Despair needles you with its whisper, it is agnostic, it believes in irony, like a fly’s buzz it is perceptions, a busy blood clot that says alive, alive. I’m not the stopped motion, the straight line out. Your garlands are "convivial, festival, sacrificial, nuptual, honorary, funebrial." That spring, when we strolled in the rain, you bent to the stone wall’s alyssum— bloom, stem, and root, you tore a handful free. Against your mouth the petals were a mass of stars winking out.
The Junior Minister waved a hand
toward the courtyard where, he said,
Goering’s private lion used to live.
With him we climbed Parliament’s steps,
walls pockmarked still with bullet holes.
In the conference room the Social Democrats
passed trays of petit fours and coffee.
We were perhaps insufficient, he said.
His voice, uninflected: they shipped
my father to Stalingrad. Forty days
and dead. In the room,
the transcriptionist, the translator,
and security stationed against
the wall. Some time passed.
In East Germany, he said, at least
it was always terrible. Bad luck, he said,
to be on that side of the wall. Even
the apples were poison. We were
to understand this was a little joke.
He brought the teacup to his mouth,
but did not drink. His fingernails
were tapered and very clean.
When you are the victim, he said,
it doesn’t matter who is killing you.