Poetry: Continental Silentia | clivejames.com
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Continental Silentia

Neat name for the machine
On which the lists were done:
Quietly ordered violence.
Feathers by the ton.
Great name for the device
On which the lists were made:
Pan-European silence,
A pop-gun fusillade,
A muted rat-tat-tat,
The excuse already ripe:
We knew nothing of all that.
All we did was type,
And corrections in those days
Had to be done with x’s.
You couldn’t just erase
And start again: wrong sexes,
Wrong spellings… it took ages.
Just to get it right
Meant black spots in the pages:
Blurs of a foggy night.
Unspoken and unsung,
Those names that didn’t matter.
Just written, pitter-patter.
Continental Silentia
For all those in absentia
Respectable dementia
Sub rosa eloquentia
List, oh list
The rest is silence
Put to silence
Zum schweigen gebracht
Tap tap


Standpoint, September 2010

Dieses Gedicht auf Deutsch

Note (from Collected Poems)

The title is the brand name of a silent typewriter. Sonderbehandlung (Special Treatment) was a Nazi euphemism for extermination. After the war, the survivor Victor Klemperer analysed Nazi language in a brilliant little book called LTI (Lingua Tertii Imperii — Language of the Third Reich). ‘List, oh list’ and ‘the rest is silence’ are both from Hamlet. Zum schweigen gebracht: put to silence.