“where shall we put our hope?”

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The cyclical nature of perception and improbable rehabilitation of historical figures (take a look at the youth of Russia venerating and admiring Stalin) makes me take a look at this poem by Finn Pentti Saarikoski. He writes ironically: “Marx’s mistake is Lenin/as Stalin is Lenin’s mistake/but Stalin didn’t make mistakes.” Today, it is just as likely that a young person with no tangible connection to history would read this and think, “Yes, of course. Stalin was a great leader.” (By the way, read Svetlana Alexievich‘s Secondhand Time: An Oral History of the Fall of the Soviet Union for more insight.)

from The Dance Floor on the Mountain
Pentti Saarikoski
XXIV Winter solstice
And the bees cling to each other
in the hive center
where Jesus is born a honey-scented child

The sun is setting
a scarlet winterball like a fatbellied man
our neighbor, the carpenter
will be rolling into bed

On the first day of year
I place two white porcelain jugs spout to spout
after thinking all night long
about Marx’s mistake

Marx’s mistake is Lenin
as Stalin is Lenin’s mistake
but Stalin didn’t make mistakes.

I construct a snowman
a sad fascist in the yard
so some image of this winter will remain
our neighbor the carpenter
bends his knee and takes a snap

A heavy snowfall
should mean a rich harvest

I’ll build
a cold church for the fascist
a warm one for Jesus

When with summer’s first ill-natured wind
the guests gone
we come down the mountain
with no protection but each other’s limbs
where shall we put our hope?

XXVI On St Stephen’s Day
I sit in their kitchen
drink some beer and listen to language
that’s their affair, their memories
and I scare: I say something
but it clatters
from mouth to floor like a horseshoe.

Dreams, Divorce and Geography

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I dreamt the other night that I was spending a lot of time with actor Kevin Bacon. Probably this infected my brain because I am still, somehow, inexplicably, watching the dismal, horrible, stupid, frustrating and badly written tv show The Following, of which Bacon is one of the stars. I have never been much of a Bacon fan at all – and shows like The Following don’t change that. In my dream, Bacon and I had a number of conversations, but where my brain finally let go of the thread was when I told him that I did not want to offend him but that my mom had only recently seen the film that launched his career, Footloose, and she complained that it was so stupid, she regretted that she could not get that two hours back.

Sudden Marriage – Sudden Divorce

I have observed from afar the strange tendency of people I am vaguely acquainted with people who meet up with someone and very suddenly get married. Because I know these people only in the sense that I went to the same high school – and did not really know them then either – and now know them only via Facebook posts – I don’t know what leads them to these impetuous marriages. Likewise I don’t know what leads them as impetuously out of these marriages. It would be one thing if I saw it happen once, like something anomalous, but it seems to happen often.

Geography Woes

I don’t really understand the tendency to marry and divorce quickly and frequently, as though it is as casual and easy as brushing one’s teeth. It seems awfully complicated when a couple could just… I don’t know – move in together? But it does seem Americans of all ages are more interested in marrying (and divorcing) than learning anything about the world.

I know and knew this. I recall the year I was graduating from high school and we had to try out to be graduation speakers. My speech had a lot to do with framing our little place within a global framework – that is, look at all the things that had happened in the world since we started school. But how would that context make sense or mean anything if people did not even know where to locate the Soviet Union on a map?

Americans really don’t know, understand or care about geography. I knew this, but Stephen Colbert provided a good reminder on his Monday, April 8 show. Ukraine, according to Americans, is pretty much everywhere. (Oh, Stephen Colbert, you are loved and will be missed on The Colbert Report when you take over the Late Show from David Letterman.)

Ukraine is wherever America says it is!

 

Influential relations: Always take the stairs

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I hate crowds of strangers enough that I decided – on the worst day possible – to give up public transportation in favor of my own two feet. Gothenburg is a completely walkable city, so even though I generally stay somewhere in the city center and work outside of it, it’s not a big deal to walk – even though the mounds of uncleared snow seemed insurmountable this morning. It felt slightly reminiscent of the training montage (minus the grunting!) in Rocky IV when Rocky has to work out in the snow, sawing and carrying logs, running through icy rivers and helping a man with a horse and carriage stuck in snow (?) and stuff. It being the Soviet era, a bunch of the scenes of Dolph Lundgren as machine-like nemesis Ivan Drago are all red, as if he works out in a bright Soviet-red room. Then again, it was the 80s – that’s how it always looked. And it was the 80s, so everyone looks a bit coked out. (Thanks again, Grace Jones, for delivering Dolph Lundgren to the world. Just realizing that I have written about Dolph and Rocky IV too many times already.)

I am not sure why it took me until now to decide this (walking, not comparing my life to scenes from Rocky IV) was a good course of action – a few too many times getting slapped in the arm by overzealous tram riders gesticulating wildly while talking on the phone, a few too many broken-down trams, a few too many long waits (I am a wee bit impatient), a few too many scenes I just don’t want to be party to or relive. And I love walking. And I love the cold. Why not choose the one day of the year that snow falls and really stays to start? Walk!

Walking after midnight – Patsy Cline for SD, my beautiful firewall.

Walking everywhere – and then realizing that I never take elevators anymore if I can avoid them – makes me think of how influential people in our lives can be in the most imperceptible ways. Little things that change how we do things. One ex-boyfriend always walked and never took the elevator, and eventually that shifted my take on how I get around and … how I ascend (haha) in buildings. (It didn’t help my confidence in elevators that the one in our building was always breaking down.) Another ex-boyfriend insisted that I add color to my wardrobe – I resisted, but long after we split up – right up until today (and that split was, what… 15 years ago?) – I still wear colors and never returned to the all-black wardrobe I donned back then.

It’s funny recounting relationships how we are more prone to cite the landmark things – like how someone’s influence changed your whole feeling about love, made you want to be a better version of yourself, turned you against marriage, made you want to have children or even something like suddenly made you realize the merits of living in a big city versus the suburbs. But in reality the impact in day to day life is evident but almost unacknowledged – whether subtly adopting a word or phrase that that person used frequently, or always taking the stairs.

“Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs” – The Cramps: An apt tune. Always take the stairs, even if you’re a clumsy one like me, likely to fall down. Naked or not. (Check the awesome picture from when I fell flat on my face on one of Stockholm‘s main streets!)

The Cramps – Naked Girl Falling Down The Stairs

Yes, I fell and fell hard! Bruised and cut-up chin

Yes, I fell and fell hard! Bruised and cut-up chin