After the Long Bitter Season

Each day in April, they are here again, 
high on the open slopes, under the pine, 
beside the suddenly garrulous streams, 
pushing up from last summer's cemeteries: 
the iris, the lupine, the baby blue eyes.
and we are waiting for each new appearance—
each new signal of redemption—
the earth returning to us again
after the long bitter season.

I want to talk about the Calypso orchids,
here this Wednesday all at once—
two days of the sun's touch just enough 
to coax them out from the cold.  
Winged pink petals on leafless stems, 
they grow where least expected, 
the ground rocky, inhospitable, shrouded 
with sparse dead pine shards.

Each year we think to find them 
in a kinder context, the new, tender 
grasses of a meadow, perhaps, but no, 
this is the soil, the shade, the hardship 
that sustains them. 
I want to sit down on this stony hilltop,
in the middle of this bitter year, 
watch how the orchids 
launch their pink parachutes out 
between one darkness 
and another.

-- Jacqueline Kudler
She was born in the city 
of music boxes, of Brahtwurst, 
of collective pride and guilt,      
of history ingrained  
in its medieval walls, 
and the limestone tribune 
where on some nights    
you still hear   
Hitler's words, 
stones' trembling. 

My daughter was young then
with red curls and freckles,
with wobbly steps           
on cobblestontes where once 
Minnesaenger had sung       
in Middle High German       
von freuden, hochgeziten,   
von weinen und von klagen   
(of joy, of feasting,       
of weeping and wailing)     
and Praying Hands and Durer's Rabbit
peered through                      
shop windows onto the rouch  
surface of an uneasy past.   
She did not know of trials,  
of judgments, of Goering     
and Bormann when she sat     
on the bench at her father's workplace
inside the Justiz-palace.    
Now pigeons and sparrows   
share the lofty site       
of roof, of rigid lines    
Thou shall not kill.       
That night at sundown      
her father lit the Sabbath candles.
I sang Brahm's lullaby:            
Guten Abend, gute Nacht.           
and we looked forward              
to the next day, the Chriskindelmarkt:
Marzipan and Stollen and Gingerbread. 
At the stroke of six                  
we watched the figurines              
on the clock tower                    
do their ancient dance                
gracefully, forgiving. 

-- Angelika Quirk