Martin Avery, writing teacher and author of many books contributed this:
Heinrich Heine And I Went Walking By The Fake Lake
Heinrich Heine and I went for a walk in Toronto during the G20 meeting to see the Metro Convention Centre and join in the protests against globalization and the idea that selected leaders from the richest countries on the planet could set the agenda for everybody on Earth. After throwing some eggs and spray-painting anarchist slogans on the CBC building, we grabbed a cab and went down to the CNE to see the fake lake.
Heine had been out of the picture for a long time, so I had to fill him in on what was happening. I told him Canada’s Conservative government had shelled out $1.9 million for a display called the Canadian Corridor that included a fake Muskoka lake.
The exhibit was intended to give international reporters who couldn’t make it up to Muskoka for the G8 a taste of cottage country and to provide a backdrop for television crews. The display was inside the Toronto media centre on the CNE grounds.
The fake lake had a fake dock and fake canoes and a few Muskoka chairs. The budget for the two summits that overlap on the last weekend of June has been pegged at $1.1 billion. We call it Fuddle Duddle Puddle, I told him. Or Swine Lake, Pork Barrel Bay, Piggies Cove. Lake Takenmytaxes.
He said it reminded him of Lake Lethe and of a time he saw a crowd of flowers in bloom by a lake in Germany, one summer, and how he wished he had picked them, years later, when he was dying.
“How I regret I never fully had that sweetheart in her bed,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said. “I know what you mean, but, well, what can you do with a banjo when you’re lazy and the moon is full?”
He said, “Often there is a violet light that burns inside my head like a cloying rhyme never fully closed, and there are doors where my eyes, ears, mouth, and nose should be. What could that mean?” he asked me. ‘I have a foolish heart?’ I gave him a friendly punch in the arm and reminded him of the play he wrote, called Almansor, about the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, during the Spanish Inquisition.
“You wrote, "Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings".”And I told him that, a century later, his books were among the thousands of volumes that were torched by the Nazis in Berlin's Opernplatz.
We talked about his conversion to Christianity, and back, and I asked him what heaven’s like, even though I know people on the other side are not supposed to talk about that.
“It’s like this scene with the lake, the dock, the canoes, and the Muskoka chairs,” he said, “in a way.”
“I knew it!” I said.And then we stopped to buy some bottled water from Lake Lethe.
“Thanks for coming, Chaim” I said. “L’chaim!”
“Forgetaboutit,” he said with a smile. “And keep your eye on this government,” he added.
Notes: I was thinking about the G8 in Muskoka and G20 in Toront, and I wanted to write a poem about the ‘fake lake’ when I got the request from Moribund Facekevetch on Facebook. I thought I’d rewrite Ka’naan’s soccer song, “Wavin’ Flag”, but make it about the fake lake. But then your note got me thinking about Heine and how much I’ve wanted to meet him. I’ve been writing about channeling Balzac, lately, so I channeled Heine. I didn’t make up this story, I just reported on what happened, as Kafka used to say.