Every day he changed his suit
his shirt, underwear, socks, shoes, everything.
About us he didn’t have a change of heart.
Every day after lunch he would rest
on the sofa for exactly 10 minutes
or maybe 12. He never hid the hole
that ashes from one of his (six daily) cigars
burned in the English fabric. He also smoked
40 Egyptians (of the Austrian tobacco monopoly)
that he drew out from a thin orange pack.
He had tobacco poisoning once.
Joyce’s Ulysses stood next to Heine on the shelves behind glass.
Did he order the book, or was it a present?
His daily route led him nowhere but the office and back.
On his Sunday walk, you could count on him, stick in hand, in knickerbockers,
a kilometer or two to the inn in the forest
near the iron well, which afterwards he called his hike.
His hand promised tranquility, his eyes – a better future.
I’ve never been given faith like his.
Was he worried? As a proud Freemason,
he never revealed his secret. He made plans
and almost carried them out. He, who would only ride trains wearing gloves
and ate sandwiches with a knife and fork,
would become a poultry farmer, would clean their waste in Shavei Zion!
The war defeated everything.
He stood a little to the side and shed a tear to himself
when we parted at the train station and all that remains of him is
the wave of a hand.
I saw him once more in a dream: a white doll
all wrapped in plaster, straight-backed on a slant in a crowded car
coming from the direction of the Danube.
Now he looks at me from the wall and his eyes question
if I’ll ever know, really know, one can’t
separate life from death, and sometimes language is nothing but
mourning for lost tenderness.