From “Pages from a Book of Years” by John Matthias
97-shiki O-bun In-ji-ki J-machine
a rat’s baffle cry for cryptanalysis
a rising son whose father came from Kishinev
to sell them on how well the Singer sewed
sold them measurements for matrices
enciphering a system of successive
polyalphabetic substitutions and the wonder was
DiMaggio had fifty hits
in fifty games with everybody in the country counting and the wonder was the Brits had cracked Enigma too at Bletchly Park as Bertold Brecht settled in Hollywood. Three years later I would ride my yellow tricycle round and round the dining table while the old Victrola played out McNamara’s Band. When the music went all sour I’d dismount and turn the crank until I couldn’t turn it any more. McNamara gave them twenty records when he learned about the pregnancy and one of them was McNamara’s Band.
Meet Marlene Dietrich, Peter Lorre, Thomas Mann, Stravinsky: Yamamoto wearing his enciphered purple robes. Codename Fixer. Codename Trickster. Fliegerhauptman Lindbergh. Fliegerhauptman Hess.
That year measured distance by unusual means. Home plate to left field wall, degree of arc required to hook a fist in Billy Conn’s protesting open mouth, miles south from Flynn’s estate to child prostitute and Nazi agent in a single room, leagues required to get your sea legs on the exile ship as sonar signals rippled out in waves. Fliegerhauptman thought he saw the coast of Scotland, looped his Messerschmitt, and parachuted down before the unbelieving eyes of Piers the plowman standing there at dusk near Eaglesham who’d take a measure more than Lindbergh’s take a measure rather less than Hess.
He caught the outside curve and drove it to the wall He bloodied him at last and down he went like Schmeling smartass whiteboys come on quiet nights to lose their innocence He put his hand directly up her skirt and she did not say no don’t do it didn’t say a thing and so He turned the crank until he couldn’t turn it any more and put on McNamara’s Band.
He touched her rosebud it was manganese in alloy
it was allies it was axis
when she hanged herself and three days later you were born
like all these other codes and secret agents–
works of days apocalyptical foreseen by even Catalan Ramon
who spun configured mysteries on interlocking disks
to make an ars inventiva veritatis of the nine attributes of God.
Rat’s baffle cry who’d haiku now DiMaggio my hero Errol Flynn my Messerschmitt my Spirit of St. Louis and my Louis’s right cross and uppercut Yo no naka wa jigoku no ue no hanami kana: world’s middle
walking on the roof of hell
and flower gazing!
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