Don’t let me be a Nazi Schatzi
Question: How does one write just poetry after the Holocaust?
Answer: One doesn’t.
November 7th 2009
Calling my dad today and explaining to him this poem on Heidegger and his father and his mother-land. Hearing silence through the phone then hearing the sounds of an early celebrated thanksgiving dinner. I feel guilty for not being able to gauge the appropriateness of this. Here language is language I think and feel guilty for imagining a turducken. Research should never interrupt giving thanks. Should never interrupt the stillness I think.
You give me a matryoshka doll and say it was your grandfather’s favorite childhood toy. We make love with body paint. Our bodies painting the sheets which we later hang on our walls which are now my walls but who can’t seem to forget your sweaty palm prints. The difference is the dimension, insofar as it measures out, apportions, world and thing, each to its own.
To be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods.
On February 20th 1939 you attend the rally at Madison Square Garden. You are arrested but never convicted. Language is the precinct, that is, the house of being.
I love you for what my father has become. Remembering. Loving you sitting in a chair mumbling words through cookie crumbs and coffee breath.
It’s not a question of causality so much as it’s not even a question at all. Language is (just) language.
Dear God or god (I can never tell if you care), if you can hear me my father’s father was an American Nazi. He was a baker. Joining the German American Bund and selling bread and playing soccer and going to the Berlin Olympics. I picture him shaking Hitler’s hand. He believed in you. My father believes in you. He has his father’s armband and says he’ll never show me. How can that which by its very nature remains unknown ever become a measure?
And in Vernon Park in Germantown in Philadelphia in 1933, 15,000 German Americans attend the 250th anniversary of the first German settlement in America. The United Singers of Philadelphia sponsor this event. I think to be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods.
We take a trip to Berlin over New Year’s. Visiting the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe otherwise known as the Holocaust Museum. Leaving the bar and walking through Brandenburg Gate. Making footprints in a snowless dark. In the concrete slabs. We fog the slabs with our vodka breath and initial them with our fingers. Pain has turned the threshold to stone.
The next day we wear layers it’s freezing. So cold you ask if we can possibly not go. We cannot not go I say. And we take a train to Sachsenhausen. And we hug there in the cold in our jackets in the “showers” and I swear to god I want to cry. I swear to god I can cry. And it is the being here and the not that I feel on and beneath myself. Language is the precinct, that is, the house of being.
Oh Sweetheart. Oh Darling. You’re my darling. You’re a treasure. Don’t leave me here in this house. In this precinct. Please don’t leave me here with this language. With your language. The language itself is.
The connective tissue binding the objects contained by the photograph is that of the world itself, rather than that of a cultural system.
We know ourselves because Bright Eyes just sang to us and we now make pizza. It’s not delivery it’s Adorno I say and then immediately question the taste of my word play. I feel horrible and tell you that I’m sorry knowing very well you won’t judge me for my absent mindedness. You say I’m ridiculous and suggest that we Hanna Arendt a movie. The boy in striped pajamas I think and say nothing and smile. Language is the precinct, that is, the house of being.
Dear reader, this writing doesn’t feel like me at all. I think it’s important though. The speech of mortals rests in its relation to the speaking of language. And if I footnote Heidegger what does this mean?
And in the seventh grade you send me to a different school. A public school in a proud Jewish community. Only because it first appears on a pinstriped soccer jersey does our last name ever make it onto a bar mitzvah invitation.
In July he dies on your birthday and I sometimes forget how hard this must be for you. Language beckons us, at first and then again at the end.
You call me Schatzi and tell me my bad blood is no longer. And I’m sorry for all known and unknown losses.
And on November 9th 2009, exactly 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell, I end this poem.