Friday, 11 November 2016

Sorting Photos

by Leonore Hildebrandt


I grew up in the Nachkriegszeit.
Like seedlings defying
broken soil, we learned to observe
the happy occasions, our birthdays.

The past was treacherous –
our burned city, the rubble
dumped into moats and covered
for wider roads – lessons ravaged
by new routines.

How do I choose my story
without inventing?
The album turns into a book,
or rather a tree whose leaves return
sentiments to their roots, burial sites –
the page replete with unseen losses
about to happen –
a last reunion with all my siblings,
our four faces clustered together...

How attached we are to living!
The book is bearing heavy fruit.
Silent like the cellars
that were never opened
after the houses collapsed – my parents,
who had spent all their pasts
before I was born.
I drank their omissions.

And here with me are my daughters
facing the camera, my hands not merely
resting on their shoulders, but grasping –
gently, yet distinctly – as we incline
toward each other.


Note: Nachkriegszeit, literally after-war-time – in Germany the period following WWII.

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"Sorting Photos" was first published in Poetry Daily, Feb. 7, 2015. http://poems.com.

Leonore Hildebrandt is the author of The Work at Hand and The Next Unknown. She has published poems and translations in the Cafe Review, Cerise Press, the Cimarron Review, Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, The Fiddlehead, Poetry Daily, and Poetry Salzburg Review, among other journals. A native of Germany, Hildebrandt lives “off the grid” in Harrington, Maine. She teaches writing at the University of Maine and serves on the editorial board of the Beloit Poetry Journal.