Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Vegemite interrogation on the Prague night train

  • 19 February 2013

The librarian witnesses the burning (Berlin, 1933)

'Wherever books are burned, human beings are destined to be burned too.'Heinrich Heine, 1821

The room offers sanctuary, holds her while adrenalinpalsies her limbs. At the back of her eyes flames flare.

Singed skin, the reek of burn as if bodily doused.Images repeat — spiralling smoke, black and acrid.

Violence pulls a soldier's mouth out of shape, his armslob handfuls of hate. Thousands of flimsy pages

ascend on updrafts like spirits departing. Her armsreach, desperate to catch charred paper. Momentary heat,

text lit like a negative, a few seconds to decipherscript before pages collapse into dust on her palm.


All day charred odour clings to hair, clothes. All day griefsgather, tugging hem, hand. All day — relentless rain

of once-were-words, falling black like sorrowful snow.The city's loss reverberates, a dirge repeated.

A city without library, a library without books? And sheguardian. So visceral the memories — thick pages,

the must of old volumes. She grieves for the sheerphysicality of books — bodies you can hold in your hand.

Mourns the loss of sparks within — tolerance, peacebetween peoples, cherished values under siege.


A blanketing dark falls at last. She collapses, drifts,dreams she's peering out her window. Wind stirs ash

into billows; beauty in the sweep and stoop of floatingcinders. She watches, incredulous. Book-souls rise

from the ruins, ideas and meanings liberated fromthe bodies of books, the chastity of words. Released

from the confinement of shelves, stacks, free to roamat large in the world. People rush into the street

with upturned, hopeful faces. Some who have never knownthe reach of ideas, are touched for the first time, others

come running for renewal. A soldier staggers into her fieldof vision, stung into awareness. His mouth forms the 'ohhh'

of amazement, his eyes wide with illumination, limparms by his side. She dreams deeper into him, through

his covering to the core, watches thought unfurl bannersof meaning in his mind, more potent than hate or flame.


Milk: Michael Frank

'Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundownwe drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at nightdrink it and drink it.' From 'Todesfuge' ('Death Fugue') by Paul Celan

I once was Adonis, slim, lithe, my faultless Aryan body_____toned to perfection. Now I make up in volume_____what I had then in looks. Two hundred kilos and not finished yet._____I don't know whether to stand proud or head-down ashamed.

I can't stomach what the country's come to — overrun_____by foreigners, worse now than in the thirties._____After all the lies