Blood and Milk: the ‘36 Transmission
The formation of the I is symbolized
in dreams by a fortress, or a stadium.
I long for death simply to escape it.
on her films for Hitler
The morning was golden bee fur across his eyes.
Not the white gauze of a hotel window,
but desert light tasting of goat's milk
thickened with a honey
more smoke than sugar.
Lacan has dreamed himself
into the archaic Greek vase
seen earlier in the museum's
Olympic display. The bull games, he thinks,
framing the twin columns of the stadium
as the horns of a Minoan temple -
Little ball of string, I am
unwound by the interruption
of my lecture at Marienbad...
The "all of them self"
made solid in that architecture
laid like music across their minds:
a skein of white doves and Beethoven
transported as if from dream, from future
or other time, through the new
screen medium and powerlines
illuminating the television halls
of the Berlin Electropolis.
Next to him is the fat woman with red cheeks
and several children. The youngest
sits slack mouthed and without words
for the images cresting in her large black pupils,
The mother's breasts suggest it with every rise
and fall of breath, a quiet monologue
in the valley of his listening:
crowd roar and F¸hrer, audience
and the under-running voice
of his own conscience -
Would it be all right to be swept up?
No one could dare interrupt this...
the raised hand meaning stop,
and fear not.
From hearing everywhere at once
he knows she is a butcher's wife and why
they are all well fed, confident
in the Reich's recovery.
She is telling her family to look
for what they might become,
the German athletes in white
as they enter the stadium. The children
straighten in their chairs and imagine
themselves into the procession,
into the stenographic march
whose language they understand.
All the Alps are frail by comparison
to these monuments of flesh
in bronze and blonde
through an assured history
free of the unimagined
patch of skin
falling out of a photo album
with its blurred blue tattoo, Lacan
turning from the screen
and toward them to say, Madam,
you have such beautiful children...
Festival of Beauty, Festival of the People:
strafing the imagination
with what might be: bodies
cutting through air
like hood ornaments in the diving sequence,
runners filmed from trenches
to catch the skin's
glistening flexed tendons
behind the knee and neck, the familiar
postures of sex and death.
The upturned eyes of the victors were her saints.
How she let go a horse-scream
when the second camera zeppelin
drifted into the lake.
Those hysterical afternoons
spent shaping her imagery
for all the coming century
as a singular, exposed nerve.
The earth would cover their bones. Three girls
walking home before smoke fall,
following the broad hips of their milk cow
as they return her from pasture to barn.
The sweetest grass grew further from the shtetl,
over the hill
near that Polish village.
Their steps fall in rhythm with the bell
around the cow's neck counting
as her hooves lift from softening mud,
their heels and ankles
red in wooden shoes, wooden pails
spilling the juniper berries
boiled for a poultice against gout
and the distilled liquors
of their father's et ceteras of misdemeanor.
They would be sisters even in death.
Led with the entire settlement
to the trough cut for a reservoir,
bodies falling backward
from middle night
into the day's stilled light.
Since the war
Leni takes only photographs,
trying to arrest
a wax blunted arrow
opens the bull's throat, blood streaming
into the calabash gourd
and stirred with a stem of wild olive -
pink stain on the lips
of a young warrior
circumcised and bathed with milk,
captured as something
newborn for her picture.
In the African deserts she finds color
like a tongue forced from the mouth.
Among the Masai, she
has been unnerved
by the lion grass enclosures,
their great stadiums for ritual,
and how they remind her
of the crowds that gathered,
upholding a future
the '36 Berliners believed -
her images now, a ceremony
in the impossibility of forgetting
even under the sheltering sea,
that last collection of pictures
framing the coral reefs
as a vast reliquary of bones.
Did they ever
know of each other?
I picture them together
in an Alpine hereafter,
enjoying a winter sauna.
Their faces are red with heat.
He strikes her arms with green spruce.
She is grateful, saying how good it is
to be beaten, and how well deserved. His eyes
are clouded with cataracts, reflective
like a screen. Her films
play across their backs
as they run out into the snow -
mistress and witness
to that first television transmission
now traveling toward
the distant stars, seeking
some more fortunate speck
of risen and collected dust:
a history sent through space
in the chaos pattern of photons
we hope does not define us.