ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


    Or, The Twentieth century revisited", by E.M. Schorb

Embrace the butcher, but
change the world . . .
   —Bertolt Brecht: The Measures Taken





What to say of them?

Why to say it?
Because they have given and taken importantly.
Because they have helped humankind and hurt it.

The two of you.

At what point does it become apparent,
even to genius,
that means must be golden,
that means are the only end?

think of Confucius
whom you both so admired.

When you embrace the butcher
you embrace dead meat,


never when mad murderous Uncle Joe
purged did you utter revulsion.
You knew your Hobbes, knew human nature.
You’d met the Kremlin himself.
You knew it was power not people he loved.
And later
after the rising of the 17th June
53 when the workers were shot in the Stalinallee
and the Soviet tanks rumbled again in Berlin
and you submitted,
submitting your letter supporting Ulbricht
and the censors erased every word you had written
but your statement of Socialist Party attachment
and you guiltily dreamed of fingers of workers
pointing you out,
did you wistfully wish that the State
would wither away?

And Pound,
not till Benito swung by his jackbooted
hobnailed heels
did you quit.
Not till they stopped you.

The measures taken embraced the butcher,
odd duo,
seeking the hideous Platonic perfection,
the Toolmaker’s State,
to make a machine of the human condition,
an ideology of deus ex machina.

Here are your jacks-in-the-box of Pandora:
sad angry young Schicklgruber,
failure of failures,
architect of frustration,
Der Führer, king of kitch,
more of a murderous joke
than Chaplin could make him,
Capo dei Capi
of Benito, himself no bundle of joy;
and Joe Dzugashvili,
self-styled “Man of Steel.”
Mere murderers, the three of them.

didn’t you notice the comic-book element?
what of the jackboots,
the leather?
Didn’t you heed the automaton goosestep?
didn’t you listen to the demagogic language?
But the ends justify
dynamic duo?
The death of millions?
Hitler, hater of Jews,
Stalin, murderer of Mandelstam
for a printed reproof,
Benito, jackbooted journalist,
the three of them: murderers.

Where is the golden omelet they made?
The living became the dead,
the left wing and the right
wing are the feathery dead
and the fool’s-golden bird in ashes.
To rise again?
sadly, a phoenix of filth.
Whom, what, to blame?

Not the disorder of slow trains,
not the criminal economics of Versailles,
nor alas in the name of God or goodness the Jews,
but ourselves,
our soulless, soul-seeking selves,
the paranoids,
the schizoids,
for hearing voices,
voices of comic-book heroes,
ourselves who sanction action,
sociopathic action,
hurrying history,
hurrying heaven-on-Earth,
the on-time trains,
the golden wheat of the Five-Year Plan,
that millennium of earthly dominion,
the Thousand-Year Reich,
so we can get on with it
and in on it,
before Time takes us to our soul’s Nowhere,
disapproving love,
patience with human error,
failure, weakness,
tender Bert,
generous Ez.

For a theater, Bert!
For a microphone, Ez!
For a theater,
with your Austrian passport
and your West German publisher!
for a microphone,
with your half-baked hatred of Jews
and your crazy Social Credit!

Were you naive?
Were you mad?

For a theater!
And a mike!
For a playhouse
and a megaphone!
For an audience
and a pulled-up vanity,
you tender and generous poetic hopes
and tyrannical human disappointments!
When poets don’t know any better
what is their use on this planet?

Plato would NOT
have banned you from his perfect State,
and that’s your disgrace,
you lessons to be learned,
you slaves to your own slaver,
you paladins of palaver!

Where is the end of murder?

Oh for the gay days of the Hitler-Stalin Pact!

For a playhouse
and a megaphone!
For a dollhouse
and a rolled-up newspaper!
Hurry history!
Hurry the Communist heaven,
the heaven-on-earth with the workers underfoot!
Hurry the Fascist heaven!
Hurry the race white as worms!
Hurry the Platonic,
the Ideal,
the Perfect,
the Procrustean,
come and get it!


These books by E.M. Schorb have recently placed as finalists:  The Secret of Jessie Judas, Independent Press Award, Collected Stories, Eric Hoffer Award, Muddling Through, Next Generation Indie Book Award for Poetry.

Return to Offcourse Index.