Weimar Am Lee 1982
by Patrick Cotter
The girls in the Classics Society had practically replayed
the rape of the Sabines or so went the churring grapevine
how the girls had worn nought beneath diaphanous sheets
and wreaths of laurel; how a hoary lecturer (Greek Myth,
all of fifty years) turned up with his canescent curls
and a swan mask lying astride his gouty honker;
how the uncivil engineers gatecrashed with their cant
of inspecting lower architraves and spuming vulgar Latin:
in flagrante delecto, fellatio, vomitorium, et cetera.
In short, the stuff of legend, prompting Silke Schiller
and Uwe Murphy of the German Society to fume -
as they sat in the Kampus Kitchen shredding Styrofoam
cups into ersatz snowflakes – and to remark
“Wir können besser machen.” And so they did…
at a Sunday’s Well mansion, rented and musty with faux-
regency cornicing and patchy linoleum unchanged
since the day portly King Eddie paraded down
the Mardyke under a commotion of Union pennants.
Upon entering the hall my view filled with a tableau
of animated Balthus, the sitting-room full of girls
a little too old for the French old goat but still striking poses
sculpted and painterly. The words of ‘Beast of Burden’
chimed in my mind but the soundtrack of the age
was too arriviste for this late-afternoon-starting soirée
where Bowie was put in the shade by Billie Holiday
Kurt Weil outwailed Bob Marley; and the Jam
was not Paul Weller’s creation but an action
of Blue Note stablemates dreaming of ‘Nights in Tunisia’
and ‘Nature Boy’. Togas transparent and identical
were nowhere to be seen, but Sally Bowles in a dozen
languorous variations luxuriated in her plot
to host a pageant of desirable boys who had stepped straight
out of a Herbert List monograph, you know the type
with those sculpted, top-heavy, short-slick
haircuts of the nineteen-thirties which nobody
would really see again until the early nineties.
All the girls feagued apathy at the arrival of each guest.
One had screamed and smoked all day the day before
to make her voice as hoarse as Dietrich’s.
The girls, God bless them, their wrists
as delicate as their souls, their lives as yet
untinged by calamity, affected hearts of blue
but really their chests were filled with the involuntary
happiness of being mindless in the foxtrot of the moment
the tribal belonging of the moment, the sheer babehood
of the moment – just one step removed
from those childhood parties where crumbs of blue icing
lose themselves up the insides of our sleeves
instead of where blue curaçao in petite measures
coloured our clacking tongues. Fragrant and flagrant
opulent and petulant, the girls were proud
of the historical exactness of their dress. As the night
developed I found myself with ginger-haired Lottie
of Listowel (yet to be tribunal barrister
with a licence to print antique wallpaper)
cheek to cheek tangoing up and down the stairs
stepping with rhythmical aplomb over
the schnapps-induced coma victim, as the tresses
of her Louise Brooks bob bopped off my chin.
Then the lads from the Socialist society
stormtrooped in dressed in pyjamas festooned
with yellow stars and pink triangles.
I had barely a thought for the cold world
they fretted over; the world outside driven colder
daily by Thatcher’s and Reagan’s minions
shutting down shipyards, car plants, shoe factories
while Steve Jobs in sunny Palo Alto ripped off
GUIs from Xerox with all the giddiness of a school boy
who has all of tomorrows’ lotto numbers.
Close to midnight thoughts of world affairs,
with most of its theatre in back rooms
and at the front-end of cheapened lives
vanished amidst the crescendo, a surge of enthusiasm
everyone on their feet and not enough floor space
to go around as people leapt on sofas, tables, window sills
to swoon and join in the chorus with Frankie boy
as he crooned ‘New York, New York’
the gramophone programmed in analogue to return
and repeat this single track spinning
at a multiple of forty-five revolutions.
I lost count at twelve replays, lost consciousness
at around twenty. The smoky, cortex-numbed
parched-mouth hours of the morning after
were unremarkable except for my inexplicable
anxieties all the way home over the fragmented
unstable, twenty-third Dáil; “Yes Leader.
No Leader.” I knew, was ringing
somewhere within stuccoed Georgian walls.