A hard if not impossible act to follow, I’ve struggled to find anything further to say on US politics which hasn’t been expressed in comments to and from Chris in his recent ‘Sell Me’ diary.
So forgive this oblique and perverse turn to the personal, as I turn my fire to the Month of August which, in recent memory, has always been the worst month of the year.
I don’t know why that is. I always look forward to August as a sun-baked time of relaxation away from home or – if staying at home – a sneaky enjoyment of the absence of others and the emptiness of the roads and transport system.
But for all its promise, August has always let me down…
In the past it might have been family holidays: that longed-for time together which never delivers its promise, or is vitiated by arguments you should have had earlier, or the sense of being ‘on hold’ until life begins again.
In recent years, for me, it has always been the occasion of some major calamity. For two years in succession not so long ago it was the knock-on of my divorce from my second (American) wife. This year, there has been a major family crisis as a close relative suffered a breakdown having had their drinks laced with pscyhoactive substances during a rock festival.
T.S. Eliot said that “April was the cruellest month” but am I alone in finding August the darkest and most ominous.
I partly put this down to the overstaying of summer, shortening nights despite the heat, and – yes I’m going grand here – the legacy of World War I. After all, it was in the summer of 1914 that the battlelines of the Great War (and perhaps the whole twentieth century) were laid out. Barbara Tuchman’s classic historical account of this, The Guns of August, still remains one of the most important books I feel I have never read, and was instrumental in Kennedy’s thinking during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
So, in the absence of having anything particularly interesting, insightful or provocative to say about US politics, I’ll post the following poem which (engendered by the host of associations above) suddenly came to me while thinking of an open thread.
THE GUNS OF AUGUST
August is always hell
The first guns erupt
Along with breakdowns and divorces.
Tied up with treaties and entreaties,
Insecurity comforts us,
And before we know it
We’re on the road to dissolution.
It almost feels inevitable.
The mobilisation works on its own
A move to war that endorses war.
But nothing is so incorrigible:
Our anxieties promote our paranoia.
Whether in the feedback of a panic attack,
Or self-violating metaphors of rape,
Soon memories work as delusions.
We are our own worst enemies.
We don’t see the present.
We don’t see each other.
We rush to occupy unavailable space.
We overestimate the force of our offensiveness:
Overstretching our supply lines and opening our flanks.
August is always hell
And we have to pay for it
Lingering in the trenches of our error
For a lifetime
How has the hell of August been for you? And what does it bode for the future of the world?