Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hitler Poems?

One day I found Finley's "Yukon Gold" book on the internet. he never mentioned it much, and I don't know why, there is like 500 some poems in this body of work. I spent 8 non stop hours reading it.

If you get a chance, you should explore cyberspace and invest a little time with this classic.

In my opinion, it's the best collection since Sandburg's "Chicago Poems".

The thing about Finley that makes him so diverse, is only he can include a Hitler poem that makes you smile.

Hitler In The Vestibule -

The bald old man sat at table spooling his eggs
with a spoon.

I don't get it, Thomas,
I told him, you could have been
A famous musician, and
fiddled in concert halls around the world.

At age eight you were tutored by Sarasate.

And here you are running a south side diner.


He grinned sheepishly, changed subjects.

Did I tell you about my confrontation with Hitler?

During the Anschuss of 1939 I was eight, I was
visiting Vienna for the second time that year.

Meister Drucker had booked us into the Kaiserhof,
And one morning I had nothing to do, so I boarded
the elevator and pushed all the buttons.

Whenever the lift arrived at a floor, I would
push the button again. The car was an agony of

It was the same hotel where the president had
agreed to meet Hitler that day, and downstairs
A mob of journalists were queuing in the lobby
with Hitler as he rocked from boot to boot,
waiting for the elevator to come down.

Diplomats on hand swallowed hard, worrying that
Hitler would perceive the elevator's operation
as an incident of national mischief.

When I finally landed on the first floor, and the gate opened,
and I looked up at the black leather coat of Herr Hitler,
arms folded and a look of considerable severity on his quaking features,
I began to cry.

Poor Hitler. He craved, I think, to crush me
like a roach, it was what he needed, what he lived
for, but with the photographers on hand and a
country to overrun, he was obliged to be on his
best behavior.

So instead he smiled and I thought
he looked much more like Oliver Hardy than
Chaplin with that diagonal smirk, he scooped me
up in his arms, kissed the tears from my cheeks
and called me German baby names.

I remember how smooth were his cheeks, how high-pitched his
speech, and the implacable look my first instructor
wore also.

I continued to study and to play.

But gradually I came to miss my own childhood,
which had gotten lost in my abilities and my schedule.

I wanted to sit in a sandbox and smash wet
castles with my planes, wanted plebiscites
And pogroms laying waste to my room.

Because Hitler and I came to see the same thing.

Retreat one time, you never see action again.

Swung open and I looked up at the black leather
Coat of Herr Hitler, arms folded and a look of
Considerable severity on his quaking features,


(1982)Finley Footnote:

My interview was with a performance artist named Alan Brookins-Brown, who used to
perform the midnight shows at Dudley Riggs Etc. in Minneapolis. I sat with him and
Barry Casselman one evening on the West Bank and he told me this remarkable
story of the Fuhrer and the elevator in Vienna.

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