In the Lake Region
When you open the door, everything falls into place—
An old woman, feeding ducks, seems as old as Leni
Riefenstahl. At the base of the hill, chestnut trees, not yet in full bloom,
are younger—but probably as old as her films.
All is wet and bright. A hedgehog or God-knows-whose-soul
is rummaging in last year's leaves. Dead water and living water
fill the plain. The twins Celsius and Fahrenheit
are predicting spring weather—while a shadow obscures
the past (just like the present). The first serene weeks scour the bridges
in a peaceful corner of Europe between Wannsee and Potsdam—where
much has happened, but, probably, nothing more will.
For days we have been watching a ragged crow—in the garden,
sometimes on the roof. The ancients would have said her
stubbornness augurs something. Emerging from the wood's
depths, she lights on one antenna crossbar
then another, her surface bright as mercury
in a thermometer's glass. But these are fever marks
we are incapable of understanding. The beginning of agony?
The past does not enlighten us—but still, it attempts
to say something. Perhaps the crow knows more about us
and about history's dirt than we do ourselves.
Of what does she want to remind us? Of the black photos, the black headphones
of radio operators, black signatures under documents,
of the unarmed with their frozen pupils—of the prisoner's boot or the trunk
of the refugee? Probably not. We will remember this anyway,
though it won't make us any wiser. The bird signifies only stoicism
and patience. If you ask for them, your request will be granted.
(2008) Tr. Ellen Hinsey