Poems for a Scenario

Agios Germanos, or 'German', natal village of my mother. Our first gaze at the family's home, in Greece, 2012.

It was in 2012 my mother first lay eyes on the landscape she belonged to, lush and mystic, beautiful mountains with streams, snakes hidden in the grass and bears roaming about, with wind sighing softly through the pale air, the smell of wood burning and this present silence, utter utter silence of so many personal histories untold.

Whereas traveling back sixty-four years in time, it was my grandmother sending her daughters along with all other refugee-children, in order to safe their lives, causing trauma and grief. Not knowing however, the three sisters would be separated once having passed the border with Macedonia (Republic of Macedonia), against a promiss made before the moment she and her daughters got seperated – as a frozen still in time, never to return to their fatherland, once passing the border.

My mother and I journeyed by car throughout Macedonia (Former Republic of Macedonia), driving towards the border with Greek Macedonia in Greece, heading for Agios Germanos, her natal village, originally bearing the name German at the time and we visited her mother’s natal village too, Nivice. Standing eye to eye with her family home, built by her father and his two brothers, their initials carved into a stone as a proof of existence of their past footsteps, placed just above the entrance of the former farmhouse, today home to a  Greek family, left us speechless, but a deeply felt silence.  No other impression could have made more clear what it means to be uprooted and to spend one’s life in exile.

No one could have known, it would be her daughter bringing her back home. My mother’s sense of belonging, in relation to the family’s history, came full circle again.

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'Greek' Refugee children. Still taken from archival footage, source Kinoteka Praha Kratky Film/ Kinoteka Skopje, The Republic of Macedonia. During the Greek Civil War (1946-48), about 50.000 children from Aegean Macedonia were uprooted. To ensure their safety they crossed the border with Macedonia of ex-Yugoslavia at the time, to then be distributed evenly over East-European countries, among which Tsjecho-Slovakia.

Assembled fragments of the poetry written, are the basis for the film’s script of Sweet Terror of Memory, as voice-over. Herewith a selection, out of 27 texts of prose and poetry, is selected. Written by Ilse Frech between 2011 and 2013, part of the research project Exile: Belonging (2011-14).

THREADED COVER

Threaded cover. Skin well hid behind a web, of thoughts of fibers, mended together. So subtle, the air that breathes through. Sunlit hair, shines. Midday rumble, She said, that nothing is left of her – just her contours, on the erected tables of tale, of murmur. Your life in a nutshell, can’t wait, to uncover this shield. Threaded cover of pain, suspended. Movement. Your body captured. Engraved your tomb awaits.

SOLDIER OF GOD

I see your face
Soldier of God
lying on your stomach,
leg twisted
One eye open
Your mouth still warm
Black blood stiffens
your tongue
No more speaking
for God’s promise
isn’t to be found on earth

EYES OPEN WIDE

Eyes open wide . you . watch out . feel . close . step away from them . So rough they treat you . they laugh don’t look . they’ll find you seek for your words . reminiscence . your heart smells . the smoke of led . shot by their rifles . Duck down . hide . look at me . look at me . I am here . you’re with me .

HELLFIRE

My words
Your conscience
My tongue
Your honour

My body cut open
Naked
I lie here
Mountain chain of harsh desire
Celestial ascend the top
Everlasting
Silence

Carnal separated from the spirit,
for the journey to occur
Words unchained a treasure in my throat
Joint I feel with your vitality
My eyes see your flight up high
The earth torn
Joint forces clenched

My fatherland
My sweet fatherland

My flesh perished
Bones sodden of cold
No memories
Abandoned

My blood streams through your veins
Melancholy groans resoundingly in your valleys
I shall seek for you until
once more I’ll be
With you

SOLDIER SOLDIER

Soldier soldier /Curls swinging /Your braid weaving grids on your back /Left /Right /Left /Right /Come and follow /Do not look back /Come and sing /With full breast /Warm it is /The sun sets /Where is your mother? /Will she keep your gown? /Await for you /Your beloved /Yet he’s like you somewhere in line along this thread of soldiers / Soldiers soldiers sing your song /For I can’t speak /I don’t belong /I only bring you from one place to the other /Once arrived / My duty is no longer

WHERE ARE’T THOU

Where are’t thou my brother?
Where are’t thou my sister?

My eyes bear thorns in them so I can’t cry
I weep but you won’t hear me weeping
My shoulders will shrug
That will be all

My bare hands unfolded
I think of you
As the palms of my hands,
behold a secret of paths to be taken
Into the unknown

I haven’t forgotten thee, my daughter
So beautiful
You have blood all over you
Smeared out on your face
As if you tried to wipe your tears
Just before God took you
In his arms to rest
Forever

My daughter, what to think of me?
I, your mother, who wasn’t there,
to take care of thee,
I, who couldn’t hold you
Against my breasts

While your temples would lay resting
And lower the pace of your pounding heart

Your veins drained of their substance, slowly
Motherhood is all I could have given you
While your body was warm still
Now as peace has come over you
Restless I remain
My heart of grievance,
for having you left alone

Alone
In this cruel beautiful world
Naked I stand before thee
I ask of your forgiveness

For a mother
I have failed

To be

I CALL UPON YOU

My heart aches
With my heart pondering
I call upon you
Your smile
fading
I call upon you
your touch
Touch my cheekbones
my hands
unfolded
Kiss me
Close your eyes
lay your hands upon mine

STAPLED BODIES

Stapled bodies
I see
Stapled souls
Yearning for unity
Mourning
for their Gold they lost
that had left them
with a hole in their hearts

Blindfolded
they were led towards
The edge
of which its grounds
opened
steep
into a mouth

All hope beguiled
no surrender
But to death
before that moment
Stood still time
their hearts ripped out
Gold scattered around
in spiralling flux
With a last torch
pale air inhaled
a last breath
then silence –

Chunks of dismay
the Gods bewailed
Remember your hearts
shining heavy

A golden ray of light
entails its flight
into heaven

BLANK | Hiroshima mon Amour 

The salt of the stones
She is in a universe of walls
A man’s memory is in these walls,
one with the stone, the air, the earth
My body was aflame with his memory

Not guilty
She treats her child with rough tenderness
Infinite
Tenderness
Terrifying childhood

Women behind shutters
watch the enemy walking across the square
In the ruins, in winter, the wind blows
In my memory

Where I was born is inseparable from myself

I meet you, I remember you
Who are you
You destroy me
I was hungry
I always have been
I waited for you calmly
With infinite patience
The sun will never rise again on anyone
Never, never again
You destroy me
You’re so good

We’ll have nothing else to do,
but to mourn the departed day
A time will come
By slow degrees the world will fade
From our memory
Stay with me

I have to leave
by night
Fourteen years have passed
I don’t remember
The pain, I still remember the pain a little
But one day I won’t remember it any more
Not at all
Nothing

I think that was when I got over my hate
I’m becoming reasonable
They say: She’s becoming reasonable

I’ll forget you
Look how I’m forgetting you!
Look at me!

Inspired by Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Renais, 1959), filmscript Marlene Dumas. BLANK | Hiroshima mon Amour, was firstly published as Hiroshima mon Amour in Rusted Radishes, Beirut Literary and Art Journal, “The Political City” – Issue 5, 2016.

Project

BLANK | Hiroshima mon Amour 

The salt of the stones /She is in a universe of walls /A man’s memory is in these walls, one with the stone, the air, the earth /My body was aflame with his memory /Not guilty /She treats her child with rough tenderness /Infinite Tenderness /Terrifying childhood /

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SOLDIER SOLDIER

Soldier soldier /Curls swinging /Your braid weaving grids on your back /Left /Right /Left /Right /Come and follow /Do not look back /

Read moreClose

THREADED COVER

Threaded cover /Skin well hid behind a web of thoughts of fibers mended together /So subtle the air that breathes through /Sunlit hair shines /Midday rumble /She said that nothing is left of her /

Read moreClose

EYES OPEN WIDE

Eyes open wide . you . watch out . feel . close . step away from them . So rough they treat you . they laugh don’t look .

Read moreClose

SOLDIER OF GOD

I see your face
Soldier of God
lying on your stomach,
leg twisted
One eye open
Your mouth still warm

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HELLFIRE

My words
Your conscience
My tongue
Your honour

My body cut open
Naked
I lie here

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I CALL UPON YOU

My heart aches
With my heart pondering
I call upon you
Your smile
fading

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WHERE ARE’T THOU

Where are’t thou my brother?
Where are’t thou my sister?

My eyes bear thorns in them, so I can’t cry
I weep but you won’t hear me weeping
My shoulders will shrug
That will be all

My bare hands unfolded
I think of you
As the palms of my hands,
behold a secret of paths to be taken
Into the unknown

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Exile: Belonging

In 2011 and 2012 I was traveling forth and back from South-East Europe, departing from Skopje, Macedonia, following the family’s biographical trail by train, through East-Europe towards Czech-Republic, ending my journey in Berlin, Germany. Subjecting myself physically to the sensation of the journey being a past, ‘contained’ in my body’s memory: It was a personal history that had to be revived, partially re-enacted, to then plunge into the into the history of this forgotten Greek civil war, researching my family’s biography and that of other women, soldiers, exiles and witnesses, related to Europe’s heritage and the preceding Second World War, listening to personal accounts of loss, trauma, grief, resistance, hope and love. The women, of whom many had been fighting along with the men, heroins, witnesses of the war, one way or the other, left an imprint on me, all the while the landscape passed on its sweet scented yet harsh history, almost impenetrable by vision.

My mother and I journeyed by car throughout Macedonia, visiting each city and orphanage (or what was left of it) where she resided throughout her youth. We interviewed and spoke with many women on the road towards Greece, to then arrive at the Greek border, nearby Dolno Dupeni at Lake Prespa. Not later than five minutes after we had passed the Macedonian border, I spontaneously stopped the car and suggested her to step out. I wanted for my mother to have a look around after all those years, to touch ground, and was very curious to learn what her first, intuitive, response would be.

Her fatherland

Astounded as she was, she couldn’t arrive to orient herself, feeling estranged, unable to appropriate a sense of belonging. I had given her a small camera with which she took photographs along the way. While I was circling clock-wise around her with my video-camera, she would be circling around her own axis, counter-clockwise, mirroring me, as the only response possible, unable to connect her body and feet standing on the very soil she was born sixty-five long years ago. In the end, I’m filming her, or rather observing, whereas the only sound accompanying us – apart from car traffic afar, is the mechanical transportation of the 35mm film roll in the camera, after each photograph made. Afterwards, looking at the photographs she took, I wonder if she really was looking through the finder, for all the landscape wherupon we laid our eyes, was not even in it.

The valley, the villages, the landscape, with in its center lake Prespa, left a deep mystic sensation in our minds and in our bodies. We stayed in Agios Germanos, her natal village, originally bearing the name German at the time and we visited her mother’s natal village too, Nivice. Standing eye to eye with her familyhome, built brick by brick, by her father and his two brothers, with their initials carved into a stone as a proof of their existence and their past footsteps, placed just above the entrance of the former farmhouse, today home to a  Greek family, left us speechless, but a deeply felt loss and union. No other impression could have made more clear what it means to be uprooted and to spend one’s life in exile.

Whereas traveling back sixty-four years in time, it was my grandmother sending her daughters along with all other refugee-children, in order to safe their lives,  causing trauma and grief not knowing the three sisters would be separated again, after passing the border… It was in 2012 that my mother revisited the land of her roots; this landscape, lush and mystic, with beautiful mountains and streams, snakes hidden in the grass as well bears roaming about, and wind sighing softly through the pale air, the smell of wood burning and this present silence… utter, utter silence of so many personal histories untold. No one could have known, it would be her daughter bringing her back home. My mother’s sense of belonging, in relation to the family’s history, came full circle again.

The scenario for the film Sweet Terror of Memory – ΨΙΘΥΡΟΙ, was based upon family recollections, Greek legend and experiences of both journeys. Interviews and specific personally told experiences of women living in exile, whom I spoke with, related to the history of the region and the conflict that WWII generated after its end: The Greek Civil War. Assembled fragments of the poetry written, became the film’s script, narrated by two voices, in English and in Greek.

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