Dead or Alive

This city, walled by the centuries into a hill

Enlightened by Calvin's teaching that lifted men

From their death in trespasses,

To rediscover faith in their election

To a place in the scheme of things.[1]


The republican canton finds new life

Beyond the flags and control posts of nations

Uniting for peace in a fractured globe [2]

With a charter that denies people a say

In controlling their own lightened darkness.


Its streets spring to life with the buds of spring

Recorded in the city annals as light shines on new leaf [3]

Sprinkled around rose petals adorning milky bubbles

Gurgling down an early morning bath plug

Massaging life into readiness for the days ahead.


Two men are alive with angelic night-time messages

Brimming with hospitality and the shared joy of life

Which three and a half decades ago

Was mourned for a five day infant [4]

Who left no flickering image to be adored on stage.[5]


The climbers ascend Saleve's summit

Aiming ever higher in the expansion of discovery

That a city can die eternally

When its people stop searching for the source

Of their life before death, and beyond.


But this city laughs at next day's Tribune [6]

As the journalist jotted down random opinions

Of early morning visitors still playing with words

To describe a place alive to its future

As the old man moves out of check.


The city awakes from its night life

As the mournful notes of a Korngold opera [7] fade

Into the lilt of a Holberg suite, andante religioso,

With Peer Gynt facing the morning

And the brightness of three days more.


22 April 2006

On our return from Geneva, and with deep appreciation to André and Patrick.


[1] A fundamental tenet of Calvinist theology

[2] The League of Nations and then the United Nations

[3] The custom continued for centuries

[4] Alan John du Plessis - born 35 years ago on 21 April. Catherine had texted us in his memory

[5] The plot of the opera

[6] A Geneva newspaper - we'd been interviewed about why there were so few tourists in Geneva.

[7] 'Die Tote Stadt' at the Geneva Opera.