(From my room in the Garrison Officers’ Mess,
Friedrichstrasse, late December, 1974).
In my topmost room with the sloping roof
I draw aside the drapes and look into the night.
The trees, all black, are coated white. Four storeys down,
all neatly parked, lie ten snow-covered tumuli; beyond,
the rimed wrought-iron gates blink idly in a street lamp’s light.
And just across the still, white way, a ghost
against low cloud, another handsome, stone-built edifice
ringed all about by trees; discreetly placed;
secluded, shadowed, and sedate. Now moon comes out
and throws upon the snow-cloaked street
black bars – long shadows of the trees. All’s silent
in the snow’s bright spell. These mansions –
all solidity and style; the nineteenth peeping
through the years and speaking of their grand Imperial past;
of Prussian mettle; Bismarck; Kaiser Wilhelm’s day …
and yes, this hour, a horse-drawn carriage driving by, side-lanterns lit,
hooves muted by the powdered white, drifts easy to the mind.
And over other rooftops, in the old, old town,
among a maze of ancient, gabled streets
dead silent and unpeopled now beneath this midnight’s snow,
the great grey mass of the Marienkirche
stares upon an empty platz, deserted but for
the grave Prince-Bishop; yes, he stands there still,
frozen to his solitary pedestal of stone;
and all there’s much as it must have been
the whole of seven centuries ago.
Tonight, Time tells its tale compulsively –
for in the east grey banks of cloud break free, and spectrally,
the tall stone tower of the Balkenburg stands out,
and high upon the staff the wind has caught
its heraldry – three bars gemel black on white
stream out against the stars. All stark against the midnight stars,
seven centuries stare back at me.
From ‘Memories, Moods, Reflections’