Ar an lá seo, 4 Eanáir

Ar an lá seo, 4 Eanáir, 1986, cailleadh Christopher Isherwood. Dán ómóis scríofa dó ag Cathal Ó Searcaigh. Is féidir an bundán a léamh sa leabhar is déanaí uaidh Na Saighneáin (Arlen House 2014).

For Christopher Isherwood

Here I am at your doorstep, a gay pilgrim, Christopher,
this home from home where you sketched the fleshpots of Berlin
in your day. Fraulein Schröder’s guesthouse.

A naughty, gossipy, big-hearted place bursting at the seams
with rumours of the hour and news bulletins from the streets.
No 17, Nollendorfstrasse. A pale yellow house

with pigeons sitting on the sunny balconies today,
a calm peaceful Sunday, the city in bloom.
Standing at your door, hot tears begin to flow

as you take shape in my mind’s eye, revealing yourself
within me though I only know you from the pages of books
when first we met in Goodbye to Berlin some thirty years ago.

I see you in that room, the patina of heavy Prussian furniture
around you as you keenly bring to artistic life
that easygoing bohemian family

with whom you shared your lodgings in the early Thirties;
sympathetic characters chiselled for all time –
Mr Norris, Fraulein Schröder, the lovely foolish Sally Bowles.

I’m at your doorstep but other tenants live here now,
Weiss and Wagner, Miller and Bretner,
but it’s not them that I see but you; the sharp look

as you  take me in; nothing escapes you;
the same acuity that illumined Berlin in the early years
of its tumult. Impressionable Berlin of indolence. Poor famine-stricken Berlin.

‘I’m a camera,’ you said yourself and never spoke a truer word
capturing as you did every live moment of the city
in the fluency of your word-lense as the hour of dread

drew nigh; Nazis and their brutish entourage making a name
for themselves;  bullying and badgering on the streets;
aggressive demonstrations,  defiant assemblies, whipping up of frenzy,

the swagger of it all and Hitler, cock o’ the dung-heap, crowing
all the way to the Reichstag. You caught it, Christopher,
the city you loved and all her charms going down the drain.

Here I am at your doorstep and though you are but dust of the earth
there’s a spring in your step as you rush down the stairs to greet me
bright eyes brimful of roguery.

And off we go through the streets of Berlin: Eisenacher.
Motzstrasse, Fuggerstrasse, and their numerous bars
with gorgeous blue-eyed untameable boys, Christopher,

the type you always liked, sweet heart,
Otto, Bubi, Heinz; here they come with a welcoming grin.
In this age of licence, no shy wallflowers these

strutting their stuff with the best of them, tattling peacocks
in Blue Boy, Tom’s House,  Pussycat and Pinnochio.
‘Life is a cabaret, old chum’, you say before you vanish from my dream.

I salute you, Christopher. How you embraced the world
In those champagne days and nights before Hitler crucified
the gay cabarets, the rumpy-rumpy with fellow-angels.

And when the tyranny was too much to bear
you said goodbye to Berlin, yourself and the heart-melting, gentle Heinz
searching for asylum here, there and everywhere

across Europe and finding no luck;
and when he was arrested in the end, your heart was in smithereens.
And I understand your loss for I, too, know what it’s like,

what is broken and torn when lovers part;
but you kept going and the light of humanity radiated from your words
flowing gracefully through the vein of  narratives.

Here I am at your door, Christopher, the blessed door of solace
for me and others who come here to worship you.
You who beatified
our queer lives, here’s a word-posy for you, respectfully yours.