BARTH, GERMANY – STALAG LUFT 1 (For James H. Stephenson 1919-1985)

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 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-haried 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 stone.

A simple metal plaque placed upon the lonely stone
stands 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
trying to forget a place his fellow compatriots later said
Should 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 the tears from my eyes;

For this place
(unknown to me until a scant moment ago)
not only haunted you,
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
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 wish and pray
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
like so many things
that ebb and flow in our lives.

And all I can say is that rather than
                                                               Never Forgotten,
Let’s strive instead for
Never Again.


From Mystic Mourn (2015)

James Stephenson