“Call to Arms- new assemblages, new poems, new decade, more Brecht”



Time for more words, on the start of an eighth decade. What a heavily weighted time to face such a marker – not so much for celebration though we tried our best. So I put the bookmark between the pages and now re-opening to the paper stub, can observe how far in this book I have progressed.

The newest works are titled Big Looming Assemblages – not so much because they loom. I have just posted a new short poem titled Big Looming which tries to describes what in fact does loom.

Some logistical questions surfaced this morning over breakfast; where and how to obtain what food. Still not ready to post Brecht’s Dream of a Great Bellyache. That well may come later, when it is felt.

Following that conversation, more significant questions percolate and clamour from the depths. I seem to be calm about giving up small things in life, but how many of these small things does one give up before the fabric of self starts to fray or tear? Of what is the self composed? How much change gives opportunity to challenge and expand the self, at what point does the scale tip and compromise identity? Some rise, others fall. We are not there yet, far to go, but are moving with startling speed towards the bend in the road that others in the past have traversed, beyond which there is no return.

Questions that are about small challenges, but of course then there are the big ones, those that truly loom. About the common good, about the big plans, about movement, about freedom, about history, about fascism.

On that note, one part of a long poem by Bertolt Brecht:


Call to arms

We hear, you have been taken sick with tuberculosis
We entreat you; see this
Not as a turn of fate, but
As an attack by the oppressors, who
Exposed you, poorly clothed and in damp housing
To hunger. That is how you were made sick.
We charge you take up the struggle at once
Against sickness and against oppression
With all possible cunning, rigour and tenacity
As a part of our great struggle, which
Has to be waged from a position of weakness
In utter misery, and in which
Everything is permitted which will aid our victory, a victory
Which is the victory of humanity over the scum of the earth.
We await your return, as soon as possible
To your post, comrade.

– Bertolt Brecht. Svendborg Poems. 1939.
  Translated by Tom Kuhn and David Constantine







A collection of free-standing pieces, an aggregate of fragments, these individual double-sided pieces could eventually become combined in fixed and defined arrangements, or conversely, they could remain flexible and variable forever, offering new configurations responsive to the particulars of an exhibition oppportunity. For now they remain stacked and bundled together in the studio, and what is show here is just one group of possible assemblages.

Click on any image below for larger images seen sequentially.





“The Mind Freezes – József Attila, Brecht, supper conversation about evil”


Said I would post something today, a poem relevant to our day by a poet relevant to our times, an image or a word or two of mine. Nearly four pm, the afternoon wanes. It’s been a beautiful day, a good day. Kept busy to tamp down the darkness. Stacking wood – good. Shoveling compost – good. Planting seedlings – good. Whitewashing paper – good. Tearing more circles for new Spots and Holes – good, although don’t know what to do with the fact that these circles of mine resemble transmission electron microscopy images of covid – had no idea.

Still, thoughts intrude, disturb – troubling Brecht poems about no meat, bad bread,  potatoes speaking dire warnings… disturbing poems, not relevant says the censor within… those were the shortages of other war-times. Not like here and now – the likelihood of descent into scarcity and deprivation can’t can’t happen here and now… unless you are among the millions of unemployed, homeless, poor. But I mean the bones, the infrastructure of production, supply and distribution of food. So why then did I plant my garden this year after all? Why stock up on gesso on glue sticks on paper on brown rice and beans on dental floss and toilet paper?

I won’t post Brecht’s Dream of a Great Bellyache now. Instead, let me offer Attila József and his poem Fire! about maddening vision in dark times. Attila József was a great discovery for me back in 2017; that discovery resulting in my large Dialogs with József Attila project, specifically the piece Fire! (Dialog with József Attila – 8).

Had a conversation over supper about evil. What is the motive, the inner construction of these beings who want to end health care, end unemployment insurance, end virus testing and protective measures in the midst of this raging pandemic? What will that get them, how will it protect their pleasuring themselves of their wealth and power? How can they gain from withholding even the crumbs that others deigned to scatter? There is no dictionary to translate this. The mind freezes.

I read it in the daily news that the EU will soon decide about exclusion of Americans – that’s me! – although the numbers are quite low in Vermont (counting my numbers and weighing my risk, like Germans of mixed blood counted their percents). Not that I blame the Europeans now, after all, our mad mussolini decreed some months back that Europeans could not enter the US – and more to the point, who now would want any virus-ridden Americans?

Time for a Plan B. If I am to be exiled, there must be creative solutions to live with that. Ideas gestate – in case.

Meanwhile this pertinent poem by Attila József. New images of Assembled Spots and Holes will follow in the next post.


– Diane Sophrin
  Vermont. June 24, 2020




by Attila Jószef


The mill’s on fire!
Don’t hurt me, it’s not my fault.
Oh God, maybe the fire’s in me!
I really thought I saw a fire,
maybe it was a dream, an omen.
That’s why I scream: Fire! Fire!
It’s a great, roaring, raging fire.
It’s gangly arms flailing toward the sky,
there’s this white glow inside
but it singes everything in sight.
Doesn’t anyone feel it? Only me?
Did all the Hungarians die already?
All the men and all the women?
But here they are walking around.
Are they flesh and blood? Or robots?
They go to movies, eat and drink.
They don’t give a dog’s dick what I think.
Can they even hear me? Or is it just me?
We have plenty of wheat, plenty of flour.
Will it be better once the angels come
and bake us sweet-bread from smoke?
Look! Fire!
You are walking into fire.
If you see me, it’s the vision of a lunatic.
He’s seen your death. You’d better believe it.
At night, in front of your eyes he’ll appear,
whisper the hot roar of silence in your ear.
Flames will spew from his raging mouth.
Your death?
Now that I don’t know much about.
I just plant myself in your ear,
trembling, roaring like a town crier:
Fire! Fire! Fire!

Early 1924
Translation by Peter Hargitai

Attila József Selected Poems
iUniverse, Inc. Lincoln, Nebraska. 2005



click here to open Fire! in PDF format










humping gusts
rising falling set
you down
far from home

heart wishing
itself hanging
caught on bare branches
like a shred of plastic

grounded here by
shallow roots or
bound to foreign

was I one
foot raised in flight one
hand on the door one
split second too late

winds exhaling took
breath without
warning and freedom

Careening world
offer breathtaking views
of Chaos
hunting treasures
of a different kind.



– Diane Sophrin
  Vermont. 5.26.20



click here to open in PDF format








Spanish flu got
Old Fritz Drumpf
did you know
arbeit macht frei
senators wheeze
incentivize the workers.

Multi-tasking like
there’s no tomorrow
there’s no tomorrow!
relations crumbling
distance isolating the
known is unknowable.

Heavy clouds press
time plays games
Emily talks of small fabric
while seedlings emerge
in the cold sun
like unwanted children.

The filmmaker from Sarajevo
laughs at his tomato plants
in wartime I read
that somewhere
long ago now
I too am a farmer digging.


– Diane Sophrn
  Vermont (6.10.20)









Brecht says
they had it worse
back then and there though
we’ve got our own
raging contagion our own
seething mad brute
at the top at the bottom
gleefully squeezing
spreading the worst
humanity can excrete
like rancid manna.

They only had
bitter evil
back there and then so
you see it
could get worse
again again though not
that too but
let’s speak now of
bitter evil.


– Diane Sophrn
  Vermont (6.16.20)



Dark Spots & Black Holes