The Yacht Clubs

     . . . 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.