the clutter of hands

in a 1940s french theatre
there is no other sound
like the clutter
of hands clapping

This poem is about the feeling I got when watching Quentin Tarantino’s film, Inglourious Basterds and my fascination with the hand clap. I’ve seen my fair share of war films – and then not enough – but this fictional piece about a set of Jewish-American special forces skinning the heads of Nazis in German-occupied France really opened my eyes. I felt, as I think Tarantino intended, righteous and good as the Jews got their revenge in this virtual, plausible WWII while at the same time I didn’t think it was right – that the deaths of the guilty justified the deaths of the innocent. But that is what art is about in one sense: that we as human beings, as people, can feel some way and yet think another. That life isn’t an experience of one dimension, but of many.

And so I sat there watching the Nazi hierarchy burning to the beautiful face of a Jewish women in a French cinema, where an act of revenge, redemption, and extreme violence felt rewarding and disgusting at the same time, and yet I was fascinated with this idea of applause. That in our time, 350 high-ranking Nazis, including the Fuhrer himself, could celebrate a campaign of cruelty with a universal symbol of social approval, hands clapping – albeit in a work of fiction. If you’ve listened to the soundtrack of a live concert, you’ll know the sound of a crowd applause is always different, yet always the same. There’s a patter, like rain, that is filled with hands coming together at a rate irregular, yet natural. In this poem I tried to capture the normal, eerie, nostalgic, and ominous sound of the applause of the Nazi officers gave before watching their last film.

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