Great thank you. Its not a lie, they do a mean tagliatelle with poached salmon here. Here being Cafe Central in Cologne
Good. She stops. Excuse me are you the girl on the poster?
I smile both at the use of the word girl and the idea of being recognized from a poster. I say yes and quickly turn away, not to dismiss but because I've never known how to take a compliment and sometimes you don't have to be Cal Lightman to smell kindness coming. She sneaks one in anyway and I mumble something vaguely appropriate.
Auden says in his Museum of fine arts that -
"In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”
And around me the important business of speaking goes on, as it should, a falling plate finds success in time for me to respond to Ben Okri who stops by to say hi. Chirikure Chirikure is on my right discussing the just ended Zimbabwean HIFA festival for which he curates the poetry/spoken word program, South African publisher Vonani Bila expounds on the circumstance of having dreadlocks when taking your passport photo and then facing immigration officials without said dreadlocks, a moderator is chatting with Austrian based Congolese poet Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Indra Russouw is speaking on Oliver Jordan's work (she's just been to lunch near his exhibition) and I joke about how un-abstract his portrait of Pablo Picasso is… behind us still more poets and moderators arriving.
Last night having been to a screening of Peter Kruger's 'N The reason of madness' together a bunch of us sat up talking, having forgotten to eat all day I ordered lamb shank half an hour before midnight and am asked to expound on its merit we agree hunger is a better chef than judge, beds eventually necessitated by the tyranny of human design.
We shan't be getting lost at this festival one poet says, our rooms are above the bar so we'll be fine. Laughter finds us on our feet.
There is a reason to this madness (hours of flight time, loved ones left behind, upended working hours) we are of course here to share words and experiences and to meet each other miles away from the borders which name us neighbors. We do work, for example on this very afternoon Nii Ayikwei Parkes is at one of the high schools running a workshop, there'll be a few more by various poets and readings and panels each evening and at the opening tonight the poets will be accompanied by German jazz drummer Baby Sommer.
Out of the corner of my eye - German words masquerading as a street sign say one way street, a boy who is that if I'm a girl, walks towards us and behind him is the same sky I left in Copenhagen, falling upwards into its familiar blue and white.