Leipzigzag

I look down at my feet of red clay
The stone threshold is a vale
Worn by hundreds of residents
On thousands of journeys
Behind which lies the story of Nathan
And his married sister Else
In which seventy-two years later I stand
And cross my path with theirs.
What mathematics zigzagging
Across the great gentle curve
Along the angles of history
Brings their heirs to this square
Where I feel they were happy?

The code is broken
By a facsimile map
On the back shelf
Of a dusty museum shop

Promenadenstrasse
Blown to high heaven
By a home-grown bomb
Ironically Angle or Saxon
Or written out of existence
By Soviet canonisation
Comes into alignment
In the palimpsest of charts
Etched back into history
As Käthe Kollwitz

As the lines and angles align
Our trajectory bounces off the city museum
Across the top of the central square
Towards Nat and Dora’s quarter
I fire off a text to a vestige of their family
Dead loss
And shoot off a volley
To the other half in the other Old Country
Prompting tears

Then the rectangle is spotted

Simple concrete
With invisible walls
And bronze chairs
For the invisible congregation
It’s Saturday morning, about eleven
Just the right time
And Nat’s three off-spring zag off onto the rectangle
Sit in the cold back row
Where I wonder what strange geometry
Brings us back here
And what the old man and his sister make of this
I’m sure he’s pleased we got him back home

On Kristallnacht
They melted the angles
And Moorish curves and arches
In their chaotic flames
Then charged the Israelites
To demolish the remains

A hundred and forty haunted seats
Seventy-nine people per seat
Plus interest for 1933 to 1938
By the time the 69th arrived
The maths of dark bureaucracy
Calculated zero squared

We spun off to the first point of the triangle
Twenty-two twenty eighteen
Sixteen

A space

A car park
Emptiness
Covered by a blue cloudless sky
Tranquil leaves swaying

Two years on plus two days
I zig back into town
To complete some symmetry
And get these last lines down
In the fatherland
Land of my fathers
May the old language endure

Emptiness
A car park
A space
By the corner, the first corner
We piece together the crystal shards
Of our past
By reflection
As eighteen so sixteen
Then translated to Carmel Court NW11
And rotated to that opening scene
Of burgerlich Krakow apartments abandoned
In haste
What fearful symmetry

A sweep round the circular by-pass
Brings us to the stone threshold
Number one on the Northern square
Is point two

The address on the birth certificate
With its eagle and perverted cross
What fearful geometry converted that cross
From auspicious object
Turning right and rotated
Night on blood in emptiness
To helpless subject with broken limbs
Nailed to the intersection

Father don’t forgive them
They knew what they were doing
They typed it all out
Signed and sealed it with the eagle
They had staplers and ink pads
That’s how mundane they were

The address after all these years
Turned out not to be home but hospital
The red pin dropped
On the point of birth
The last point of the triangle
Where the sons of the son of the son
Played on the black posts
Rising and falling
Lifting the feet of red clay
In the triumph of fearless play

A vestigial homeland triangle
Superimposed on the triangle of father . son . son .
Is a star
Look up
Burning across time
And space
Ad infinitum…

 Leipzig, 27th October 2012

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1 comment so far

  1. […] which you can catch up on here and here [written 3 years ago to the very day]. And here’s a poem inspired by that […]


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