. . . and the holocaust was complete. —The Great Gatsby Like a question in a dream Whose answer lies across the water In a green light of hope, in a slow scream Beginning with a single breath Exhaled in a dining room beneath a tapestry . . . What happens is the stuff of history. What lingers is the new reality Of photographs and printed words, coalescing Into colors in the dark behind closed eyes: The greens of hope, the yellows and pinks of death. The passage from the hatred in the heart To the absurd, from passion to the nearly empty day, Like the reductio ad absurdum of some plan— What starts in fantasy or fear becomes A sky of softly colored clouds Whose simple beauty mirrors nothing. Whose indifference is a way of understanding The banality not of evil, but of romance In the old sense, of complexity and art, as the past Unfolds into an ordinary future, year by year . . . The surface of the water is alive with waves. The bus leaves from the Bahnhof, driving west Across a bridge and towards a nursery Selling hothouse flowers and shrubs. Here and there It stops for passengers, pausing at a corner Where amid the lowering anxiety of the afternoon, The sense of something breathing in the air Above the marker for the Haus der Wannsee-Conferenz, It suddenly turns right and begins a slow descent Along the road that leads to the yacht clubs.
From Ninety-fifth Street. Copyright © 2009 by John Koethe. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.