Sunday, January 22, 2017



           There are only two beings I trust:
           my dog and Eva Braun.

                             ~ Adolph Hitler

When Hitler was away, which was constantly
I ate my meals alone with his photograph
propped across from me on the table.
In public I had to address him Mein Führer.
Afraid I’d slip, I called him Mein Führer
even in the bedroom.


I disobeyed him only in one thing,
He detested smoking; I smoked on the sly.
Once he unexpectedly walked into the parlor.
I put my cigarette under my skirt
and sat on it, chirping like a cheerful little bird
while the smoldering butt went on burning
my most sensitive flesh.


Against his orders I came to Berlin:

“‘Do you think I’d let you die alone?” —
the only time he kissed me
on the mouth in public.

Russian shells were falling near the Chancellery.
Hitler said in a chair, with trembling hands
stroking a puppy in his lap. He told me
his secret dream: after the war,
to live with me in a small Austrian town,
and give himself to art.


Hitler wore his military uniform,
I, a black taffeta gown;
the women in tears,
as always at weddings.
They said I looked radiant.

I began to sign with a B for Braun,
crossed the letter out;
for the first and last time,
signed myself Eva Hitler.

A moment later a bomb
hit the bunker’s roof;
flakes of cement from the ceiling
fell on us like deathly rice.


Hitler, though a tee-totaler,

drank a little Tokay wine,
joked with the guests, then walked out
to dictate his “Political Testament”: 
The German people
have not proved worthy of me.

The phonograph played over and over
the only record there was,
Blutrote Rosen erzählen dir von Glück
“blood-red roses tell you of happiness.”
There are many of us Eurydices,

dancing at our wedding in hell.
He said, I had one flaw as a leader:
kind-heartedness. Tell me,
do we choose the one we love? 


“I want to be a pretty corpse,” 

I said and chose cyanide.
Krebs had advised a pistol. 

Hitler said, “I couldn’t shoot her.”

Three-twenty in the afternoon: 
a shot, 

swallowed up

by the bunker’s stifling walls.
When the two guards entered, blood
was still flowing from Hitler’s temple

onto his freshly pressed uniform. 

Do we 
choose the one we love? 
I leave you with this 

photograph of my life: my body curled
in the corner of the sofa,
my hand reaching for my Führer’s arm.

~ Oriana

She was 33 at the time of her double suicide with Hitler, on April 30, 1945.

She could have stayed away and saved herself. But . . . love.

And even though it’s Hitler, something in us is touched by the romantic gesture of his marrying Eva Braun the night before the suicide, and her refusal to let him die alone.

The poem presents a younger woman point of view: you don’t choose whom you love, no matter how destructive that man is to you. An experienced woman has learned to recognize red flags. Above all, she has accomplished a few things over the years, whether in terms of a career or motherhood or both, and values herself enough to guard against a destructive man (a malignant narcissist, for instance). True, the brain’s limbic system loves familiarity, but developing more awareness (generally the hard way, through a lot of suffering) can teach us how to escape the “fate” of imprinted childhood patterns.

As one friend of mine said, the first marriage is generally what New Age people euphemistically call a “learning experience.” But we don’t have to stay in hell (or Hitler’s bunker). Whether we sing our way out of it and find another means of escape, once we are ready for a mutually nurturing relationship, it awaits. First a nurturing relationship with oneself, discovering you’re your own beloved — then someone truly capable of loving, so you can “call yourself Beloved on this earth” — to quote Raymond Carver again.

This poem is part of a chapbook-in-waiting called The Dancing Eurydices. It seemed on schedule for getting published in time for my birthday in April, but . . . the best-laid plans hit a snag. So be it. Fortunately I'm well-indoctrinated by a friend who used to repeat: “It’s only a poem.” It’s only a chapbook.

It’s wonderful to have a different venue: a blog with an international audience. To all my readers: thank you.


Here is a painting with the theme of the Underworld, this time in the guise of Christ descending into Limbo ~ Andrea Mantegna, 1475


Mantegna also did an engraving of descent into Limbo that is perhaps more interesting than the painting.

Adam and Eve are about to leave Limbo, but the most interesting figure is the Devil, with a second face on his buttocks. Note that Adam seems to have aged while Eve has remained "ageless." By Martin Schongauer, late 1400s.


~ “For Keats, who calls the world itself the "vale of Soul-making," the soul isn’t an eternal substance, but an aptitude — we cultivate it over a lifetime — for affirming the "Pains and troubles" of the world and transforming them into meaningful, potent aesthetic forms, which can be poems or paintings but also gardening and good parenting.

This soul-work is what differentiates us from one another, makes us "Identities," individuals. No one can suffer my pain but me, and my response to that is my singularity. The kind of self I make, base or noble, depends upon how I interpret my sorrow, whether narrowly or expansively.” ~

Roseate spoonbill; photo: Rachel Meadow

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

~ Shakespeare in the voice of Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice

[Erebus = darkness, sometimes personified as a deity, consort of Nyx, Night; also used as a synonym for the Underworld]

I was especially struck by the first line: “The man that hath no music in himself” — a soulless person devoid of the sense of beauty or subtlety; someone who does not relate to others or nature with empathy, tenderness, love.

Image: one of the couples here has music in them — do I hear “I’ve got you Babe”? I didn’t watch Trump’s Inauguration, both did watch both of Obama’s. What struck me most back in 2013 was the love between Michelle and Barack, their quick little kisses on the sly. Maybe this is the most important gift they gave to America: a portrait of a married couple who love 

each other after many years. 


~ “People with manic symptoms show less empathy for others, compared with those who suffer depression, who have increased empathy. You can draw inferences based on this observation, perhaps, for some of Mr. Trump’s policies, depending on your political viewpoint. Manic symptoms also are associated with impulsivity, an inability to hold back when one needs to hold back, which many commentators have observed in Mr. Trump’s debate performances, as well as in other aspects of his life, such as his sexual behavior.

So how does it all add up? Does he have the "temperament" to be president?

A few years ago, I published A First-Rate Madness, in which I argued that there are some positive benefits to manic-depressive illness. In particular, many of our greatest crisis leaders, like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, had a version of that condition. In contrast, some of our worst leaders, like Neville Chamberlain, were stable, personable, mentally healthy. Being “normal” is a drawback for crisis leadership, in times of great change. But in times of peace and prosperity, “normal” leaders do better, since all that is needed is moderation and caution at the helm. Churchill was a miserable failure in the British Cabinet in peacetime prosperity in the 1920s, while Chamberlain was a great success. When war came, the reverse was the case.

The question of whether Trump is the right man for the times is not really about whether he is psychologically “normal” or not, but whether we are in a time of the kind of crisis where a hyperthymic leader does best. One might argue that 2016 is much less a time of crisis than 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession and multiple Middle Eastern wars. If things are more stable than many believe, it could be that the hyperthymic leader would just cause more trouble, like Churchill in the 1920s, rather than solve the problems we have. In that case, Trump would be the wrong man for these times.” ~


This is not the first time I see “manic” or “hypomanic” applied to Trump. What this article argues, and I suspect it's right on, is that in times of crisis a manic or a depressive person does better than someone mentally healthy (e.g. Neville Chamberlain). In "normal" times, a normal leader is best.

A manic person is shallow and lacks empathy; a depressive has increased empathy. It seems to me that politics is custom-made for those on the manic side. But it’s the fit with the times that decides a manic leader’s success or failure.

We tend to lament the fact that fools and fanatics are filled with certainty, which gives them strength, while the wise see a thousand shades of gray and can become paralyzed with doubt. Again, in times of war or an equivalent crisis, a fanatic can be a better leader. 


~ “Coughlin initially supported Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal, but most historians think the priest turned against FDR when the president failed to seek his religious counsel after winning in 1932. That’s when Coughlin turned his radio pulpit into a bully pulpit, calling Roosevelt “anti-God” and union leaders “Bolsheviks.”

In doing so, Coughlin turned away from the Left, seeking another way forward. Mussolini and Hitler — to whom Coughlin sent emissaries in the early ’30s — offered another direction. Coughlin started preaching about a new American order, with unitary strength at the top, single morality, deep suspicion of democracy, brute force toward socialism and taking back the country from “the interests.” He didn’t call it fascism, opting instead for “social justice.” But in the late ’30s Coughlin wrote that “the … principles of social justice are being put into practice by Italy and Germany.” He also targeted Jews, speaking about “international bankers” perpetuating the Depression and later accusing them of being Bolshevik insurrectionists.

In summer 1938, Coughlin’s newsletter serialized the anti-Semitic sham Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and in November that year, he argued that Germany’s Jews had brought Kristallnacht upon themselves. The start of World War II did little to dampen Coughlin’s enthusiasm for Germany and Italy. By this point, says Stanley Payne, history professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Coughlin was “the most important direct apologist for fascism in the United States.” And the radio priest made no secret of his hope that the British — still waiting for the U.S. to join the war at that point — would lose.

Despite Coughlin’s anti-Semitism, Catholic leaders seemed to fear that Coughlin was too popular to shut down. But by 1940, with American animosity growing toward the Axis, the Church finally acted, making Coughlin give up his microphone and, in 1942, halt production of his newsletter, forcing him back into private life as a priest outside Detroit.” ~


The Catholic church, an anti-democratic, authoritarian institution, was (and is) pro-fascist in some countries. Unquestioning obedience is a “virtue” demanded by the church. Fortunately in the US the church authorities finally turned against Father Coughlin. This was not necessarily a display of moral values as much as political cunning. The church tends to support the winning side, or the strong men already in power. Note the Russian Orthodox church’s support of Putin.


“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ~ George Orwell
Trump’s real war isn’t with the media. It’s with facts. He needs to delegitimize the media because he needs to delegitimize facts. It’s not difficult to imagine the Trump administration disputing bad jobs numbers in the future, or claiming their Obamacare replacement covers everyone when it actually throws millions off insurance.” – Ezra Klein

~ When do you mean to cease abusing our patience, Trump ~ (changed to Trumpolina to rhyme with “Catilina” in the original quotation from Cicero)

To quote Latin in an anti-intellectual culture is an act of courage . . . though this certainly isn’t a Trump rally, where a display of education might possibly provoke assault.


Over 100 years ago, another women’s march coincided with a presidential swearing-in, this time of Woodrow Wilson in March of 1913.

The parade was filled with pageantry. “Clad in a white cape astride a white horse,” writes the Library of Congress, “lawyer Inez Mulholland led the great woman suffrage parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capital. Behind her stretched a long line with nine bands, four mounted brigades, three heralds, about twenty-four floats, and more than 5,000 marchers.”

The parade drew a huge global coalition. It also drew ridicule, harassment, and violence from groups in DC for the following day’s festivities. As the Library of Congress writes:

    [A]ll went well for the first few blocks. Soon, however, the crowds, mostly men in town for the following day’s inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, surged into the street making it almost impossible for the marchers to pass. Occasionally only a single file could move forward. Women were jeered, tripped, grabbed, shoved, and many heard “indecent epithets” and “barnyard conversation.” Instead of protecting the parade, the police “seemed to enjoy all the ribald jokes and laughter and in part participated in them.” One policeman explained that they should stay at home where they belonged.

Many marchers were injured; “two ambulances ‘came and went constantly for six hours, always impeded and at times actually opposed, so that doctor and driver literally had to fight their way to give succor.’” The event included several prominent figures, including Helen Keller, “who was unnerved by the experience.” Also present was Jeannette Rankin, who, writes Mashable, “would become the first woman elected to the House of Representatives four years later.” Nelly Bly marched, as did journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, “who marched with the Illinois delegation despite the complaints of some segregationist marchers.”

In fact, though the selective images suggest otherwise, the march was more inclusive than the suffragist movement is generally given credit for. Over the objections of mostly Southern delegates, many black women joined the ranks. After “telegrams and protests poured in” protesting segregation, members of the National Association of Colored Women “marched according to their State and occupation without let or hindrance,” noted the NAACP journal Crisis. And yet, when the women’s vote was finally achieved in 1920, that general category still did not include black women. The misogyny on display that day was vicious, but still perhaps not as endemic as the country’s racism, which existed in large degree within suffragist groups as well.

Once the press broadcast news of the marchers’ mistreatment, there was a massive public outcry that helped reinvigorate the suffrage movement. Several other artists than McKay found inspiration in the march; Cleveland Plain Dealer cartoonist James Donahey, for example, “substituted women for men in a cartoon based on the famous painting ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware,’” writes the Library of Congress. Another cartoonist, George Folsom, documented the stages of the hike from New York, with captions addressed to male readers. The strip above says, “they are making history mates—be sure you save it for your descendants.” Another strip reads “Brave women all, none braver mates. Put this away and look at it when they win.”

Special postcards were part of the anti-suffragist propaganda. This one caught my attention, in being so particularly out of date. Nowadays we think of a man holding a baby as an entirely natural and endearing image, but a hundred years ago it was regarded with horror. 



~ Less interest in sex. “When I was a man,” one told me, “I thought about sex all the time, almost constantly. I experienced my libido as a driving force that sometimes felt irresistible. And if I didn’t get sex, I masturbated. I masturbated a lot. Now that I’m a woman, I still enjoy sex, but I think about it much less and masturbate less.”

More interest in conversation. “When I was a man,” this MTF transsexual continued, “my then-wife used to complain that I didn't talk with her as much as she wanted and that when we talked, I didn’t listen to her. As far as I was concerned, I talked and listened—just not as intently as she hoped. Now that I’m a woman, I see what she meant. I find men to be aloof and lacking verbally. Now, given a choice between having sex or talking with my girlfriends, most of the time, I’d choose the conversation.”

Chaz (nee Chastity) Bono, the daughter, now son, of singer-actress Cher and the late-singer-turned-politician Sonny Bono. As Chaz Bono transitioned, he noticed two main changes:

• More interest in sex. He says he thinks about it much more than he did as a woman and “needs release much more often.”

Less interest in conversation. “As a woman, I used to really enjoy dishing with the girls. As a man, I have less tolerance for women’s talking. I’ve noticed that Jen [his girlfriend] can talk endlessly. But there’s something in testosterone that makes that really grating. I’ve stopped talking as much. And when she talks, sometimes I just zone out.”

No doubt women will continue to complain that guys are horn-dogs, and men will continue to complain that women run at the mouth. But transsexuals show us that neither gender is out to drive the other crazy. It’s nothing personal, just our hormones.

It appears that about 1 percent of the population is potentially transsexual. And that 1 percent of humanity teaches the rest of us that key elements of gender identity—libido and conversation—are heavily influenced by our hormones.” ~


Women's levels of oxytocin, the pleasure and “trust” hormone, rise as much after talking as after orgasm.


Though sexually infatuated, the young couple were locked into a power struggle. Albert took over more and more of Victoria's work as queen as her pregnancies forced her to step aside. Victoria was conflicted: she admired her “angel” for his talents and ability but she deeply resented being robbed of her powers as queen.

There were terrible rows and Albert was terrified by Victoria's temper tantrums. Always at the back of his mind was the fear she might have inherited the madness of George III. While she stormed around the palace, he was reduced to putting notes under her door.

Though she was a prolific mother, Victoria loathed being pregnant. Repeated pregnancies she considered “more like a rabbit or a guinea pig than anything else and not very nice”.

Breastfeeding she especially disliked, finding it a disgusting practice. And she was not a doting mother — she thought it her duty to be "severe". She didn't do affection.

Relations with her eldest son Bertie, later Edward VII, were especially fraught. From the start he was a disappointment for Victoria.

Like all the royal princes, he was educated at home with a tutor. Bertie did badly at lessons and his parents considered him a halfwit. Victoria remarked: “Handsome I cannot think him, with that painfully small and narrow head, those immense features and total want of chin.”

When Bertie was 19, he spent time training with the army in Ireland and a prostitute named Nellie Clifden was smuggled into his bed. When the story reached Albert, he was devastated and wrote Bertie a long, emotional letter lamenting his “fall”.

He visited his son at Cambridge and the two went for a long walk together in the rain. Albert returned to Windsor a sick man and three weeks later he was dead.

Albert probably died of typhoid. Another theory is that he suffered from Crohn's disease, but for years afterwards Victoria blamed Bertie for his death. She could not bear to have him near her. "I never can or shall look at him without a shudder," she wrote.

For the next 40 years — the rest of her life — Victoria wore black mourning and only appeared in public rarely and reluctantly. To her people, the tiny "widow of Windsor" seemed a pathetic, grief-stricken figure. The truth was very different.

Though Victoria was invisible, her need to control her children was almost pathological. She set up a network of spies and informers who reported back to her on her children's doings.

When Bertie married the Danish princess Alexandra, Victoria instructed the doctor to report back on every detail of her health, including her menstrual cycle. Court balls were scheduled so that they did not coincide with Alexandra's periods.

Victoria's eldest daughter Vicky married Fritz, the heir to the throne of Prussia, when she was 17. She was the mother of Kaiser William II.

Even in faraway Germany, Vicky could not escape her mother's interfering. Victoria wrote almost daily and her micromanaging made her daughter ill with worry.

When Vicky announced she was pregnant, Victoria replied: "The horrid news... has upset us dreadfully".

Vicky and her younger sister Alice, also married to a German prince, colluded to defy their mother. Secretly, they breastfed their babies. When Victoria discovered, she was furious and called them cows.

Victoria's changes of mind were bewildering and her rages could be terrifying. She was not only her children's mother but also their sovereign and she never let them forget it.

She kept her youngest child Beatrice (known as Baby) at home; she was terrified of her mother.

Victoria wanted Beatrice to remain unmarried. When Beatrice announced that she was engaged to a handsome German prince, Victoria refused to speak to her for six months and agreed only on condition that the couple lived with her.

Victoria controlled her sons just as tightly. Leopold, who inherited haemophilia, suffered especially. Victoria described him as "a very common-looking child".

She tried to make him live the life of an invalid, wrapping him in cotton wool. As a boy, he was bullied by the Highland servant who looked after him, but Victoria refused to listen to Leopold's complaints. She wouldn't let him leave home but he finally won the long battle to study at Oxford. He died aged 30.

Victoria wanted her sons to grow up like Prince Albert. The only one who resembled his father was Prince Arthur, the third of the boys, later Duke of Connaught. He was her favourite - he did what he was told and had a successful military career.

The son with whom Victoria quarreled most was the eldest, Bertie. She once remarked that the trouble with Bertie was that he was too like her. She was right. Like his mother, Bertie was greedy and highly sexed, with an explosive temper. But he possessed one supreme gift — personal charm.

As Prince of Wales, Bertie lurched from one scandal to another. In spite of his repeated requests, Victoria never allowed him access to government documents.

But the story had an unexpected ending. Bertie never broke off relations with his mother. When he eventually succeeded her as king at the age of 59, he did a very good job.

He modernised the monarchy, which was one reason why the British monarchy survived World War I when so many others did not. Perhaps Queen Victoria was not such a bad mother after all." ~


Victoria’s lack of affection as a mother seems convincing, given her own miserable childhood, at least in terms of her own mother. And it's true that being a “severe” parent was seen as a cultural ideal. What a revolution in attitudes we have witnessed . . . But the idea that children's primary need is to be loved rather than disciplined didn't quite catch on until after WW2, when psychology became an important field — and when the general standard of living went up.

ending on beauty:

For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

~ Maggie Smith, Good Bones

Barack Obama as a child and his grandfather. You can see the grandfather's face in the adult Obama's face. The love goes on.

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