully ;he was a reticent man.
I had brought my line and hooks for fishing. A willow-branch served as a fishing-rod. Udo was working, silently he turned the peat while I looked at the cork float. Working is healthy, he sometimes said, but I am not so sure of that. I thought I might give him part of my wages after all, money isn’t everything. And he badly needed a shave, for he looked a sight.
I caught a perch. Greedy animals, they eat everything off your hook, except bread. I gutted it. Udo was looking on and I knew what he was going to say. And he did say it: “How can you cut off the head!”
It must have been he couldn’t stand it, for he grew more and more silent. One evening he began of his own accord. It was a fine dear evening, one of those evenings when sound carries very far. That’s when one wants to sing, and I did sing when we were sitting with our backs against the peat. I’m not much good at singing, but I like it. He put his hand on my arm and said: “ Don’t you think an animal has a soul?”
“No,” I said, and I sang an aria, not very beautifully, I believe, but with exaltation. He waited till I had finished and touched me again. His pale blue eyes had a tense expression and his mouth was half open. There always follows something important when people look like that, they want something very badly then are afraid of being rejected. The eyes then become red-rimmed. I know that, and in such a case the best thing is to give in.
“May one kill a man?” he asked. What a question! I did not know what to answer to that. I should have said no, hell! no.
But his eyes were tense and the rims red. So he meant yes.
However, I didn’t have to answer, for there were sounds in the distance and when I got up and looked I saw three men who jumped over the ditch on our strip of land. I sprang to my feet and called out: “Cops“. At the same time I dashed away, for I understood: Udohad told about my poaching and now they had come to pinch me. Three months, the judge would say, that is, if they got me. Confound Udo. That broad man with his honest face. Those pale blue aquamarine eyes. That ethical slyboots who couldn’t stand the sight of blood.
I had got to the edge of our land and leapt down over the water, which was only two yards wide here. I looked round : men were running in my direction. I ducked behind the peat and stooping down moved towards the wide canal beside the strip of ground. Gently I got into the water and quietly I swam along the reed back to the road.
Then I thought hard:It couldn’t have been Udo who betrayed me. It was the woman who sleeps in the shed. Love does not survive the loss of one small rabbit. What a woman. Fair, her hair down to the shoulders and small white teeth. Oh, a beautiful woman right enough. She costs me three months. Three months for one small bowl of milk and one sway of the hips.
I heard the men calling. They couldn’t see me, but those damn reedbuntings flew up and brown kites cried kee–kee – kee-kee kee-kee! They indicated the way I was swimming. But I believe the cops didn’t notice. Their voices grew fainter; stupid fellows, chasing a prey without using their brains. The water was cold, behind me was a brown trail of rooted up peat. With my hands I carefully rowed among the plants which clung to me, brown and slimy. They were not that stupid after all, for when I came very slowly drifting round a corner there was a policeman stooping very low and up to his hips in the water. He had a gun in his hand. “Come here”, he said, peering at me.
I did. We waded ashore. I was thinking of my jacket and I said so. But there they were already, the two others, with my jacket. Udo was not with them. A stout policeman with the face of an innkeeper said to me in the voice someone talking to a child :“Now we are going nicely back to the asylum aren’t we old man?”
“Oh,” I said, “I get you. I am Smith”.
It was a long time before I could explain to them that it was not me they wanted, that I was only a servant, who had not escaped from an asylum at all, for they have not much brains. They wanted Udo. They said he was mad and had killed a man. They did find him after all sitting quietly against a row of peat. I shook hands with him before they took him away. He had a workman’s hand. I could tell at once. One of the policeman was not quite satisfied. “Why did you
run away like that?” he asked me.
“That’s a souvenir of the war, when our country was occupied.”
So now I work alone again. But what was it I wanted to say? Oh yes, I went to the woman again. She is really very beautiful. I have held her hand for a moment. We may get along pretty well. And I should like to ask her: “Is it really wrong to poach a duck or a rabbit, as Udo says?”
© The Estate of Theo J. Vanderwal
Don’t tell me how the tower stood
A thousand lives ago or why
The battlemented palace should
Stand in reflective eye.
There is the place and we can walk
As once they walked, men undismayed
By story, pleased by shape and brick;
When death or battle had not made
Its glory; let me take
In stride the tower, and the friend,
Before hearing fable or fact;
Friend when glance implies the will,
Tells how the hand could take the hand
And if it’s said that he could sell
At price of devil, understand.
0 would it change the glance or range
The step between who are not strange?
© The Estate of Claire McAllister
Luminous, I reflect the vacancy
of my orbic eternity.
my white scales secretly shift
without insight, without sound.
No umber security lies beneath
nor thought beneath my movement.
I drift in the current beyond whim.
I rise towards light,
mouth each golden mote
Diffused and tasteless, it mocks my action.
From BBC HOME: Writing Scotland
The biography of Alexander Trocchi suggests a life of many parts: writer, artist, husband, father, activist, heroin-addict, revolutionary. Trocchi was born in Glasgow in 1925 to an Italian father and a Scottish mother. He attended Glasgow University from 1942- 43 before joining the Royal Navy from 1943-46. Perhaps unsurprisingly, military life didn’t suit him and he returned to University to study philosophy. In the late 1940s he moved to Paris where he edited the avante-garde literary journal Merlin, which published, amongst others, the work of Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre. It was in Paris that Trocchi began his own writing career under the auspices of Maurice Girodias’s infamous Olympia Press. His early fiction is concerned with the erotic, some might say pornographic, and much of this early work was banned in Britain, France and America.
In the late 1950s Trocchi left Paris for the U.S, finally settling in New York. It was at this time that Trocchi began his experimentations in drug culture as part of the ‘turn-on, tune-in, drop-out’ generation and was briefly imprisoned in New York for his associations with illegal drug taking. It was at this time too that Trocchi wrote Cain’s Book telling of his sexual misadventures and heroin highs during his time living on the Hudson River. French existentialism (a philosophy which asserts that Man is a free agent, unbound by God, and that he must accept responsibility for his actions in a seemingly meaningless universe) and the New York and San Francisco ‘beat scene’ (which stressed the values of non-conformity, freedom and experimentation), made a profound impact on Trocchi’s writing. His novels deal with human isolation in a society marked by moral ambivalence and alienation.
During the sixties Trocchi published an essay for the New Saltire entitled ‘The Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds’; its plea for the ‘linking of minds’ was to become the manifesto for Trocchi’s ‘Sigma project’, which gained support from writers, artists and intellectuals as various as Picasso, R. D. Laing, Salvador Dali and Timothy Leary. Project Sigma was inspired by Leary’s ‘consciousness revolution’, a cultural call to arms which advocated the rejection of old and stale ways of seeing. Drug taking, and in Trocchi’s case, heroin addiction, was part of the pursuit of alternative realities. Revolutionary rhetoric was intended to breach the boundaries of social order and moral authority.
In 1962 Trocchi came to Scotland for the Edinburgh Writer’s Festival where he was famously attacked by Hugh MacDiarmid, the founding father of the ‘Scottish Literary Renaissance’ of the inter-war years, who dismissed Trocchi and his work as ‘cosmopolitan scum’ (though their private correspondence suggests a mutual respect and recognition of the values of the revolutionary and rebel across a changing cultural terrain). Simultaneously castigated and idealised, Trocchi remains an ambivalent character, one whose life demonstrates a truly visionary aspiration for mind and art and enacts the dystopia of an over-reaching idealism.
Theo J. van der Wal
born: 14 September 1910 Maastricht
deceased: July 24, 1984 in Bergen
pseudonym (s) / variant name (s):
Lida van Pernis
Biography (ies) on Theo J. van der Wal
K. at Avenue Literary dictionary for North and South (1952)
GJ van Bork and PJ Verkruijsse, Dutch and Flemish authors (1985)
Works by Theo J. van der Wal
Hunting Fate (1939)
Italic or script (1941)
About the poetry and the poetry of youth (1945)
The man and his handwriting (1947)
Practical manuscripts (1949)
The tiger (1952)
Day of Glory (1953)
Without theater (1953)
Waterless clouds (1955)
Can I put a duck poaching? (1960)
The scent of jasmine (1962)
Commentary © James A. Harrod, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Commentary © James A. Harrod, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED