Vergangenheitsbewältigung*

Personal Photo

sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

You live in a house of ghosts
in a town where your history
hovers in every building.

Any walk you choose
ends at the cemetery,
and it is a home too.

Many of those you knew
lie here now unknown.
Graves of unliked teachers,
coaches who commanded,
the parents of old friends,
war heroes, busy merchants,
last call for the town drunk.

They all reside here now.

Most of it’s old trees
have passed on as well,
Elms long gone. Ashes dying.

The same, sad Civil War statue
still stands silent guard.

You walk and read names.

Each part of a time and town
altered by blight and change,
once something like a polis,
self-contained and complete,
a vivid breathing reality
come to near its last gasp.

They would not know it now.

They have become dirt stains
beneath hard, carved granite.
Just bits of information,
faded occasional memories
not so often remembered.

You were very young when
the town belonged to them.
Never imagining the time
you would stand next in line.

Now you come to this place
knowing it will soon swallow
your own fading stories,
mixed with the town’s earth,
scattered within its history,
merging once again to be
a member of the community.


* Vergangenheitsbewältigung is one of those wonderfully vague German words that could be translated as “the process of coming to terms with the past.”