A 1940’s marching song:
Your land is my land – Your land is my land
from the Ardennes woodlands
to the Somme wetlands
Surrender your trigger hand
disband your dreamland
or it’ll be a wasteland
Just ask Poland
And the show goes on
A 1940’s marching song:
Your land is my land – Your land is my land
from the Ardennes woodlands
to the Somme wetlands
Surrender your trigger hand
disband your dreamland
or it’ll be a wasteland
Just ask Poland
And the show goes on
…Pitiful symphonies defined each and every liberation. The frequency of dejected, lonely souls haunted Reuben Remus as he tried to sleep, and yet Terra remained cutoff from him. Within the vacuum of those lonely nights Reuben Remus found despair. He cut holes in his own heart, condemning himself in a show of repentance; shedding away former joys he sought to pay for each soul he had forsaken. There was Józef Korzeniowski, a rickety old soul who had sculpted the terrarium growing in his home. When Reuben found him he had small vines growing over his back and shoulders, and he had forgotten how to speak. He growled when Reuben entered his home, and bit at Reuben’s forearm with a toothless weapon as he tried to show him into the sunlight. There were the twins Otylia and Teresa Pawlowski who had been separated from one another when a giant, dipping pine tree broke through the center of their house. Its low-hanging trunk divided them with an obstacle their old bones could not traverse. Their muscles were too weak to shout to one another, so their house was filled with crumbled up letters that they catapulted to each other. Their sea of crumpled emotions was their final connection, so when they ran out of paper to write on they began peeling the wallpaper to use as stationary; and when they ran out of wallpaper they were forced to turn inward and began writing on the walls to themselves. Their sad lives were inked on the walls of their home and carved into the trunk of the massive pine tree that separated them. Two stories, two lives lost: a tragedy Reuben Remus was responsible for. He spent his nights reading their letters, no matter how badly they hurt…
…He lost sleep thinking about Zbigniew Majewski who remained trapped on the earth while half of his home, including his beloved wife, were lifted skyward. She, too, soared past the sun like any angel would, freeing herself right before Zbigniew’s eyes. Reuben found him dressed in his wife’s clothes, pretending to eat dinner with her at the kitchen table. In his delirium he addressed Reuben as if he was himself, telling him how sorry she was that she left him behind. There were many nameless discoveries, as well. Like the man who served as nutrition for his dachshund, or the bodies that had fertilized the Kabacki Forest. Reuben Remus would excavate their bones from the mouths of sharp vines and pick segments of their ribs from the soggy clutches of heavy mold, gathering just enough of what remained to give them a burial…
…Who could argue that Terra is not a carnal lover?
Each day brought new bodies. A soul to be rescued comes at a price, and whichever god claimed the souls trapped in the Kabacki Forest charged one life for another, so each liberation was charged with a corresponding free fall. From heaven to hell, so the story goes. And what of the price of jubilation? Just know that Reuben Remus showed with new wrinkles about his eyes, that his fingers were too gnawed and calloused to play the violin, that he no longer smiled, or sang aloud, that he was the grave-robber. He replaced the true language of heaven earth with that of the contemporary and prayed to a god that was not his own without a true emotion teeming in his mind. Those were the dark days when the world tested Reuben Remus….
…Otylia Pawlowski broke the silence, closing in on Reuben one night as he lay in a hammock tied to the stars. “Why don’t you sing for us anymore?” He picked his head up and looked down at Otylia Pawlowski, but could only see the dejected words she had etched over her home. She stood barely taller than the grass, just high enough to peek over the base of the hammock. She placed her fragile hand in his. “We are not strangers, Reuben Remus. I’ve listened to her sing your name for years and years.” She smiled at him. “Will you walk with me? It’s been too long since I’ve enjoyed a little piece of the moon.” Otylia Pawlowski took Reuben’s hand and guided him away from his troubles. They listened to the crickets chirping and the forest growing, staying quiet until Otylia Pawlowski spoke again, “This place has never been beautiful to me, but now I’m not afraid to take the time to listen.”
Reuben took her words in, but the question that begged at the forefront of his mind was all he had to share. “How did you know my name?”
With a smile and a gentle tightening of her hand, Otylia answered. “I know much more than your name, Reuben… but if it is your curiosity that needs satisfying then who am I to deny you? Your music rose from my fireplace one night, and with it came your name and so much more. Night and day I heard her singing your name as you played your violin for her. It was all I had to look forward to… the songs of two children in love.”
Reuben stopped walking and stood in front of Otylia, kneeling down on one knee so she could see the sincerity in him. “I’m so sorry for what I’ve done to you.”
…“Read, Reuben. Discover your own meaning to this strangeness.” Otylia Palowski and Reuben Remus rested on the trunk of a bending pine tree and stared up at the broken pieces of the moon that were shining between the branches of the colossal pine trees . She rested her head on his chest and listened to the beating of his heart as if it were rising from her fireplace. “These woods are many things,” she started, through a nostalgic drawl, “romantic, harsh, silent, distant, unnatural, exotic, and filled with emotions I will never understand. People are not so different, Reuben. I have been sad for some time, but with sadness there is the prospect of joy… Don’t ever forget that.”
Reuben carried Otylia Pawlowski back to the one-story brick house late into the night. She sang for him. Her voice was gentle and kind, provoking an even more gentle thought to blossom within Reuben’s deflated conscience: Otylia Pawlowski had been renewed. He laid her down beside Teresa Pawlowski, and as he said goodnight he was infected by the warmth of their reunited bodies; absorbed by miracles of renewal and the synergy of reunification Reuben Remus took to an unshakable idea, one that had him walking past broken pieces of the moon to Otylia and Teresea Pawlowski’s old home. He pushed past new vines that had grown over the open doorway and entered their former prison. The moonlight slid through a hole in the roof like a seeing glass, translating the passions that were carved into the spiraling pine tree that had snaked its way through the center of their home. The wave of emotions brought to life through the inspiration of words and images twisted with the furrows, spinning round and round from Otylia’s side of the home to Teresa’s side and back; round and round, the yin and yang of two minds flowing in perfect unison told of a love story between a goddess and a young Jewish boy. This was their version of Reuben Remus’s mission to speak the universal language, and how a bored, lonely goddess spoke back. The sequence was filled with an admiration for new love blooming into the world; with the nostalgia of two memories that yearned for the past; with envy provoked by their loneliness; with hatred towards the selfish lovers that toyed with their fate; and with questions of god and the feminine version of the holy trinity that rose from their fireplace. Reuben Remus, a selfless man who spent his youth loving, and who communicated with the world through the passion of his music, stared down the dark-side of his humanity, reading into his faults, seeing parts of his ego that he had failed to recognize. He read the Pawlowski version of his life under shattered pieces of the moon; from front to back, and back to front, and once as braille. He took away five different meanings, never criticizing them, never looking back, not even when he faced death at the hands of a children’s game decades later…
Cold bones and hollow veins anchored Reuben Remus to the corner. He shrunk into the hardwood and cupped his ears to guard himself from the sadness around him. Panicked cries and frenzied shouts battered the outside of his window. Despair disturbed the curtains overhead, which played with the light shining through, slicing the room with shadows every time the Nazis forced someone into the back of their trucks. And there was the sorrow spoken directly at him from across the hall – a congealed wallowing of an old man who was ignored by Death.
Reuben Remus’s solitude stretched the room past nowhere and to infinity. The vertical wood panels extended so far that the milk and blood seeping past the doorway of room 5F seemed like they existed in a distant world, while the walls around Reuben Remus pressed so narrowly that his shoulders shrunk inwardly. There was no black and white perspective to take him away from the pain. He saw the color spectrum entirely and heard the frequency of broken families. The illusory expanse choked his throat, and as the claustrophobia entered his heart so did a mouthful of angry cursing. He accused the golden woman of cowardice for not coming to the rescue. He prayed to her, calling her epithet aloud, so she could hear his hatred. Save us your blind salvation, golden woman, for you have doomed us all…
“… Terra trusted that gravity would resolve the remainder of her task. And so it did… She kept Callimachus calm during that six-story free fall, providing his mind with the same weightlessness that his body was experiencing. The fantastic conclusion of Callimachus’s life — the crashing of symbols — the unity of free-falling flesh and bone with that of Volkswagen and passenger: i.e., Sergeant Richter and Major Faust was not so, however. Perhaps Callimachus took a step in the wrong direction sometime ago, which set him off course and proved that these three bodies would not intersect; or perhaps Terra’s calculations were distorted by the humidity of a storm far off in the Philippines; or perhaps certain shortcomings were the result of Sergeant Richter’s pulsing member, which surely unbalanced the suspension of the Volkswagen; or, taking certain variables a step further, perhaps a star died prematurely so that whatever scripture was written upon its halo could not possibly be so… The truth: Terra did not anticipate that starved children hiding in the ruins of Warsaw, Poland would salivate so ferociously at the sight of a passing deer that they would return bodies to their eyes. For that is what truly occurred! Frail, awkwardly shaped boys and girls began to appear out of the rubble, first as feet then as outstretched arms and open mouths, then as faces with eyes and mouths, and finally as tiny footprints that could be seen all over the rubble. Thousands of footprints, sometimes in impossible places, stamped the ruins of Warsaw, and that is what caught Major Faust’s attention and caused him to slam on the brakes. A free-falling deer (sent by angel, or god, or whoever was strong enough to toss Callimachus) smacked the pavement directly in front of the Volkswagen. Whatever was still throbbing in Sergeant Richter’s pants went limp at the sound of splitting flesh. The children took to their vanishing acts once more. Major Faust crept from the vehicle and Sergeant Richter mimicked this. Time travel: the product of a free-falling deer the size of a bear with masterful golden antlers and wide, bronze hooves that, since a time first remembered sparkled in the dreams of rapacious men and women who always needed more; these hooves and unbroken golden antlers that were hurled from heights unknown by, yes, god — no, not Wilhelm Broda’s god, but Major Faust and Sergeant Richter could not tell the difference; a god — the protector of Reuben Remus’s history to be exact — was the only entity with enough strength to throw a stag the size of a bear out of clear sky, they rationalized, somewhat abandoning scientific reasoning for the supernatural because Terra still lingered on the tips of their… stiff backs looked up to the sky in search of god or, more likely, a launchpad suitable for a deer the size of a bear. And though none of this could make sense to a man who rationalized facts and only facts, Major Faust revisited Wilhelm Broda’s confession, wincing his eyes now past the clouds. Time travel: scientific men, reasoning minds with an inclination for factual evidence, searching for the hand of god in the ruins of a dying city that was slowly being swallowed up by Nature.
The tenants of Terra’s Aristeia noticed branches pushing past the rubble, vines climbing up broken walls to snake their way into homes and family portraits, gravity-defying streams that flowed up staircases (and down some, too), coursing through living rooms to submerge decorative Persian rugs and heirloom China-sets; streams that puddled into closed-off spaces, turning homes into lagoons that grew deeper with each passing rainfall until the water started to overflow into sinks and bathtubs, falling into drains and pipes to continue their course underground. Some perennial facets froze in the winter months, as did rooms that were swollen with stagnant water — rooms so full that once they were frozen the surface-area of the ice bulged, breaking down walls and doors to reveal floating ice blocks that were filled with the memories of families long since forgotten. Then arrived warmer days and these great ice-blocks transubstantiated into rapid waterfalls that dropped from the rooms in great streams of slush and waterlogged home goods. The veil was lifting. An old world existed in the ruins. The dichotomy of destruction and growth filled Major Faust with macabre softness, and Sergeant Richter mimicked this equivocal assiduity by swashing back-and-forth a dry tongue that was swollen by assertions of god, free-falling deer, vanishing children, and an impossible forest in the city…”
“…Between street vendors and rhythmic breathing; down pathetic streets and machine-gunned intersections; around bashful emotions both true and fake; and with rising erections warmed by music that was surely imagined they neared the outskirts of Warsaw, Poland.
The attitude of the city changed — deconstructed by war, it drifted back in time… and Sergeant Richter and Major Faust, steering into the past, drifted with it. We gods appreciate the dichotomy of explosives, nowadays. At first, they were scary things full of noise and destruction, but now we can see the beauty of their purpose. Level the present and for a time allow mankind to embrace the past, for when all men embrace the past they are embracing the primal side of things: when killing meant survival. And, as is within the realm of survival, killing becomes justified so that certain guilt may not restrict one’s survival over his neighbor. Within this mentality we are able to destroy with a clear conscience. All good things come to an end, however… There is an awakening once the river of blood coursing through revolving doors becomes too overwhelming to endure, and thus new philosophies are born from men and women who have seen the errors of primal living; philosophies and ideologies that allow for the progression of civilization to resume. And so it does… for a time. Until those philosophies become outdated. So in order to jolt progressive thinking mankind would simply promote primal thinking and begin bombing one another again. Then, once cities are properly destroyed and families are properly devastated, the revolving doors pass once more so that those men and women of sinless killing can arrive at a new collective and think up new dogmas to govern progression… for a time. Rebuild. Relive. Destroy. Kill. Repeat. The wheels turned round and round (counterclockwise?) as Sergeant Richter and Major Faust drove deeper into the ruins of Warsaw, Poland…”
There is always time for rewrites… Here is the updated history of a young Reuben Remus.
“It was 1918 – war’s end – time to rebuild.
The resurgence of intellectualism reinvigorating Poland attracted Benjamin and Martha Remus to the Mokotòw district of Warsaw, where Benjamin Remus was offered a position at the National Library of Poland. They made a home there, situated amongst parks, dainty streets and welcoming fields. The Mokotòw district was a mildly industrialized borough of Warsaw and instead attained importance through a multitude of foreign embassies, and the Mokotòw Prison located at 37 Rakowiecka Street; and whether you came to Mokotòw as a free man or a prisoner, most would say that it was a place of learning and revival; arguably, more people would claim that more truths were learned in the halls of the Mokotòw Prison than in the National Library of Poland during the early twentieth century… Certain inconsistencies are assured during times of war, however. So then, it was in this land of learning – this soft place that teemed with nature and people of substance – where concrete rigidity coexisted with sculpted flora, in which a young Reuben Remus, adjusting from the rural isolation of Galicia, pondered the universal language that allowed synchronicity between built cities and the natural world. And perhaps this curiosity, too, was predetermined before Reuben’s conception, having been charted once Benjamin Remus’s mathematical, systematic mind fell in love with a beautiful botanist who wore scarlet begonias in her hair. Reuben Remus – fused with a father’s love for arithmetic and a mother’s gentle respect for Mother Earth – was powered by curiosity… and in time, in the early days of pondering the philosophy of the universal language, a loving cadence livened that curiosity. He was eleven years old when his imagination was gripped by that obvious melody that lingered just out of reach – a melody that pulled him from Martha’s garden while she remained focused on sugar beets. He wandered his neighborhood alone, skipping from one sidewalk to the next, following the cadence until he was standing behind a rusted, chain-link fence, staring into the hollow darkness of an abandoned house that had been suffocated by two large apartment buildings years before his conception… Reasonably, it remains possible that years before Reuben Remus’s conception this place, too, was abandoned with purpose. That a heavenly voice had also come to that home, arriving in the dead of night as neither a whisper nor a shout to instruct the one living there to leave his home, taking everything with him except one possession: a treasure meant to be discovered by a young boy a decade later. And within the realm of premeditation one must now ponder Reuben Remus’s true lineage – one purposed by heavenly voices; a life nurtured by three mothers: that of the mother that is a lover, the mother that is a mother, and a mother that is a great-great-great grandmother… a life, yes, purposed by Aristeia… He pushed the rusted gate open and entered through the dark passageway as any son with three mothers would…”
With respect to god Major Faust and Sergeant Richter removed the Remus family from the pages of their own history book, stealing away their faces, and the faces of fathers and mothers that lived before them, so the Clematis Ballroom might take upon the anonymity of any person passing by. In that, they passed along the title to Benjamin Remus’s home, and the surreal terrarium that had formed within those walls, to god. The walls were piebald with pale square patches where black and white family portraits were once framed. Sergeant Richter removed college diplomas from the walls, tore down newspaper clippings, and defaced any evidence of the family that once lived there. A multitude of black and white photographs taken over years past, which gave tale of a bond between violinist and nature – that of Reuben Remus and Terra – were confiscated by Sergeant Richter; and within cupboards and odd drawers he, too, discovered memories that did not qualify for Martha Remus’s showcase… there lied the treasure of a mouse-hunt… Reuben Remus’s childhood – the early years of the pursuit of the language of heaven and earth, in which fingers swelled with blisters and frustration showed in nearly every photograph – was a box all its own. And beside it Sergeant Richter discovered another unlabeled box of memories: one of ticket stubs to the musical theatre that were stuffed between the pages of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Homer’s Odyssey, and other catalogues of greek mythology… and mixed with these books and keepsakes was Benjamin Remus’s drafting equipment – compasses, measuring sticks, and rolled up papers of childish engineering measurements that were the result of Benjamin Remus teaching a young Reuben Remus of the majesty of mathematics: the blueprints of a father and son who spoke different languages. And it was when Sergeant Richter noticed a third box containing the recapitulation of a prodigy: that a musical Jew – an imp – some unbelievable mythical being birthed under surreal circumstances, and raised in accordance with the style of its birth so that, in time, it would exceed the ordinary; that this imp, this musical Jew, a being identified as Reuben Remus was the one responsible for the Garden of Eden; so it was upon that revelation that Sergeant Richter lay down the green pillow case with embroidered pink flowers to carry boxes upon boxes of Reuben and Benjamin Remus’s legacies into the kitchen…
… He found Major Faust on the second floor in a room where geometry and rigidity was repurposed by the ecosystem of the Clematis Vine. Brownish-green blades of grass replaced hardwood floor; green vines supporting multi-colored bouquets dominated all four walls and hung effortlessly from the ceiling; soft moss dripped from Reuben Remus’s wooden desk where poems, music sheets and journals decomposed — words that had since been transubstantiated into moldy emotions that filled the room with the smell of stagnant vacancy. Wind passed under the sheets of a neatly made bed, which was protected by strong wooden vines with large, sharp thorns that bent and twisted around the bedposts to defend Reuben Remus’s dreams from trespassers… And it was in this bed that Major Faust lay down on his back with head placed between a crown of thorns with his arms out wide and his legs stiff and straight. Sergeant Richter first thought what you are thinking now, but certain blasphemy is not so. This was no embrace of a holy place; no replication of a sacrificial son; and certainly no attempt to bless a Jewish home with the posture of Jesus Christ! It was a reliving… yes. A man — a musical Jew — once slept in place and a mind once dreamed… and certain residues never fade: that of a mind at rest (ectoplasmic dream-juice, if you will). The residue (and don’t think it does not seep from your pillow) reveals ones subconscious. Major Faust knew this very well. His eyes were shut and his breathing was calm. He was… empathizing. And Terra allowed it…
do not be afraid to peek
You may just discover
Rumors from the City of Babylon; circa 589 a.d.
“Turn right when the North star falls behind a concrete cloud. How many paces you must walk from there is decided by god. Listen closely. Even god’s guidance is obscured by the dead voices that rise from desert sands. Those lost travelers just want your company. Do not sympathize with them. Ignore them. For they were never in god’s grace.
There are rumors that an ancient city will rise from the desert dunes on the third day of this journey. There are no treasures hidden in the temples or buried in the catacombs, but one will feel peace as they walk the hollow streets. If you close your eyes you will die there. If you touch nothing and wait in the market center without blinking a story will be shared with you…”
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