Nathaniel Tarn

(1928 / Paris)

Ancestors - Poem by Nathaniel Tarn

Small provincial town
in 'my' fathers' land
at creation's edge -
border post deserted,
a line of lindens,
opposite post deserted,
no crossings anymore
as there once were
between old world and new.

'God's Playground' here
as they used to call it:
what does He play with
what is the message of a life,
what is the information,
what can the play mean
from bit to life, and back?

Other end of town:
small sunlit graveyard field
edged with small jungles:
hazels, apples, roses, ferns,
nettles, mushrooms, herbs -
loud with warblers,
storks overhead
birds of my secret childhood.

Rite of return
elegant orange 'bird'
shines on my memory
flying the sun from west to east
back to its homeland,
the two boys clean
pure-blooded heroes -
narrative simple
a nation's testament
torn out of anonymity
the double fit
thanks X and gentle Y.

When was 'our' departure:
before the warning signs
were clearly witnessed
or very near the terminus
of possibility -
by which way forward
under the lindens
was it to left,
was it to right
they went from east to west
and to what purpose
to what end in 'me'?

Scrabble to read the graves
four hours the heat increasing.
Small stone book-shape -
third the way down from top -
grips one pointed gravestone
(like a clown's hat)
perhaps a sign of 'us'
whose trade was bookbinding.

When not finding's no matter -
this is community -
'my' people sunk into
'our' people floating here
their stones on the grass sea.
So that it does not matter
if name sings here or not:
what is a name inside oblivion?

Not enough money
to buy the right equipment
homed into heroism:
arrival no arrival
a crash short of the goal
in a 'great neighbor' country,
the whole scene under glass
shrine in its own museum
when it had been subtracted
out from the swastikas.
Crowd size at funeral
never yet seen in all of history.

Behind the pointed grave,
thick trees spread darkness,
huge long-house trench:
a thousand hidden there -
but not by natural
demise - shot in the neck:
it will take lifetimes
to read those dead.

Came to the sky
these luftmenschen too early
against the grain
of their determinations.
Now I'm at table:
Gorge at my life deep sun!
Take down the charming pilots
and too 'my' ancestors!

In the town,
'they' who are always present
holding a festival
of later generations.
Midway between creations
all ate and drank the same
heard the same blood beat
of excremental music -
we paid them no attention.
How many of 'their' fathers
might have helped
to fill that field?

'Their' flyers:
nothing as infiltrated
as 'our' sallow legions
storm troopers in their time
would soon dispose of.
How could a record flight else
among so many
bring home the corpses
later, hidden for years
from various oppressors
until again, an independence.

While it is on record
(those who don't sleep or dream)
that in a neighbor town
'they' stood on rooftops
many smiling
to watch the shooting circus.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 16, 2011

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