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Fragments of a Journey

A Fistful of Life

Fragments by Jose de Koster, Blog 9

Fragments of a Journey

A Fistful of Life

Blog 9

Hi Everyone. In this blog, instead of carrying on with the story, I have decided to include, instead,  some of the poems that are to be found in the book and which do not, and will nt, feature in episodes of the autobiography because they are not integral to the story but are included in a separate section, entitled "Particles". I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have


When Che was alive, the people

wore berets and smoked thin cigars,

shouted and looked sombre,

smiling only when the word, 'revolution'

spoke its name.


The berets are back in cupboards

or thrown out. Cigars are more expensive

and even this ones have lost their flavour.

The look of deep thought smiles no longer.

Revolution now, could mean Khomeini or Pol Pot


Che, you died not only

in a shabby little room in a Bolivian Police station

but also, Che, inside the heart of the memory.




Osip Mandelstam*

Tired bones thrown into a grave with other bones

is not the end... for each night at ten,

I lay you out, sleepy hands and dead feet

the skull awake on a slab of gold

and dresses in the fineries of your long gone poverty

with God's finger on your forehead.

And from the voice of Akhmatova

(the last sound of a Tartar princess)

I borrow a sound, a word, a drop of honey

and I wrap your defleshed body in that word

gently, my brother. Then

I fill the grave with you

and wave my fists at the white sky

and sing my songs of remembrance.

Remembering for you

of what I cannot articulate – yet do know within my soul

and curse for you, the gigantic death-dream of Stalin,

silence the knocking fist on your door

and return to the womb

the essence of that evil

which threw tired bones into a grave full of other bones.

Or shall I simply lay you out at ten?

Forever.Oh, Osip, sing on.

*Osip Mandelstam was a Russian poet who was imprisoned by Stalin and sent to a guag in Siberia where he died from cold and deprivation



High above the roofs of Moscow

an eagle hangs silent

its claws ready to shatter the human soul

flung wide like a scream across the minds of men.

Down below, a man stands trial,

sits before a wall of grim, forbidding faces

in a cold, sinister room of a grey, squat building oozing menace.

Hissing, snake-sissing sounds are uttered.

“Dissident!” it sizzles

The man's face, like a vault with its door shut tight


betrays itself momentarily as the macabre accusations

pound into his brain.

Soon, his name will become a blade of grass

somewhere on a steppe in in far-white Siberia.

His bones will yield pain back to earth

and his eyes will fill a flower.

“Shcharansky, Shcharanskyyyyy” will cry the wind

as it blows through the trees

and falls dead against the closed heart of Soviet thought.

Somewhere in a forest

a hand points up from under the sod.

It is Galanskov fingering our guilt


Remember this,

A poet dies only when

no-one reads him anymore.







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It is the anniversary of Guus de Koster on Monday 13th September. I came across this page while trying to find videos of him acting. I am one of his Great Granddaughters -Hope. I remember Jose coming over from the Blue Mountains to Auckland to visit my Papa. I have fond memories of Jose teaching me how to paint. Thank you for creating this space where we can come and remember them.
Please keep in touch or share any photos you have.
Take care!


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