Barth

Photo of my father, James H. Stephenson, taken when a soldier in WWII.
Photo of my father, James H. Stephenson, taken when a soldier in WWII.

BARTH-town in Germany where my father was a prisoner of war in WWII

I like to think my heart
is as hard as stone,
cool and glinting;
tested by the upheaval of life
and lives
to know better than to cry
for personal and planetary
histories that have long gone by.

And yet today I stood by a stone
in a place called Barth
And – truly – cried
and cried
my heart out.

On those flat and flaxen fields
where now the sun
yields its harvest
of pulsating energy divine
that can stream through a machine
And move the pulse of time;

Yes, upon those meadowed lands
where these days grey-haired
German gents
quietly walk their canine breeds,
giving them some yearned for fresh air….

In those same fields
two generations past
sat my father –
bound by barbed wired vistas
as the Baltic winds raced through his frigid bones,
and turned his heart– forever – into icy glass.

A simple metal plaque,
placed upon the lonely stone,
stands as sentinel
to all that once existed in that windswept land –

placed there years
After my father’s
too soon death.

“Nothing has been forgotten”
It mutely claims.

But is that truly so?

My father spent a lifetime
running from his shadows,
and trying to forget a place
his fellow compatriots later said
Could never be
Forgotten.

Oh my father dear,
how I wish I could share this memory
gathered today in this solitary space;

All alone I stood
and wished that you were by my side,
holding my hand,
wiping my tears away –

For this place –
unknown to me until a scant moment ago –
not only haunted you,
but it has haunted me as well.

It has stalked me as a feline might,
or better put a cobra,
twisting around my soul,
squeezing me unexpectedly,
bringing in the rains and pains
that I must have inherited
from you – my courageous father
of the artist soul – who never should have
had to go to war.

And I can only pray
and wish that what I did today
may help in some so subtle way
free my own children of the legacies
of wartime degradations
“never to be forgot.”

Be free, my son and daughter;
Linger long in the sun’s regal song
as you let its solar energies erase
any wartime memories
etched from generations past
deep in your innards, in the innards of
your souls.

Let them go,
to be forgotten as so many
things that ebb and flow in our lives.

And all I can say
is that rather then “never forgotten,”
let’s strive instead for
“never again.”

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