The King of the Cats is Dead by Peter Porter*


The light on his thigh was like

a waterfall in Iceland, and his hair

was the tidal rip between two rocks,

his claws retracted sat in softness

deeper than the ancient moss of Blarney,

his claws extended were the coulter

of the gods and a raw March wind

was in his merely agricultural yawn.

Between his back legs was a catapult

of fecundity and he was riggish

as a red-haired man. The girls

of our nation felt him brush their legs

when they were bored with telling rosaries-

at night he clawed their brains in their

coffined beds and his walnut mind

wrinkled on their scalps. His holidays

were upside down in water and then

his face was like the sun: his smell

was in the peat smoke and even his midden

was a harmony of honey. When he stalked

his momentary mice the land shook

as though Atlantic waves were bowling

at the western walls. But his eyes

were the greatest thing about him.

They burned low and red so that drunks

saw them like two stars above a hedge,

they held the look of last eyes

in a drowning man, they were the sight

the rebel angels saw the first morning

of expulsion. And he is dead – a voice

from the centre of the earth told of his death

by treachery, that he lies in a hole

of infamy, his kidneys and his liver

torn from his body.


Therefore tell

the men and horses of the market-place,

the swallows laying twigs, the salmon

on the ladder that nothing is

as it has been


time is explored

and all is known, the portents

are of brief and brutal things, since

all must here the words of desolation

The King of the Cats is Dead


and it

is only Monday in the world.


*Published in Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times, Edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney


Note: WordPress does not allow you to indent lines significantly, a frustration for anyone transcribing poetry. Thus, please not that the stanza breaks are really supposed to be indents.



The Pig War: Standoff at Griffin Bay by Mike Vouri



Historically, issues surrounding British North America were negotiated between the Americans and the British, excluding the people who actually inhabited the land. This is particularly evident in the Anglo-American Convention, following the resolution of the War of 1812. Britain made several concessions to the Americans in order to build their alliance with the USA, a nation that would likely gain influence as a global power. These stipulations included American access to the Atlantic Fisheries, a point that British North Americans fiercely disliked. The British favored the Americans, despite the fact that British North America was their own possession. This pattern is complicated in Vouri’s analysis of the dispute over San Juan Island in his book The Pig War. While civilian officers dealt with British North American Citizens, the issue was ultimately decided without consideration for British North America.

Governor James Douglas, a British North American, exercised a significant amount of power initially in the San Juan dispute. Douglas is considered a British North American, rather than a British citizen because of his deceiving of the British of the nature of the British presence on the island and failure to acknowledge the influx of Hawaiian’s that had arrived to work on the island. This suggests his loyalty lay in the country he inhabited, rather than the country in which he was born. While Douglas aggressively pursued British rights to the island for honor’s sake, the British Navy soon swept in to take control and prevent him from acting rashly. General Scott, the American determined to peacefully solve the San Juan boundary dispute, had little interest in engaging with Douglas. “The general…never left the ship, or his cabin for that matter, throughout his negotiations with Douglas.” (189) The issue of the San Juan boundary dispute was eventually put to Germany. This “impartial” arbiter would determine who had the rights to the island. The choice of Germany as an arbitrator, a nation who was likely to favor the US showed the dwindling interest of the British in British North America. Indeed, Britain was considering dropping BNA as a colony, which results in the forming of the dominion of Canada. The economic benefits of San Juan Island were not lucrative enough to cause the British to wish to engage the issue further. Douglas, and other British North Americans, however, felt the battle should be fought for the principle of the matter. While Douglas is a central character to Vouri’s narrative, he does not ultimately get his way. Rather, the British government decided the value of San Juan Island was less than their continued alliance with the United States.

It was not only the British and the British North Americans who faced divisions. There was also a division in military culture between civilian officers and military officers on both the British and American sides. As previously discussed, James Douglas was firm in his convictions that the island belonged to the Hudson Bay Company, thus making it already British. His anger over the loss of Oregon combined with his own anti-American bias due to his hatred of slavery stemming from his own racial background caused him to be less inclined to settle peacefully. Charles C. Griffin, the man whose pig was shot, catalyzing the San Juan conflict, was not willing to settle for simple repayment from Lyman Cutlar for his killed animal. Instead he passionately began questioning the right of Cutlar to settle on the island. Cutlar reports the incident, “Mr. Griffin flew in a passion and said it was no more than I expected…for you Americans are a nuisance on the island and you have no business here and I shall write Mr. Douglas and have you removed.” (53) Cutler shot back, “I came here to settle for shooting your hog, not to argue the right of Americans on the island for I consider it American soil.” (53) Griffin’s failure to simply accept payment reflects the HBC’s itching to start a conflict.

The British military officers were much less inclined to engage militarily with the Americans. The British Navy was determined to not allow a conflict to come to fruition, but to enforce peace with the knowledge that their forces could blow the Americans out of the water. Their mere presence was enough to maintain an uneasy peace. While the HBC argued that the possession of the island was a matter of national honor, the British navy saw the invasion of San Juan Island as a mistake. Rear Admiral R. Lambert Baynes, the Pacific Station commander was determined to avoid a collision. “I was decidedly adverse to a joint military occupation, which could in no way strengthen our claim, and was very likely, from various causes, to bring about a collision.” (143) In a letter to Captain Geoffrey Phipps Hornby, Baynes writes:

It is now my positive order that you do not, on any account whatever, take the initiative in commencing hostilities by firing on them or in any work the may have thrown up…Should the troops of the United States commit any aggressive act by firing on the Tribune or any of Her Majesty’s ships or boats, you are at full liberty to resent the insult by adopting such measures as you think [desirable] informing me of the circumstances as quickly as possible. (135)

There were clear divisions in the British forces between the hawkish HBC and the Dovish Royal Navy.

The division in the American forces is less clear-cut. Though George Pickett and William Hearny were American Military Officers, their physical occupation of the island, especially when compared with Winfield Scott’s detached position in his cabin, put them in a position to be dealing directly with hawkish HBC officials. It is arguable that Pickett and Hearny became the equivalent of the British civilian officials, manipulating orders and operating without full knowledge of the conflict. Indeed, George Pickett did not even know about the Oregon Treaty or the background of the San Juan dispute. He was simply convinced that the island was American. Harney admitted to not reading the Marcy Letter, which asserted that the island belongs to no one until the British and American governments decide, until Douglas shared his copy with him. (144) Hearny and Pickett were willing to fight for the island. Harney was a former “pet” of Andrew Jackson and had a similar positive attitude toward engagement. Thus, he dispatched 500 soldiers to the small island causing the HBC to set the Northern Indians upon the American forces.

In contrast to the militant Pickett and Hearny, Winfield Scott was known as the “Great Pacificator.” He was horrified with the behavior of the two American officers. “Harney and Pickett were professional officers who should have known better than to intrigue in areas best left to civilian government.” (188) Scott, a former lawyer, had experience in settling boundary disputes. He saw his sole responsibility was to prevent war. There was a clear divide between the two military cultures. While civilian officials, in which I assert Pickett and Harney are included, were much more open to the idea of hashing out the conflict. The British Navy and Winfield Scott were equally determined to prevent war. There are several reasons Britain and America’s reluctance to engage, perhaps one of the most important being the British Naval shield.


The British naval shield made both Britain and the United States unwilling to engage militarily. The British and American alliance had been beneficial for the economy of both nations. Britain’s navy was the strongest in the world. While the navy protected British North America, the United States was also protected from invasion. This allowed the United States to pursue their landward turn, which led to further development and economic prosperity. While the United States became a massive land power, Britain remained a formidable sea power. Both nations benefitted from the other. The British had invested millions of dollars in the American industrial infrastructure and were benefitting economically from that partnership. That partnership was much more valuable to Britain than the possession of San Juan Island. This can partially explain Britain’s seeming lack of effort in their fight for possession. Thus, the nations’ economic ties made war a disastrous prospect. Vouri fails to emphasize the importance of the naval shield in the resolution of this conflict.

During the San Juan conflict, the American Civil War was unfolding. This had several effects on the San Juan conflict. Firstly, the impending civil war distracts the Americans from fully engaging in the San Juan conflict. The possible division of their nation is much more important to the Americans than the possession of a small island. The civil war also causes divisions between the British and the British North Americans. BNA were sympathetic to abolitionist sentiments. Indeed, Douglas was particularly concerned about San Juan becoming an instrument of the slave trade. However, the British begin to toy with the idea of aiding the South, not because they agreed with slavery, but because they saw the benefits of the division of the United States. The British built two warships for the south, angering the Americans and British North Americans. The British never intervened militarily on behalf of the South.

The resolution of the Civil war and the resulting abolition of slavery had an effect on the resolution of the San Juan dispute. The British North Americans were much less vehement in their determined possession of the island, since their fear of the island becoming involved in the slave trade was not to be realized. The United State’s survival of the Civil War also reaffirmed their status of superpower. It was in Britain’s best interest to concede to the United States an island that would become a part of the dominion of Canada anyway. This partially explains the British’s acceptance of Germany as impartial arbiter, despite Germany’s American bias.


Germany was certainly not an “impartial” arbiter. George Bancroft, the US ambassador to Berlin influenced the choice of Germany as arbiter, foreshadowing a US bias. The American’s first choice was Germany, while the British advocated for Austria. Germany was biased toward the United States because the USA was not a European country, and thus not a direct competitor. As Germany was uniting, they sought the United States as an ally. They had no incentive to help Britain, as the nation was a European rival. Thus, the Germans decide two to one that the United States will get San Juan Island. The dissenting vote, Goldschmidt suggested a compromise that was overruled by the other two geographers. Germany was an obviously unfair choice for arbiter, however the British decision to not challenge the choice shows their growing disinterest in North America.

Vouri fails to address this point of unfair arbitration. He is so pleased with the peaceful resolution on the conflict, that he does not address the fact that the Americans were favored. In his preface, he makes it clear that his anti-war sentiments are what drove his desire to write the book. While a peaceful resolution is indeed admirable and desirable, Vouri does not fully address the reasons for this peace. His failure to examine the naval shield and acknowledge the American advantage is a notable oversight.


Apricots by Jennifer Grotz*


I judged them very carefully, as though

I’d been given the charge to determine

which are good or bad, and they were all good,

even the slightly overripe ones with bruises,

had a better ferment that only brightened

the scent. And the too young ones, firm

and slightly sour, not yet softened by the sun.

And the ripe ones, which felt like hiring into

my own flesh, slightly carnivorous.


They had been elegant in the tree, tiny coquettes

blushing more and more until I picked them,

then they were minimalist and matte-colored

in wooden bowls, so barely furred one couldn’t

help but clothe them, enclose them with your hand,

caress each one thoroughly before taking a bite,

exploring the handsome freckles left

from some minor blight.


Now I stand under the tree and

pluck them one after the other.

Each one tastes different, like a mind having

erratic thoughts. Going into the trance

halfway between eating and thinking,

the thought of an apricot, the apricot of a thought,

whose goodness occurs over time, so that

some had been better earlier, others soon

would become correct, I mean ripe.


*Published in the January 13th, 2014 issue of The New Yorker

The Philosopher Savant Takes a Walk by Rustin Larson*


On my way to the post office this morning, I was feeling

Pretty balanced, pretty good. I looked at the movie posters;

I passed the tattoo-and-piercing establishment. Some

Restaurant was frying up a batch of onions.

I got over that and kept walking. I retrieved my mail.

If I can be someone’s entertainment by being myself,

I have no regrets. I believed in my footsteps. I crossed

To walk through the gazebo. There were a few marigolds.

The sun was tilted and cooly golden. A crippled woman

Watched me from her car. It was a Tuesday; I remember

that much


*Published in the January 13, 2014 issue of The New Yorker 

Poetry is Not a Luxury by Audre Lorde (1977)


The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through these lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is throughout poetry that we give name to those ideas which are–until the poem–nameless and formless, about to be birthed but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.

As we learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny and to flourish within it, as we learn to use the products of that scrutiny for power within our living, those fears which rule our lives and form our silences begin to lose their control over us.

For each of us as women, there is a dark place within, where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, ‘beautiful/ and tough as chestnut/ stanchions against (y)our nightmare of weakness/ ‘ and of impotence. 

These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through that darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman’s place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.

When we view living in the european mode only as a problem to be solved, we rely solely upon our ideas to make us free, for these were what the white fathers told us were precious.

But as we come more into tough with our own ancient, non-european consciousness of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and, therefore, lasting action comes.

At this pout in time, I believe that women carry within ourselves the possibility for fusion of these two approaches so necessary for survival, and we come closest to this combination in our poetry. I speak here of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience, not the sterile word poetry to mean–in order to cover a desperate wish for imagination without insight.

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward surveil and change, first made into language, then into idea, them into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experience of our daily lives. 

As they become known to and accepted by us, our feelings and the honest exploration of them become sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas. They become a safe-house for that difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action. Right now, I could name at least ten ideas I would have found intolerable and incomprehensible and frightening, except as they came after dreams and poems. This is not idle fantasy, but a disciplined attention to the true meaning of “it feels right to me”. We can train ourselves to respect our feelings and to transpose them into a language so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.

Possibility is neither forever nor instant, I tis not easy to sustain belief in its efficacy. We can sometimes work long and hard to establish one beachhead of real resistance to the deaths we are expected to live, only to have that beachhead assaulted or threatened by those canards we have been socialized to fear, or by the withdrawal of those approvals that we have been warned to seek for safety. Women see ourselves diminished or softened by the falsely benign accusations of childishness, of nonuniversiality, of changeability, of sensuality. And who asks the question: Am I altering your aura, your ideas, your dreams, or am I merely moving you to temporary and reactive action? And even though the latter is no mean task, it is one that must be seen within the context of a need for true alteration of the very foundations of our lives.

The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The Black mother within each of us–the poet–whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free. Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary demand, the implementation of that freedom.

However, experience has taught us that action in the now is also necessary, always. Our children cannot dream unless they live, they cannot live unless they are nourished, and who else will feed them the real food without which their dreams will be no different than ours?’ If you want us to change the world someday, we at least have to live long enough to grow up!’ shouts the child.

Sometimes we drug ourselves with dreams of new ideas,. The head will save us. The brain alone will set us free. But there are  no new ideas still waiting in the wings to save us as women, as human. There are only old and forgotten ones, noes combinations, extrapolations and recognition from within ourselves–along with the renewed courage to try them out. And we must constantly encourage ourselves and each other to attempt the heretical actions that our dreams imply, and so many of our old ideas disparage. In the forefront of our move toward change, there is only poetry to hint at possibility made real. Our poems formulate the implications of ourselves, what we week within and dare make real (or bring action into accordance with), our fears, our hopes, our most cherished terrors.

For within living structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes, feelings were expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men. But women have survived. As poets. And there are no new pains. We have felt them all already. We have hidden that fact in the same place where we have hidden our power. They surface in our dreams, and it is our dreams that point the way to freedom. Those dreams are made realizable through our poems that give us the strength and courage to see, to feel, to speak, and to dare.

If what we need to dream, to move our spirits most deeply and directly toward and through promise, is discounted as luxury, then we give up the core–the fountain–of our power, our womanness, we give up the future of our worlds.

For there are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt–of examining what those ideas feel like being lived on Sunday morning at 7 a.m., after brunch, during wild love, making war, giving birth, mourning our dead–while we suffer the old longings, battle the old warnings and fears of being silent and impotent and alone, while we taste new possibilities and strengths.


Street by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin


He fell in love with the butcher’s daughter

When he saw her passing by in her white trousers

Dangling a knife on a ring at her belt.

He stared at the dark shining drops on the paving-stones.


One day he followed her

Down the slanting lane at the back of the shambles.

A door stood half-open

And the stairs were brushed and clean,

Each tread marked with the red crescent

Her bare heels left, raiding to faintest at the top.

Penguin Schtick

April Fools I pray!

A Guy's Moleskine Notebook


Penguins calls this a ground-breaking re-packing of classics grammatically updated for the new generation. It doesn’t make sense to me.

“For the first time, iconic books such as Albert Camus’s The Stranger, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment will remove all the instances of full stops in the original text, and replace them with exclamation marks.”

How would the generosity with exclamation marks reach a wider audience?

“By using exclamation marks over and over again, the reader is reminded of the urgency of the story at the end of every sentence. It’s a great way of preventing potentially inattentive readers from tuning out, putting the book down and wandering off, without altering the original text too much.”

I just don’t see the reasoning.

April Fools’?

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The Third Man by Graham Greene–The Bloody Fool: Rollo Martin’s Determined Belief in Harry Lime


In Postwar Britain, the concept of “belief,” the trusting in the existence of something without tangible proof, was considered quaint and naïve. The “believers” in this period are viewed with the same sympathetic mirth as those who sleep with their doors unlocked only to have their mattress full of hundred dollar bills raided in the night. The viewers feel deep compassion for these people, combined with a peculiar envy for their innocence that is quickly combated by a “well, they had it coming” grimace. This compassionate vindictiveness is captured in the literature of the time. In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a dystopic government eventually thwarts Winson Smith’s belief in the existence of a possible future without Big Brother. In Kazou Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, Mr. Stevens’ belief in his employer’s goodness, and thus his value as a small influencer of the world’s improvement, is crushed with his acknowledgement of Mr. Darlington’s role as Hitler’s pawn. In both cases the “believers” are faced with overwhelming evidence that contradicts their belief, however, it is only with reluctance that the protagonist eventually accepts the truth. Similarly, Rollo Martins in Graham Greene’s The Third Man doggedly sticks to his belief that his best friend, Harry Lime, is a good person, despite the evidence to the contrary. Martin’s belief in the goodness of Harry Lime, despite its erroneousness is what sets him apart in a world without faith or optimism. There is virtue attached to a character that refuses to acknowledge the corrupt state of the world, retaining faith in the notions of friendship and loyalty. Thus, Rollo Martins, through his naive beliefs, points towards a better world.

When Major Calloway informs Rollo Martins that Harry Lime, “was about the worst racketeer who ever made a dirty living in this city,” (Greene, 25) Martins is entirely unwilling to accept this fact, even though it comes from a police officer, a person of authority. Martins immediately begins to size up the space between him and Calloway to see if he can reach him to hit him. At this moment Calloway thinks, “Martins, I began to realize, was dangerous.” Martins dangerousness, however, does not simply boil down to his propensity towards violence, rather it has more to do with his unwillingness to accept information, his questioning of authority, and his resolute belief that Harry Lime is a good man, a victim of police incompetency. Martins immediately places his suspicion onto the police and away from Harry Lime, “I’ve always hated policemen. They are always either crooked or stupid.” (Greene, 26) Martins goes as far to associate himself with Harry Lime’s work, so firm is his belief in Harry’s innocence, “Because if Harry was that kind of racketeer, I must be one too. We always worked together.” (Greene, 26)

Martin’s naïveté is highlighted when he recalls their early friendship, which provides the reader with a view of Lime to which Martins is entirely unaware, “But what things he did think up! He was a wonderful planner. I was far better at subjects like History and English than Harry, but I was a hopeless mug when it came to carrying out his plans…I was always the one who got caught.” (Greene, 24) While Martins remains blissfully oblivious of the implications of this statement, Calloway and the reader are immediately suspicious. Calloway replies, “That was convenient for Lime,” (Greene, 24) suggesting that Harry had manipulated Martins in the past, and perhaps is not the hero that Martins believes he is. Martins catches the insinuation in Calloway’s statement and replies angrily, “What the hell do you mean…That was my fault not his. He could have found someone cleverer if he’d chosen, but he liked me.” (Greene, 24) While Martins places the blame on himself for being caught after executing Harry’s plans, he similarly places the blame on the police for Harry’s alleged reputation as a racketeer. “I suppose there was some petty racket going on with petrol and you couldn’t pin it on anyone, so you picked a dead man. That’s just like a policeman.” (Greene, 24) Martins’ denial of the possibility of Harry’s culpability highlights his loyalty as well as his foolishness and naïveté.

When Calloway produces evidence of Harry’s wrongdoing with his dilution of penicillin, Martins cannot help but question his belief in his friend, however it takes Calloway several attempts to convey the reality of Harry’s crimes. “They begin to dilute the penicillin with coloured water, and, in the case of penicillin dust, with sand. I keep a small museum in one drawer in my desk, and I showed Martins examples. He wasn’t enjoying the talk, but he hadn’t yet grasped the point.” (Greene, 80) Martins’ faith in Harry Lime is so firm that he cannot initially understand the severity of Lime’s crimes. He replies, “I suppose that makes the stuff useless.” (Greene, 80) Calloway explains that the harm caused by the diluted drug is worse than simple ineffectiveness; indeed, the diluted penicillin caused infections, unnecessary amputations, and deaths. Then Calloway plays his trump card, bringing up the undisputable evil of poisoning innocent children. “But perhaps what horrified me most was visiting the children’s hospital here. They had bought some of this penicillin for use against meningitis. A number of children simply died, and a number went off their heads. You can see them now in the mental ward.” (Greene. 80-81)

Martins’ loyalty to Harry is so paramount, that even the use of innocent children doesn’t entirely convince him. He replies, “You haven’t showed me any evidence yet…” While Martins is determined to believe in his hero, Harry Lime, without any evidence to his goodness, he is unwilling to accept the horrors his hero is accused of without sufficient evidence. Once the proof is presented, however, Martins feels his world crashing around him. “If one watched a plane dive from its course, I don’t suppose one would chatter, and a world for Martins had certainly come to an end, a world of easy friendship, hero-worship, confidence that had begun twenty years ago in a school corridor.” (Greene, 82) While the reader watches the dissolution of Martins’ belief in Harry Lime, Martins still questions the charges leveled against his hero. “Are you certain that he was the real boss.” (Greene, 82) Martins’ faith stretches far enough to invent yet another conspiracy that could clear his friend, “Suppose…someone had got a line on him, forced him into this racket, as you forced Harbin to double-cross…And they murdered him in case he talked when he was arrested.” (Greene, 82-83) Even after Martins is presented with evidence against Lime, he is still determined to explore every avenue that could possibly clear him. He is unwilling to give up his belief until he is entirely certain of Harry’s culpability, until he is faced with Harry himself.

It is only when Martins is faced with Harry Lime’s lack of guilt at his victims’ deaths that Martins’ belief in Harry’s goodness is finally crushed. Martins says, “Have you ever visited the children’s hospital? Have you ever seen any of your victims?” (Greene, 104) Martins’ use of the word victims shows his acknowledgement of Harry’s guilt. Harry reinforces Martins’ condemnation with lack of empathy for his victims:

Victims?…Don’t be melodramatic, Rollo. Look down there…would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving—for ever. If I said you can have twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stops, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money—without hesitation? Or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax. (Greene, 104)

Harry’s commoditization of human beings with his monetary language, this behavior is in direct contrast with Rollo Martins worshipping of Harry Lime. He sees Lime asbeing larger than life, while Harry sees humans as dispensable dots. His lack of concern for his girlfriend, Anna Schmidt further dehumanizes Harry when he admits to setting up her arrest. “The price of living in this zone, Rollo, is service. I have to give them a little information now and then.” (Greene, 105) When Rollo asks would have happened her he replies unconcernedly, “She’d have been sent back to Hungary. There’s nothing against her really. A year in a labour camp perhaps.” (Greene, 105) The success of Harry Lime is achieved by his use of the people who believe him, the people who love him. Thus belief, as much as it is innocent and noble, also makes one vulnerable to manipulation.

As Harry Lime dies, he whispers to Rollo Martins, “Bloody Fool.” (Greene, 117) Rollo explains to Calloway that he wasn’t sure who the words were referring to. “I don’t know whether he meant that for himself—some sort of act of contrition, however inadequate…—or was it for me—with my thousand a year taxed and my imaginary cattle rustlers who couldn’t even shoot a rabbit clean.” (Greene, 117-118) It’s also possible that Harry Lime is calling Martins a bloody fool for continuing to believe in him throughout their friendship. Indeed, Martin’s assertion that Harry could be capable of any sort of contrition shows that he is still a “bloody fool” when it comes to Harry Lime.

While readers view Rollo Martin’s belief in Harry Lime as virtuous, they also look at him in frustration. Martins’ refusal to accept Lime’s guilt when there is more evidence for it than his innocence may be glorified loyalty; it could also be called naïve and stupid. Rollo Martins’ idealism and optimism remind readers of the world they wished they lived in, while bringing awareness to the danger of reality. Belief without evidence puts one at risk for manipulation and deceit, and crushing disappointment. Postwar Britain was clearly in a cynical state, longing for the ability to believe, but struggling with the risks of doing so.


Child Burial by Paula Meehan

Your coffin looked unreal

Fancy as a wedding cake.


I chose your grave clothes with care,

your favorite stripey shirt,


your blue cotton trousers.

They smell of woodsmoke, of October


your own smell there too.

I chose a gansy of handspun wool,


warm and fleecy for you. It is

so cold down in the dark.


No light can reach you and teach you

the paths of wild birds,


the names of the flowers,

the fishes, the creatures.


Ignorant you must remain

of the sun and its work,


my lamb, my calf, my eaglet,

my cub, my kid, my nestling,


my suckling, my colt. I would spin

time back, take you again


within my womb, your amniotic lair,

and further spin you back


through nine waxing months

to the split seedling moment


you chose to be made flesh,

word within me.


I’d cancel the love feast

the hot night of your making.


I would travel alone

to a quiet mossy place,


you would spill from me into the earth

drop by bright red drop.