Baptism in Dresden

“Baptism in Dresden”

 

You were bathed

In history

Before

You were bathed

In fire.

 

Now you are

A city

Unstuck in time.

 

The art of the ages

Fills your halls

And galleries

Like beautiful mutes,

Staring unflinchingly

Into human eyes

That cannot help

But look away.

But the teenage girls

Do not look.

Instead, they sit

On circular couches

Like in the parlors

Of old,

Besieged by the work

Of the masters,

Running polished nails

Across tiny screens

To catch

The latest gossip.

 

So it goes.

 

In the corner,

I think I see

Mark Twain.

His hair is red

Instead of white,

And he’s wearing

Brown corduroy pants

With a green sweater.

 

I smile at him,

And he whistles,

“Poo tee weet?”

 

Then he melts

In the flames

Of time,

The same flames

That scorched

Your stones

And sculptures

And left them

Charred

Forever.

 

The children

Sit around

The austere

Figure of Luther

In the square.

He threatens

To find

A church door,

But he too

Is frozen,

Eyeing the buses

Turned on their ends

Driving into the sky.

 

Construction crews

Are still working,

Have been working

Always

Since 1945,

To reclaim

Your former glory

Like a troop

Of hard-hatted Gatsbys

Dreaming of the night

They kissed mortality

And were doomed

To a holocaust

Of reprisal.

 

I want to tell them

They can’t repeat

The past,

But we are

Separated

By more than language,

More than time.

 

Like you, Dresden,

I am unstuck,

Have always been so,

Born to parents

Of another age,

Nestled awkwardly

Between cousins

Who were too old

And second cousins

Who were too young.

 

I think of my uncle,

The one I never knew,

Whose picture rested

On my mother’s

China cabinet.

He seemed so clean

In his uniform,

Ageless in black

And white,

Frozen forever

With his charming smile.

 

Like you,

He burned

In the fires

Of war.

 

His fortress flew

Over the fatherland

Raining down death

On those

Who would reign

Over all.

He died in the doorway

Of his plane

After his men had jumped.

They fell

Like upside down drops

Of rain,

Their white shoots

Turned upward

As they floated

Downward

To certain capture

And likely death.

 

They watched

As my uncle

Exploded

In a mixture

Of metal and fire

And disappeared

Into the nothingness

Of the night.

 

I wonder if he was here,

Floating over you,

Sending down bombs

Filled with fire,

Burning away the sins

Of your fathers.

 

I think he was dead

Before that fateful night

When a young boy

Gave birth to a writer,

Crouching in a slaughterhouse,

Hiding far within himself,

As hell itself

Engulfed

A city of art

And culture.

 

I don’t know

What to say to you, Dresden.

 

I just know

That when I saw

Your stones

I cried.

 

I can’t tell

If I did so for you

Or for me,

But it made me hope

That time

Can still cleanse

with water

As well as

With fire.

 

I wonder

If the heavens

Are full

Of enough tears

To wash away

All that we were,

All that we are,

And all that we ever will be.

 

(I chose to use the same format for the video as I did with Charleston.  The music in it reminds me of time, which seems fitting for what I was experiencing.)

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