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The Canadian years, 38..Hollow men

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Saturday 20 December 08:33


The hollow men

It was the day of the homecoming. My father would pick up my mother from the hospital. We were all a bit nervous about the reunion and expectations ran high, to pass the time we were reading. My big sister played a game with my little sisters called Mikado. A game with all kinds of sticks you would shake first  and then once released on the table you had to pick them up, one at a time, without disturbing the others. My brother was reading another tough man cowboy book. I had put my bundle of verse, ‘the wastelands' from Eliot down. I had borrowed the bundle from the school library and you could only read so many verses at a time, not so much because of it’smelancholic nature, but you got tired by processing what he tried to convey.  ‘Let me see that,’ my brother said, when I again once stared pensively in front of me. I handed him the bundle. He began  reading  aloud the opening poem, ‘the hollow men.’


  We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

    Leaning together

    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

    Our dried voices, when

    We whisper together

    Are quiet and meaningless

    As wind in dry grass

    Or rats' feet over broken glass

    In our dry cellar


To be honest, he read it particularly bad. Eliot did not come about at all, it was not his diction. It was the first of many a stanza in the poem as a forecasting shadow  of ‘the wastelands,’ the lost land, and it set the tone. You can ‘carry’ a poem and shape it or read it stumbling or mumbling. He looked at the irritation in my eyes and said,’ I cannot believe you read such rubbish.’ What don’t you understand,’ I asked? ‘Don’t you ever drive passed the fields with your Mustang? Don’t  you see there the bales of hay leaning against each other? In soulless forms? Don’t you know the local custom to burn a male figure of straw when farmers celebrate the harvest?’


‘No I am not concerned with peasant stuff,’ he chuckled falsely. ‘No, I can see that by your cowboy books’, I said. ’Those books are like history’, he said. ‘I am now reading  ‘How Gringo won the West', ‘Why don’t you really read about it,’ I asked and not from the point of view of  a penny writing moron, who glorifies snipers. Why not really find out why the fighting took place, and with what underlying intentions?’ ‘You talk such nonsense,’ said my brother. ‘We took from the Indians what rightfully came to us,’ he said. ‘Really’, I exclaimed. ‘Do you really think so,’ I wanted to know? ‘Guys, guys’ sounded the voice of my sister,’don’t argue.’ ‘ Mom can come home, any minute, that will be fine, as the first thing she sees are her two sons beating each other’s brain in.’ She was right and I kept my mouth shut. I understood that I should not criticize him, people read what they read and there is no accounting for tastes. ‘Look,’ my brother said, ‘in your poem, for example, is not a single mention about Indians.’

I stared at him in disbelief, was he serious? ‘The poem The Hollow Men is among others about you’ I started .’ Am I hollow inside, have I got  straw in my head?’ He was threatening in tone. I could not contain myself and recited: ‘the head piece, filled with straw, Alas’. ‘Do you want me to beat you up’, asked my brother with great interest, while I watched his muscles tense. ‘The dry voice as you whisper is meaningless,’ I continued. ‘I warn you,’ he grunted, ‘one more line and I’ll  ram the poofter’s bundle into your mouth’. I took it as a serious promise addressed to me and said nothing more. ‘Well,’ said my brother,’ that's better.’ He had flipped, I can say Eliot had gotten to him, but not in a pleasant way. ‘What a shit,’ he said,’ I have no broken glass in my basement.’ I understood how Eliot came to his inspiration, you only have to listen to people and you can hold a conference.


‘Oh you know’, I said, to calm things down, ‘everyone reads what he likes. I just think this is beautiful and I think it is a kind of puzzle. The end is particularly nice,’ I tried.

This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends,This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper.

‘The world will never end up with a fart,’ my brother said. ‘That is not what he said,’ I cried out, raising my voice, the world is like a candle which will extinguish. Not with a nuclear war or whatever, it will go down caused by meaninglessness.’ ‘A whimper is actually a whimper,’ I corrected him.’ A firm fart,’ said my brother again. I stopped because I heard the key entering the lock of the front door. I could not have known then that my brother's world would end in a very short time with a bang and mine would find its inception in an eternal woe. My parents had arrived.

San Daniel 2014

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