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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Russell Edson: The Pilot


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Pilot, Dutch East Indies. Architect: J.F.L. Blankenberg: photographer unknown, n.d. (NAI Collection / Het Nieuwe Instituut)


Up in a dirty window in a dark room is a star which an old man can see. He looks at it. He can see it. It is the star of the room; an electrical freckle that has fallen out of his head and gotten stuck in the dirt on the window.

He thinks he can steer by that star. He thinks he can use the back of a chair as a ship's wheel to pilot his room through the night.

He says to himself, brave Captain, are you afraid?

Yes, I am afraid; I am not so brave.

Be brave, my Captain.

And all night the old man steers his room through the dark . . .


Russell Edson (1935 - 29 April 2014): The Pilot, from The Intuitive Journey and Other Works, 1976



Blücher sinking in the Drøbak Sound. The German heavy cruiser Blücher listing heavily to port in the Drøbak Sound being hit by cannon fire and torpedoes from the Norwegian coastal fortress Oscarsborg: photographer unknown, April 1940 (National Archives of Norway)


The German heavy cruiser Blücher listing heavily to port in the Drøbak Sound after being hit by cannon fire and torpedoes from the Norwegian coastal fortress Oscarsborg: photographer unknown, April 1940 (National Archives of Norway)


Blücher sinking in the Drøbak Sound: photographer unknown, April 1940 (National Archives of Norway)


  During the forced evacuation of Finnmark, Byåsen school is used to house evacuees and as a temporary replacement hospital: photo by Ukjent, c. August 1944 (Municipal Archives of Trondheim)


 During the forced evacuation of Finnmark, Byåsen school is used to house evacuees and as a temporary replacement hospital: photo by Ukjent, c. August 1944 (Municipal Archives of Trondheim)

5 comments:

Hazen said...

Beautiful, Tom. And taken to heart here.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176355

Wooden Boy said...

I would love to think that Dr Mads Gilbert might find his way to this post.

Thanks for the link, Vassilis. You and me had the same thought.

Be the BQE said...

Tom,
I wasn't familiar with the sinking of the Blucher or the Edson poem. Beautiful pairing of the imaginative and the unimaginable. Except so much horror has occurred since that it is all to imaginable.
-David

TC said...

Thanks, friends.

Hazen, not to imply that anybody here save me is old and broken and looking out for that star, fearful and unknowing, but, well... your taking this to heart was something I definitely took to heart, this morning, here in the fumbling, bumbling, paralytic dark.

The poem is a bit more -- what would be the word, grave? -- than one might normally expect with this poet. It's interesting to note that RE was but forty when it was writ. This suggests to me the possibility that writing effectively about the decrepitude of old age may well be possible only in that period before the decrepitude of old age sets in.

At any rate, I wanted to imagine Russell possessing a remarkable prescience on this subject, and to say to his ghost, I feel you.

David and Duncan, the Dr Mads connection did not escape me, and thanks for noticing.

Coincidentally, one of our regular irregulars, who's been champing at the bit a bit over our coverage of Gaza, has helpfully challenged me back-channel on several occasions, much as though I were a prisoner under interrogation by the IDF -- most recently to suggest sarcastically that if Norwegian citizens are so so concerned about Gaza, they ought to pony up to purchase food relief supplies. The cynicism and ignorance of that staggered me, much as every successive insult to their victims on the part of the IDF and the Israeli political war strategists has staggered me. (Has any movie star, celebrity, writer or politician yet dared breathe a peep to the effect that the IDF might owe compensation for the material damage it has wrought, let alone the lives it has taken or forever changed, or be in any way responsible for reparations?) The back channeler probably remains even now in blissful ignorance of the fact that the first and so far only nation to step up to offer financial help to assist the rebuilding of Gaza is Norway.

(Turkey is now helping out with the humanitarian efforts for severely wounded kids, who are being medi-coptered in from Gaza -- and may the drones leave those holy choppers alone, Insh'Allah.)

Norway held out 62 days against the Nazis in 1940. France, Holland... how long did they hold out? No country other than Russia resisted the Nazis longer than did Norway.

When my wife's parents were forced during those awful times to flee Vienna, their first stop was Norway, before Norway fell.

The Germans expected to see no resistance when they sailed in. The Blücher, one of three big Tirpitz-class heavy cruisers leading the line of battle into the fjords, was carrying over a thousand men, including the command structure for the invasion. Some seventy year old rusted shore batteries in the castle at Oscarsborg scored several direct hits. In the fog of battle the Germans supposed they were being torpedoed. The Blücher went down like a stone. The invasion was canceled, that time round.

But of course the Nazis soon enough returned.

The two bottom photos, perhaps the two strongest war photos I've ever seen, show members of the Norwegian resistance after their attack at Finnmark, in the Arctic Circle.

Mads had it right, the Norwegian Resistance was a beacon to resistance movements everywhere. And still is. And there is still so much to resist.