My thoughts walked ahead of me
by Peter Skrzynecki
and nothing was spoken
the whole time — almost
as if the elements had requested
that the visit be conducted
in silence: out of respect for the glory
of the European summer
that blazed down on Germany
like a branding iron.
Nothing forced me to return.
Nothing forced its presence
upon me, seen or unseen,
as I walked into the valley
that a stream ran through
and wildflowers dotted the hillside
like tiny precious stones.
Doves cooed from a nearby farm loft.
War was still being waged
when I was born here
more than forty years ago —
though nationalities knew the end
was being liberated not far away
and the migration into the future
had already begun: the pall of smoke and ash
lifting off Europe, drifting over
the North Sea and into the sanctuary of the stars.
The room offered me its dampness,
its dank smell of timber and vegetation —
giant maps of mildew spread
across repainted walls
and a cracked ceiling
that looked down on an earthen floor:
that invited me to stand closer and discover
the exact spot where I stood in time and space.
I said nothing. Did nothing.
It was almost as if I didn't exist -
disbelieving that I had travelled
from Australia only to hear my heart beating so fast:
wondering if my thoughts would stop now
like parents that had left a child behind
and waited for it to catch up -
and the reasons for my abandonment
might be explained at last.