Calling your name
I never knew my grandfather
never made his acquaintance
nor felt his affection, his closeness.
I talk often to the dead,
try to share moments, explain my fears,
or to ask for their opinion.
I speak to them to make a connection.
Will they answer me from a distance?
Do they know my apprehension?
Hard to hear them in the noise
of this side’s distracting diversions.
I imagine an old man with white hair
holding my hand, smiling,
as we walk through streets,
lined with chestnut trees
and pass through wheat fields;
he is talking to me or remains silent.
Silence is often an answer
to questions whose response
would be too elusive.
In this dream we have a dialogue:
he explains things to me
and I ask hundreds of questions
to discover an unknown domain.
We have now a conversation
between rows of graves,
where startled deer watch the living
who search for traces of the dead,
stand motionless on the clearing
of this peaceful location, so soothing,
that even the hind and the fawn
are surprised to hear steps
on the carpetlike lawn.
I would have liked to listen to him,
to his experience and vast knowledge.
He suffered two wars,
survived the first, lost a son and a daughter.
He did not see the end of the second
nor Hitler’s death which he yearned for.
Nothing remained of him:
He not only lost his life.
He lost everything.
Only a handful of ashes is left
in a plot, one meter by one meter,
with a simple headstone.
I have a yellowed photo,
mounted on brown cardboard.
At the bottom it says: Atelier Raspe
Imperial court photographer 1894
an illegible address on the reverse side
handwritten in gothic script.
His permanent address now is:
field twelve, row eight, grave thirty.