Tuesday, 20 August 2013

I Left My Heart In Dresden (A Poem in Five Parts)

Decided this needed to be posted separately for space purposes.

I Left My Heart in Dresden
I woke early in the dawn,
The state radio screaming its
Nonsense, the glinting black
Of the militia men stomping heavy
The cobblestone outside and
Knocking the window shutters
With the wood of their rifles.

I grumbled in mute voice,
Hauled my boots from
The lockbox at bed’s foot,
And laced them, drew
A shirt, a jacket,
A pant, from the closet
And, fingers numbed with
Night, buttoned carefully.

Taking the stale bread and
Dulled tea leaves from the
Cupboard, I sawed with a
Boot knife to rend a wheat
Chunk off, and sprinkled
Leaves, like salt, in
The mug’s bottom.

Tapping my shoe, unwantedly,
On the board-floor to the
Shortwave trumpet blares and
Cymbal crashes from the houses
Across the alley way; I
Went to shout, to scream and
Yell, at them to cease the noise.

Though I was never one to speak up.

From Berlin to Bavaria, I thought
The scene the same: men swigging
Their ash-burnt coffee, reading
Papers writ-long with Horst Wessel
And Rosenberg doctrine, women
Cooking the last of the family’s eggs
In scrap iron pans, making
One stretch to feed five.

The clock above struck an
Octet, and I dragged my way
Up the staircase, feeling the
Wallpaper peel beneath
Fingertips; the speakers commanding:
“German strength, German strength.”

I pulled a work cap
From atop the closet bar,
Stuffed the shirt with two
Cigarettes and made one last
Move towards the bed.

All the while, stepping lightly,
Not wishing to disturb, I
Had been wandering not to

“Dear, I’m afraid, you’ll
Have to face today,
Where not a thing is
Different since the last,
But, as well, where we
Still know our love.”

The birds scattered amongst
The sky like autumn leaves,
Running like shrapnel, like
Buckshot, from the draft
Winds of targets and great stars.

The siren screamed in red and
Black, lights warning of coming
Brimstone. Becoming deaf from the
Constant whir, the constant whine,
I ran from the line, dropping
The hammer to concrete with a

Mechanist’s clatter, rushing past
The men with holsters and
Fatigues, and the women
Clutching children to their
Skirts, to the house.

As the sky fell in around
Me, around the whole city,
The clouds seemed lit with
Kerosene, the rooftops
Set with charges and dynamite.
Rubble slammed upon itself,

Revelling greatly in its excited
Futility: no rock, no fire,
No gun, no act of man nor
God, could stop my thought,
My legs, my heart, from movement.

I spun around the final corner,
Breathless brain pounding from
Heat and noise, but sorely
Determined in exhaustion. To
Not lose myself, to not lose
Ourselves, to not be torn

Asunder by mere fires of
Men’s construction, by only
The ersatz whims of will-
Breaking shrapnel: no, I
Said, they shall not shatter


There was no sound as I stared
Into the impenetrable, oil-black,
Like night, of the smoke,

Hemmed by the red brick and
Smashed grey steel (last testament
That once a home was made

Here). Choking on the fumes
Like the last gasp of a
Dying engine, I slid beneath

A hut made of two cracked
Slabs, searching for a
Breath, a pulse, an open

Eye, amongst the pallor
And chaos. A sight of
Gold, or linen, or porcelain

Being all I wanted. That I
Did see, laying like a
Lily thread amongst black

Ash, yes, there she
Was, but not the same,
Having no breath, nor pulse

Nor nothing.

I hail this clear beer of
Vienna to all those men
Who drowned us beneath the
Ceaseless drive of their
Vision, the clanging ardour
Of their trelice-like thought:

For Herr Gobbles, who ran his
Speakers all over wide
City blocks, linking houses
Upon homes together with
His hate, his fear, and
Stole away our people’s

For Herr Goering, whose
Promises of unfallen
Bombs upon our good,
Just, glorious Reich,
Were wiped clear in
Smouldering wreckage of
Buildings, cities, lives

From Bavaria to Berlin.

For Herr Adolf, the lovely
Gentlemen at the front of
The crowd, a neat moustache,
His hand raise over us
All: a guidance, a symbol.
Oh, he was ours, ours
Alone, for worse or better.

Our gods became four-cornered
Blades, our leaders devils
With silver tongues.

With all my heart, I drink to you.

With all my soul, I drink to you.

For my friends, I drink to you.

For my love, I curse you.

You and yours,
From mine.

Time has a most wicked way,
Of robbing us of our lives,
An hour gone twice-dozen a day,
Whenever the church bell chimes.

When winter first came, snow
Battered us in hospice camps,
Our recoveries came so slow,
Our lives becoming rubber-stamped.

I had but memories and pictures
Of faded ones had and lost;
Bettering is but errant stitches,
And time but a creeping moss,

Draping lives in shadow-fog,
The night looming over day
Spreading over field and bog;
“Not true”, you say, you say.

I’d sit here forever, if ever I
Could, with these glass men,
Letting out all mournful sighs,
Of past lives so surely spent.

Time shall heal all wounds, you
Say, that I should move on, let go

But I left my heart in Dresden,
A long, long time ago.

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