Walter Hess

 

Walter Hess

 

(Germany-USA)

 

 

 

JEW´S HARP

 

Poems, Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press, New York 2010

 

(extracts)

 

 

 

SURVIVOR

 

It took some time

to look at all the pictures,

the black and white ones;

to hear those stories once again;

heads nodding toward

her and him;

 

that book of shadows

when we were kids

who knew enough

to fill in that which happened;

knew to perfection that desire,

no, the need to stay apart,

away from them;

 

from that which happened

endlessly to those you loved

but not to you.

 

 

 

CHILDREN´S DRAWINGS

 

The colors of Terezin

have eyes that never sleep,

contain blue thorn and wire thorn,

red sun of Moloch fire.

 

The colors of Terezin

have eyes that never sleep,

blue thorn and wire thorn

that pierce the pupil.

 

The colors of Terezin

have eyes that never sleep,

red sun,

Moloch and Haephestus fire

that rammed razors,

slashing open lids,

the nictitating membranes of the brain

 

The colors of Terezin

have eyes that never sleep,

contain blue thorn and wire thorn,

red sun of Moloch fire.

 

The colors of Terezin

have eyes that never sleep,

blue thorn and wire thorn

that pierce the pupil.

 

The colors of Terezin

have eyes that never sleep,

red sun,

Moloch and Haephestus fire

that rammed razors,

slashing open lids,

the nictitating membranes of the brain

and the network of forgetting.

 

 

 

1938

 

Near the yard,

noon flies.

 

I held his hand

and the golden buzz

of the sun.

 

His hand.

 

The black silk muzzle

of our cows,

odor of sour milk,

cock flapping on the midden,

the barn´s dusty lintel,

and the fine gray web.

Meadow tracks dry

of the morning mud,

 

the forget-me-nots.

 

His hand.

 

See there the silver

and high distant marvel

drawing lines straighter

that the corner of my house

murmuring

en route to Godesberg.

 

Who is the Chamberlain

who splits in the morning,

who sits and chooses

where I love

the silver line?

 

Not the black halo only

About the distant

Flashing drone.

But I knew well

the cow,

familiar,

in the shadow of the great pear tree,

was gone

forever.

 

His hand.

 

 

 

ELISHA´S PRAYER

 

         So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing,

         with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth; and Elijah passed

         over to him, and cast his mantle over him. (1 Kings 19:19)

 

 

What I have is what I have been given

What I ask is to remember:

chimney and chair and furrow;

all the cold mornings and the oxen´s

breath;

the pond´s thin ice in winter an

the refracting shards;

and all my oxen´s names, the twelve that

fed the multitude.

 

When taking my sharp knife to all

their throats,

the knife I had been  whetting

all these years,

I saw the mountain break, and heard

the oxen bellow,

heard the children´s smacking lips,

the thunder from afar,

stillness, and the blazing wind; your work,

your work, oh God.

Let me remember that – my parent´s faces

and the oxen´s bellowing.

 

 

 

STEPHANIE´S QUESTION

 

“Suppose, you weren´t here. Would I be here?

Suppose that like your Opa you had…?

a shadow slickered down her face, a fear

that stopped. She then edged closer to my side

and took my hand as if to solace me.

 

He held my hand when I was Stephie´s age.

Praise and instruction in our step, we walked

a rhythm like the singing of a page

of psalm in Shul. Call and response. We talked.

He held my hand and solaced me.

 

Dear Steph, Survivors have no other task

Than being who and what they are. You ask

What you already know. You are where you are meant to be.

Your very question solaced me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

Walter Hess was born in Germany and emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1940 via Ecuador. Educated in New York City Schools, he has a BA in 1952 from the College of the City of New York, and an MA from the college in 2003. He is a retired documentary film editor. Films on which he collaborated such as “Claw,” and “We Were so Beloved,” have won numerous awards. His poems have appeared in a number of journals. In 2001 he received an award from The Academy of American Poets, and in 2003 a cash award from the Nyman Foundation for a portion of his memoirs. His book “Jew’s Harp” was published in 2010 in New York. He has been married to Hannah Spier for sixty years and has three children and five grand-children.

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