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Yes, It Is Kafka’s Birthday, And The World Celebrates

03 July is Kafka’s birthday. Celebrations are running rampant in the world.

Hearty renditions of “Hip hip hooray” with an exuberant “Huzzah!”, echo through every major city, and each quiet hamlet.

And this year, I will dive (and then delve) into the new book containing all of Kafka’s various drawings. Some are a tad odd.

I have written Franz the following letter (as yet, unanswered).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Present / Your Future

Still in this World

A Life Away

Dear F:

You would find it perverse to be wished a “Happy” birthday, but your response would be gracious. Such is the reality you understand, and how you deal with it. I have found that your reality is actually real.

Although it will give you no pleasure – well, ‘little’ pleasure – you are correct in all your observations.

Governments become the tools of the bureaucracies which run them. It doesn’t matter what type of Government, from the monarchy under which you lived, to the right wing horror of fascists that called themselves socialists, to the inept socialism pretending to be ‘for the people’. All three governments held their sway over the city where you spent your life. All three oppressed the people they ruled. All three looked after themselves first.

Writers are either writers or they aren’t. The urge to write encircles one like a snake around its prey. Feed it and it won’t quite squeeze you to death. You can not ignore it – even at your peril. It is with you every hour of every day, ever inquisitive and (sadly) always looking for something better. You have thrown up your hands to ward off the snake. Sometimes – some few times – it loosens its grip.

Love is a see-saw of extremes. Every high guarantees a low. Every low reaches for a high. Every high reaches for a high. When these hills and valleys are eventually levelled, they are still desired.

Sex is highly over rated. The thing of it is, even rated fairly, ’tis a consummation devoutly to be had. Yes – I know – you appreciate Shakespeare. On a par with Goethe, even if you can’t bring yourself to say the words.

There is no castle with walls thick enough to hide against the perils of being human. Which is why you never tried.

Except the grave, of course.

Except the grave.

Yours,

D

~~~~~~~~~~~

And, in my novel about him, Kafka In The Castle, I gave him this diary entry.

03 July 1918

The anniversary of my birth.

In celebration of the day, I did not make it my last.

Kafka Plans An Escape From His Life

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in **missing** diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. It is estimated Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote. 

############################

19 June 1917

           I arrived here tonight far later than usual. I had been on a day trip for the Institute, dealing with a court case for a few hours. I was in the station at the furthest reaches of Prague, waiting for the last train to bring me downtown. A taxi would have been more efficient, but I found myself in no hurry. I walked around the station, and found myself staring at the Departures List. All those places, with many trains still passing into the night. Bern. Copenhagen. Florence.

     I had a large amount of the Institute’s money with me (I had won our case), and all my travel documents in order – the war can be circumvented by bureaucrats. I think it was just having all that money which gave rise to such ideas. I realized that, with the right explanations, even London was possible. If I so desired. I had it all arranged in my head. The official letter I would send to Max, before I left the empire, authorizing him to pay back the Institute from my bank account. I had even figured – accurately – the interest to add for each day up until next Monday. And I knew I could trust him to tidy up my other business matters – my apartment, and this tiny house.

     I would tell him to destroy all my manuscripts – he could use this stove. Other letters I could write from other places – to Ottla, to F., to my parents. I thought that I might even be able to eventually make my way to Palestine. That would meet with Max’s approval.

And the trains kept departing before my eyes, one, and another, and another. They were not even crowded, the hour was so late.

And then, there was my train. Back into Prague.

I was the last one on.

The Monarch Of The Lighthouse

I try to hoist the Union Jack

By sunrise,

And lower it by sunset.

I am not always faithful

To the former.

This morning, I was slow to the mark.

The sun was fully risen

In the East.

The colours caught the sun

Part way up the mast.

However, my chagrin was overtaken

By the antics of my cat/kitten,

Black as the disappeared night

With one white mitten.

I call him Paw.

So I went over to see

What was what.

He was huddled over

A folded Monarch butterfly,

Getting warmth from

The flag stones,

And much the worse

For wear.

It stood firm on its feet,

And stayed upright when the wind

Ruffled its wings.

Paw sniffed around, but kept

A respectful distance.

The smell of Death,

I suppose.

Still,

That Monarch has lasted out

The day,

And might still be present

When It is time to

Lower the flag

For the night.

I’m The Lighthouse Poet Laureate of Partridge Island /1821 – 2022 / A lot of stuff have I seen / A lot of stuff to report}

It Was A Dark And Stormy Week

Bop bop bop,

On the end of my nose.

Bop!

Paw, my cat/kitten

Black as a seam of coal

With one white mitten

Is waking me up.

Bop!

It is his way and,

Thankfully,

He never uses his claws.

‘Get up.’

‘Attention must be paid.’

Bop!

So I rise from my bed,

& my warm quilts,

Pull on pants and sweater

Over my pajamas

And follow.

I know my place.

He leads me to the door

Of my lighthouse keepers house,

And waits.

So I pull it open

And out he bounds.

Sunshine

Blue sky

Stiff breeze across

Partridge Island.

We have been days engulfed

In fog and rain and

FOG.

I let him gambol.

I follow into the sunshine.

I think it possible

Yes – possible –

That I might actually

Be able

To take off my sweater.

I’m The Lighthouse Poet Laureate of Partridge Island /1821 – 2022 / A lot of stuff have I seen / A lot of stuff to report}

For Franz Kafka On His Death Day – Does It Ever End?

Franz Kafka inches toward being dead for 100 years.He died on this day, 03 June, in 1924. he did not go gently into that good night, though he probably was just as happy to be gone. It was difficult to satisfy Kafka,

I wonder what Kafka would think about the worldwide communication and information of today. He was a rigid fixture of the staid (he hated using the telephone). He also was a keen observer of the world around him (he wrote the first newspaper report about aeroplanes, and he invented the safety helmet). It was more this deep divide in his personality which caused him his problems, about which he so famously wrote.

He did not fit into his personal world, yet he fit into the real world perfectly. He was adored by his friends and by many ladies. He was respected at his work and rose to a position of power. His stories were published to acclaim in his lifetime. 

Kafka lived a Kafkaesque life. He died a Kafkaesque death (he caught tuberculosis because he drank “pure” unpasteurised cow’s milk). He was rigid in his personal beliefs (until proved wrong), yet he was a beacon of compassion to others.

Kafka was always on a tightrope. He looked at things with such accuracy that his comments can seem bizarre. Supposedly his last words were:  “Kill me, or you are a murderer.” They were to  his doctor, as Kafka beseeches for an overdose of morphine.

Who Gets The Free Booze At The High School Reunion?

When they reach the food tables, there is not the curiosity from others concerning who is who. Most are intent about filling plates and returning to their tables.

Everyone at their table is getting steak except for Betty, who has opted for the salmon. She also opts to carry Allan’s plate as she sends him on to the bar to get another round of drinks. She looks at Ed and Lee.

“Are you two satisfied with tea and coffee?  Those drinks they are going to bring to the table, carried by sadly inexperienced students.”

“That’s fine with us,” says Lee. “And we can always snag some bottled water.”

Plate in hand they return to their table. In their absence a plate of rolls and butter has been deposited in the middle. There is also a bottle of red wine, with a bow and a note attached.

“Well, well,” says Betty, wanting to immediately open the unaddressed envelope. “I’ve never seen the like of this.”

“A modest but decent bottle,” says Alison Alexandra.

“Maybe you have a secret admirer,” says Betty.

“Maybe you do,” says Alison Alexandra.

Betty Dragger is taken by surprise at the idea and snorts. She then sees Big Stakes Gamble approaching, and clears some space for the drinks he is carrying. He is fast at a sip of his beer before he speaks.

“Who got the wine?”

“We don’t know,” says Betty.

“Then someone should open the card.” He picks up the bottle and hands it to Ed.  “And that sounds like a job for an officer of the law.”

Ed is not sure if a joke is being played, and if it is being played on him. He is as curious as not, so he takes the knife beside his plate and slits open the envelope. He reads the card and laughs.

“Well?” asks his wife.

“’For the long service of our respected teacher’.” Ed hands the bottle back to Allan. “’With thanks’.”

There is not a lot of conversation as they eat. Each of them is adequately hungry, and the food is appreciated. Allan offers to open the bottle of wine, but Betty and Alison Alexandra are content to keep with what they’re drinking. They suggest he take it home. When he suggests another round, they are happy to let him get it. Servers come to collect their dishes. They ponder whether to go and get dessert. Betty says ‘in for a penny / in for a pound’, so they, en masse, swoop down on the apple pie and ice cream. Then they are well and truly sated.

A Right Royal Time On Partridge Island

Shiver me timbers

And call me Aunt Hattie,

Prince George of Wales

Is coming to the Island.

He requests (that is – orders)

A look-around

On his way into port.

I know not why.

Maybe to adjust his sea legs.

Before he meets his Loyal subjects.

At any rate, I must

Tidy and fuss and putter,

And wear my fancy uniform,

And present

(This is my own idea)

The one other loyal subject

Of this whole domain,

Paw, my cat/kitten

Black as Davy Jones locker

With one white mitten.

I’d best spruce up his cage

Yes – I must.

I’m The Lighthouse Poet Laureate of Partridge Island /1821 – 2022 / A lot of stuff have I seen / A lot of stuff to report}

DE BA. UEL

The Sky Turns To Anger And Danger

It is one of those strange skies.

Strange morning light,

Not silver,

Not copper.

But both at once.

And the morning started so sunny,

Promising a fine fine day.

But now,

Even Paw, my cat/kitten,

Black as a midnight sky,

With one white mitten,

Is backing up

With a hiss.

Is the ocean going to throw,

And pound,

Our island and our lighthouse,

With storm and waves,

Wrack and ruin?

Or will it pass us by,

Like ghostly ships in the night?

I’m going to take Paw in

And give him meat.

I’m The Lighthouse Poet Laureate of Partridge Island /1821 – 2022 / A lot of stuff have I seen / A lot of stuff to report}

DE BA. UEL

A House of Dreams Becomes a House of Ghosts

A photo which floated past on the internet this morning, also made this segment of one of my novels float past.

From “He Lives In The City / He Drives To The Country”

It had been a house of dreams, it was now a house of ghosts.

   Ghosts tranquil and benign peered through the dusty upper windows, stood in wait behind the boarded doors. The dreams of long ago, which had tumbled down the stairs, and frolicked through the rooms, were now memories in the minds of ghosts.     

   The ghosts were themselves memories, destined to further fade with each new birth. But there would be no births in this house, as it slid inexorably toward decay. The lackluster brown shingles would be more smudged, the remaining panes of old glass would break, the floors would warp and collapse, the unkept roof would succumb to the years of harsh weather. 

     Even the `No Trespass’ sign was barely legible. Then where would the ghosts go?

     Blaine left his car and walked toward the house. 

     If he had eyes to see, who would be there to greet him?  Would children’s dreams, fair-haired and boisterous, burst through the front door and surround him in games of tag and laughter?  Would he get caught by their enthusiasm (would he become a child himself), and race behind the trees, burrow into the hay, hide between the bins of potato and turnip, intent not to be `it’. 

     Or would he meet the ghosts, quiet and tentative at the top of the steps, moving slowly with their uncertain smiles. Would they greet him with a wave, invite him into their warm-smelling kitchens, offer him fresh tea, and squares right out of the pan?  Would he sit in the stream of fall sunlight flowing across the well-oiled floor, and talk about childhood?

     Blaine walked part way up the drive before he stopped.

     He knew what lay beyond the boarded windows, and the sagging door upon its rusty hinges. Wallpaper would be water-stained, and curling off the plaster walls. There would be lumps of refuse in the corners of the rooms, with one inevitable rusty bedframe lying on its side. There would be gaps in the ceiling, where beams of sunlight shimmered through motes of dust. There would be holes in the baseboards, where earnest rodents made comfortable homes.

     There would be musty smells offering a hint of long-ago meals, and something gone bad in the pantry. There would be one upper window (at the back) which still had a tattered lace  curtain, half obscuring what had once been totally private. At night he would hear bats.

     It was not this house he had come to see, of course. Of course, not this derelict house, which he knew could never be restored, and which was so beyond help even death slept while visiting. 

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