So this is how Hans felt
before the war. Hitler’s voice drones
on the radio. A toothbrush in his hands,
his eyes in the mirror. Surely,
he thought, it won’t come to this.
Level heads will prevail. Not twenty years
ago the cannons went silent.
But this time my bleary eyes admit,
it’s been seventy years. Three generations
lived and died with just whispers
in the jungles or Balkan piano clatter.
An inconsequential hundred thousand
Arab children may have starved.
Nothing real, nothing like this. Slow heartbeat,
the distant boom of the end, absolute.
Hans’ wife pooh-poohed the menace then
as mine now. Take Gretta with you my love
while you’re out with the dog. Fresh air
will do you all good. She smiles, urgently
rubbing cream into her forehead. A furrow
across her brow, dismisses any other care.
Real men do not fret about
what they cannot change. Children
to be taken to school, cannons to load.
Duties to be discharged equally.
Centuries alter not man’s destiny, woman’s
insouciance. Accept the force. Indispensable
nation. Sieg Heil!