Happy Birthday, Johannes Bobrowski
(April 9, 1917 - September 2, 1965)
Yes, Johannes, we do, sooner or later,
sleep each other's sleep. Like you,
I love villages at midnight...
or later when the saloons empty
into the commotion of shadows.
After five years in one of Stalin's
coal mines, wrung-out each night,
head bowed to poems-in-progress,
you loved to gorge on marbled beef
from the pastures of mother Prussia,
pastries, sweet bread, shots of cream.
Was it a sharp, half-chewed nut
that broke from your appendix...
forcing the journey across the river
to sleepwalk alongside Georg Trakl?
Young poets with rucksacks search
Germany for you in morning mist,
kids heavy with the imperative
of filling Moleskine notebooks
with scrape-by hikes along rivers.
We learn, eventually, at faint-last,
there is no Here to remain within,
no land of eternally full pantries.
Only the rivers remain...
older than poetry's first ink.