Dad was in J Force, which went into Japan after the surrender. He's talked a little about it, and from time to time we ask again, but the conversation never goes far. You've moved me to try again.
Jim Mora interviewed a marvellous old guy last Friday about his adventures as a fighter ace. He has just published a memoir that I'm going to buy next time I'm in the bookshop.
JAYSUS IT'S JIMMY. Love it.
That was a beautiful, beautiful post. I have nothing else to say.
On the subject of war, Sam Hunt offered this marvellous Pablo Neruda poem on Kiwi FM this morning.
I'm Explaining a Few Things
You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?
I'll tell you all the news.
I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.
From there you could look out
over Castille's dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.
And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings --
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.
Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!
Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.
And you'll ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?
Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!
I'll echo Emma's comment. Wonderful writing, Jolisa.
You know, you should really consider putting out a book of your Busytown essays.
Oh Jolia, I know sometimes you can't post often but when you do it is so woth the wait...
If I might paraphrase Nora, Jaysus it's Jolisa. And thank the goddesses for you. Our elderly are so very precious, and their amazing stories have to live on with us, don't they? One of the loveliest conversations I had with my father was about 6 months before he died. We finally talked about how he felt when his then three year old daughter died, in the 1940's. He cried, and talked of how it had destroyed his already ailing marriage. I had never thought of him as a bereaved parent, and of course, he was. There are many legends about my father's exploits in my family, most of them told again and again and again. But that was a conversation he only had with me. A sweet and tender moment telling his favoured youngest daughter about his once favoured older daughter. I will always treasure that afternoon.
Thanks, guys... glad it struck a chord.
Jackie, what an affecting story. I hope David S manages a similar conversation with his Dad, although I guess we have to respect people's right to *not* want to tell their stories, especially the traumatic ones.
I'd love to hear the stories if you do have a breakthrough, David. J Force is a particular fascination of mine, esp after reading letters in the Turnbull from one chap who couldn't figure out why his Japanese neighbours were a bit annoyed about the fact that the New Zealanders didn't take their boots off when they came into the house... ouch.
And likewise I'd love to have had a chance to ask Aunty Nora her stories. They also served who only stood and waited (and, like my nana, kept an axe behind the washroom door in case the Japanese unexpectedly turned up in Naenae).
Love Sam Hunt, and Neruda too, so thank you for that fantastic poem as well.
Oh, and David H: Funny you should mention that, comrade! Watch this space.
Marvelous Jolisa, wonderful to read. My grandfather served in the Royal Navy, and his brother George in the Royal Naval Patrol Service. George was lost when his ship, HMS Fratton (a ferry converted to minesweeper duties) was hit by a torpedo from a German S-Boat. He was a stoker, in the engine room when they wer hit, so he had no chance to escape. We still remember them, but the stories are lost as our elderly pass away (Grandad died last year). It's a rewarding thing to research these histories, the best source is family. You've got to get it while you can, cos once it's gone, it's gone forever.