Wednesday, June 11, 2008

11. Giro Account - Michael Hofmann

Giro Account has the appearance of something straightforward. MH is a “remittance man” travelling about and drawing on his father’s giro account. He is 19 and “on a delirium of self-sufficiency.” The poem ends with a phone call from his father.

What’s slightly odd are the details MH gives – the poem starts off at a porn cinema in the train station and then moves onto a train, but there isn’t a straight narrative. The images are like snapshot memories – companions he avoids, a Peruvian woman he stares at in a nightclub, a girl who announces her engagement, the hotel manageress who lets him take away his leftover rolls at breakfast.

The father’s phone call comes as a cover-up, presumably for an affair. He’s supposed to be at a conference but clearly isn’t and most of what he says is pointless. I was intrigued by the fact that the father called so as to have MH as “an alibi, proof of my harmlessness.”

The father sees MH as harmless, not exactly how people like to be perceived. MH won’t give anything away. He’s living dependent on his father and is watching life, avoiding companions, uninvolved. But distance has instilled a delusion of independence and freedom. As for the father, his only interest is in his “new novel plot.” And yet, there’s another unexpected moment earlier in the poem, a sudden shift in tone, which reminds us that moments are seeping away:

At the end of my feeding-tube, I didn’t realise
that to stay anywhere on the earth’s surface is to bleed:

money, attention, effort…

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