Poetic ventriloquism

[Elias Hassos]

From Magic Mountain

Would he like to recite a little poem? He had been a poet after all, before he started hovering and floating in the hastening while. Ah, how they all wanted to hear some of his poetry. They would enjoy it so much.

And look there, the good glass knocked once -- 'yes.' There was really something kindhearted and forgiving about the way it did it. And then Holger the spirit began to recite poetry without hesitation, at great length and in immense detail, for who knew how long -- it seemed as if they would never be able to silence him again. It was a thoroughly surprising poem that he offered in ventriloquist fashion, while those sitting around recited it aloud in admiration, a magical bit of reality, as limitless as the sea, which was its central theme.

--Driftwood and tang flung in heaps along the narrow shore extending around the great arc of bay that rims the island's steep-duned coast. Oh look, its vast expanse is hovering, melting, dying green into eternity, where beneath broad misty veils of murky crimson and milk-soft sheen, the summer sun delays its setting. No lips can tell when or how that nimble silver mirror turned pure mother-of-pearl, became a play of colors beyond all naming, a pale, bright, opal luster of moonstone spread everywhere. Ah, secretly as it came, the silent magic died. The sea passed into sleep. And yet soft traces of the sun's farewell linger beyond and above. Darkness does not fall till deep into the night. A phantom glow holds sway in piny woods along the crest of dunes and turns the pallid sand to snow. Illusive winter woods in silence, broken by the snap of heavy wings, an owl in flight. Stay and be our place of rest this hour. So soft each step, so high and mild the night. And far below, the sea is breathing in slow, protracted whispers as it dreams. Do you long to see it again? Then step up to the edge of these ashen glacial cliffs of dunes and climb, immerse yourself in softness that seeps cool into your shoes. The land falls steep with underbrush down to the rocky shore, and still the phantom scraps of day dart along the rim of that vanishing expanse. Lie down up here in the sand. How cool like death it feels, how soft like silk, like flour. You clench your hand, and it flows, a thin, colorless stream, to form a delicate mound beside you. Do you know that fine trickle? It is the soundless, slender rush through the straits of the hourglass, the stern and fragile device that adorns the hermit's cell. An open book, a skull, and in its light constructed frame, the double hollow of frail glass, and inside it, sand extracted from eternity, to tumble here as time in holy, terrifying stealth ...

and Holger continues -- part prophet, part troubadour, part quack.

Sometimes I sit down to write one thing and another, totally different thing comes flooding through me. The currents of memory surface and leap alongside the present -- like happy porpoises guiding a great clipper ship.