Not even the moon can light
your path tonight, nor the stars
that wince down on you
like eyes behind which
a terrible migraine flexes the brain.
They are the eyes of Gods’
stupidly staring as they have
for centuries—you pay no mind.
You are lost to them in your death frock:
the whitened skin that settles in,
blooming on you the way a bruise
gradually darkens. The sky too
pales through our window squares,
from pink to blue
just like you. Ferrying
the sounds of birds and cars
into our bedroom where you lie
in a puddle of night sweats.
The sounds of 6:00 a.m. cumulate
as your breath rattles
to a halt. You are
porcelain now; a doll,
hardened all over as you cast
your death-stench about the room.
The cold you give makes a morgue-
slab out of our bed, and issues
from a realm as unattainable as life.
(Berlin–May 10th, 1933)
“Where they burn books, they will,
in the end, burn human beings too.” –-Henrich Heine, 1822
They are an army on the march,
the students of Berlin, reverberated
footfalls fill the night that their torches flicker
into light before them, darkness opens
like a passage door—
folds closed again in their wake
leaving the streets blank with murk.
Their songs and cheers engulf the city
from the Opernplatz. They heft
armfuls and oxen carts stuffed with books;
pages rustle as they rattle past,
like witches on the way to the pyre. The fire moils,
flaps with the sound of a flag in wind,
throws odors of burnt-out houses into the air.
We watch from our windows above as they toss books
dried as sun cooked corpses into the flames
and bark out songs of victory while we pray,
clutching David’s star around our necks.
The stench of charred book flesh drifting
across the façade of Berlin
were words that Brecht, Kerr and Heine once penned
ascending to the heavens as embers.
(For my mother)
You were a Xerox of him,
nine months printed, the flesh
colored ink of the womb still
drying. I wanted to ball you
up and pitch you like trash
into the waste-bin, listen
as you crinkle out of existence,
and then hit the print button again.
© Shawn Nacona Stroud
Shawn Nacona Stroud lives in Springfield, Ohio, where he works in graphic arts and attends school full time. His poetry has appeared in Mississippi Crow Magazine, Here and Now, The Poetry Worm, and Loch Raven Review. After the loss of his partner of 11 years he took a break from writing and publishing his work for a while as he healed, during this time he discovered that writing and poetry can be healing in itself.