Sunday, March 8, 2009

For Hilda

Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier
preceded Beethoven's Apassionata
and Mozart carefully but barely contained madness
In just a trill, it seemed, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
evolved into discordant cries of torment
and eerie screams for breath.
If you visit Berlin go to the Bebelplatz and you will read
Heinrich Heine's 1821 prescient verse that
"Dort, wo man Buecher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen."
Had I not read those first awkward textbook conversations
in teenaged self-consciousness and curiosity, "Ich spiele gerne Schach,"
how would I have grown to understand those chilling lines?
(They translate, roughly, as,
Where men burn books
in the end they also will burn people.)
The Bibliothek at Bebelplatz lies underground,
under Unter den Linden, and its hollow space
is filled wih empty bookshelves defying Marx -- G-d is not dead.
There hover oh so many unwritten, end-jambed poems,
hopes that exploded into shards
like shop windows and human trust on Kristallnacht.
Today glass towers rise even in far-off Boston, in the land
that would not take the broken souls despite the words that 
circle her proud lady's feet in the New York harbor.
In Berlin, just off the Ku-damm, where burlesque and Eiscafe still co-exist,
and gaps between the buildings shudder in the winter wind
stands the Kaiserwilhemskirche, stretching skyward, unrepaired, a bombed-out Gedaechtnis.
Novalis, in his Hymns to the Night, wrote that in daylight 
he lived his faith but in the night he died in fire.
But to him, it was a lost romance -- he kept his life.
How can one explain it? It's drawn me to the language and the land
for a lifetime. But one who lost her father, mother, brother, all, said she believed
her father when he said, "An educated people wouldn't do that."
That? That unspeakable "that," which the rumors whispered,
the boots struck, the dogs barked, the guns rang out,
and the chimneys spouted.
Despite it all, for her, night once again turned into day,
just like grass again grows where her feet once shuffled.
She awakens daily celebrating bread and water in her kitchen.
But when they, like she, who never forgot how to love, or how to teach us,
have at last left us behind, who will remind the next that, like in Grimm, 
the human wolf is always at the door?
It's so simple, really.
His icy breath blows down our own houses,
howling its never-ending untruth:
If they don't go, if they don't go,
it will be we, it will be we
who'll ride the rails to ashes.
Lisa E. Paige
March, 2009
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