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  • Lorelei Bacht

Lorelei Bacht: Crossroads and Interstices/Under the Benevolent Hand of the State

Image: Unsplash, downloaded (8.5.2021.)

Bridges, Bombed, Reconstructed

That the enemy walks un-struck

or perhaps that there is no enemy –

no matter how incomprehensible.

That for every one who called it

“our right”, the enemy had one

who joined his line - our lines equal.

That they too went home to soup

and sleepy children.

That their mother, the very same,

sits on a chair at the back of their house,

and if you asked before the judge,

she would not take your side.

That you remember the playground:

one of them, he was in your class –

he was good with marbles.

If we are of the same river, same

muddy banks, same reddening of blood.

That the very best idea we had

turned out to be our worst, and whoever

was watching us did not

hold our hand back.


So this is what we do: we find interstices,

diminutive pockets of peace in-between

here and there, tricks of light on the way

to our own destruction.

It is almost how one slows down, avoids

the wasp, the hole and walks in-between

the hammer, pitchfork, whatever form of

death is the current fashion,

Interstices. Not homes unless by home

one means a way-station, an abandoned

wagon where some bad might go down,

sometimes. But without the

Trumpets. A pocket of quiet. No badge.

Although the language seeps its violence

into our homes: peace, a continuation of

hurt, this time by means of

Linguistics, by little tricks of light along

the way from here to there - and we are

to believe that this is it, as we are safely

tucked into our beds

By the benevolent hand of the state.

The Black Lamb & The Robin Cold

I was angry with my brother,

Now my brother is lost.

A little red thing on his vest,

His coat in the branches

Of the old apple tree, flapping.

I dreamed: an invisible worm

Crawled out of his pocket,

His skin an item of clothing

For ghosts, the clear-eyed beast

That inhabits us, moves our hands,

Shoots our pistols at dawn. Mother

Now weeps in the chapel,

The door slammed shut. I was angry

With my brother, now lost.

I remember the green: we played

From rising day to past bedtime.

He will not play. His head

Resting against the apple tree -

When will they come: the prince,

The priest, the king, the lord, to burn

My bad hands in their holy place?

That in death, I may join

My brother lost, and found: the black

Lamb, and the robin, cold.

This poem is an homage to William Blake. It uses language and images from ‘Songs of Innocence’ and ‘Songs of Experience’.

The Wine Bottle

Three men missing from the party –

My brother, one of them.

Tonight is dolled up in dance steps,

Confetti, brass band, bal musette -

We never knew our ladies to be so

Pretty. Talk of coffee. Newsreels

Announce that it will take a year

To have chocolate again, stockings.

Three men missing from the party –

My brother, one of them.

Having liberated ourselves, blown up

Every bridge and railroad, we learn:

All men from here to Petersburg –

Our friends. There are medals, ribbons,

Drum-rolls, fame to collect. A few haircuts

For good measure. The carpenter's sister.

Three men missing from the party –

My brother, one of them.

On with the band. The music loud,

Foreign. Tune of our youth reclaimed,

We tap, we leap our elders into mild

Bewilderment. Boys will be boys,

Girls will be girls. Grinning, waving

Our paper flags makes us heroes.

Three men missing from the party –

My brother, one of them.

On the opposite side of merriments,

Two neighbors have dragged my brother

Away from fireworks, accordions, into

The moonlit quarry where grudges

Dressed as justice are to be solved

With the smash of a bottle on a skull.

The Mulberry Bush


I do not know what it is, the construction

of it. We all live in the shadows of

our fathers’ accomplishments. It is all

stories: who did what, to whom, and

where. Usually, crossroads, a ditch.


We do not talk. Until the third cork is

unscrewed, and then it's all accusations.

Everyone should be made to feel guilty,

about something or other: things done,

things said, not done, not said, things.


If you belong to us, then you must have had

your reasons. We understand. No-one

ever does anything without reasons,

but the others. Over the fence is where

incomprehensible choices are made.


We are taught to live in patience. We wait

for the next turn. That is why I confess:

I do not know what it is, peace. I am

the sum of all things done or not

at crossroads, all things said or not in ditches.


We sing or we do not, but the words are

the same. The words order to stand up

and sharpen grandfather's knife - we do,

because mother says that we must, because

grandmother still wears old hatreds.

I do not know your name, but

I know you would do the same.

About the Author: Lorelei Bacht is a multicultural poet living in Asia. A former political analyst and lobbyist, she has been using poetry to explore the universal, psychological, embodied nature of political violence through history. Her work has appeared / is forthcoming in such publications as The Wondrous Real, Quail Bell, Abridged Magazine, Odd Magazine, Postscript, Strukturriss and Slouching Beast Journal. She is also on Instagram: @lorelei.bacht.writer.


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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