Germany - to Christmas/New Year 1997
Up to xmas and new year in Venningen, 1997
I stand outside the door of the old renovated house. A stone plaque fastened to the outside reads in German: Site of the Jewish synagogue and school, 1842 - 1940. Above the door an inscription in Hebrew, the chiseled letters freshly painted in gold.
I can see the sounds of the letters. I mouth them, right to left - sh, kh, r, n - as the wind flutters past on this fresh Sunday afternoon. I move the sounds around and around. Then, suddenly, I realise I'm mouthing the word atah - you.
Taken in 1997 (badly) with my camera when I found this and another photo of an estate house inside the Koldemanz church book. She has an uncanny resemblance to my mother.
The picture found inside the Koldemanz church book, rephotographed in 2005
Place: Cologne (Koeln)
The photo I took in 1997 when I found this photo inside the Koldemanz church book
Call from Paris to Germany, December 31 1997
My father David returns my call from somewhere in Paris. Says he'll wait for me on the second of January, to call again so he can arrange things with his nephew, and to pass on my regards to my grandfather. Says he and Patrick, the half-brother I have never met, will meet me at the train station.
Now I'm standing on the cliff's edge overlooking the shimmering harp-sea. Behind me are dark heavy pines and a blanket of shadows, a musky, crisp cold kept at bay by my black woollen coat. There is a big drop, a drop I can't fathom, and then there is the other side, a tanned rocky hilltop with an ancient olive press carved into its flank, the lowering sun painting its contours pastel pink and gold.
Poem - travelling through Germany on the train
Under your white fields
stories lie frozen
like a stern-faced peasant
caught in a sudden drift
And oh how it hurts
this stupid old wound,
ice packed over
a raw musty earth
Now valleys and forests swell
churches sprout like boils
and a long tired ache
in your fluffed, cornered,
and forever hold your peace
under chimes of bells
and icy breaths.
The house in Goettingen where I spent much of my early years. Outside this house in 1972 I had my last memory of Germany - saw a sky full of stars and realised I was about to leave for something entirely different.
Walking in Goettingen, Winter 97
Encountered while on my walk with Wiebke. Old Prussian might rears itself.
Park in Goettingen, Winter 1997