Down Epiphany Way
In Berlin on a late summer’s day the Epiphanienweg leads to a cemetery called Luisenfriedhof. I am coming to see you, Corporal Gabler. My second visit. After fifty years.
Monuments face each other across the gravel path, so that the acute morning sun, creating a pattern of serried shadows, strikes the blank rears of those on my left, while lighting up the inscribed faces of those on my right.
The place is full of flowers and German widows. The widows stare at me, they tend graves, some of them recording loved ones born in the very year you died. Almost-old-comrade in the enemy’s army, on the last day of the war you had a Russian bullet in the head, in the street outside your home, wearing your civvies. And me now, obligated to bring you the news of your widow, she too lying at peace, though in a corner of some English field.
Weren’t we all three confirmed Romantics? The triangle has to be closed.
The sun is very warm today and, traversing row after row of tombstones, I can’t find you anywhere. As I speak to you, Wo steckst du denn?, I wonder if it’s in order to call you du. We were never properly introduced, we never even spoke. Just I stood beside her at the grave, holding a trowel that had lost its shape, while she laid flowers on you. That day, also in summer.
Rest, we all wished you rest, thinking of peace for ever. Ewige Ruh’. But now, fifty years on, when I ask the gardener with a watering can in his hand where you might be concealed, he shakes his head, tells me ñ and I know he means help—to ask at the office. A plot for Gabler? Maybe his tenure ...?
‘Rest in Peace’—
and just nearby a plaque,
I cannot face the office, go to the Lietzenseepark instead, where “the public are requested to respect the local residents’ need of quietness.” A Turkish family are spreading out a picnic, a Chinese woman goes through the unhurried postures of Tai-Chi, weeping willows touch the surface of the lake. It is still beautiful, do you remember the tulips, Liebchen? I think of sitting down in Babylon and weeping, and in that moment a faint shower begins.
a sound I can’t hear
the consciousness of leaves
receiving rain . . .