Winter Elegy

[This is an elegy for my friend Helmut Schaefer who died of bowel cancer last Sunday. ‘Schaefer’ means ‘shepherd’ in German.]

Winter Elegy

Helmut, I knew it wasn’t a crash hot collection of signs
when maggots fell onto our bed from some invisible dead rat
in the ceiling, some mad neuroscience drop-out in Colorado
dressed up as the batman joker & shot up the midnight audience
at the Aurora watching The Return of the Dark Knight
while the first anniversary of that fascist’s massacre in Norway
& my own bowel cancer operation dawned through winter
drizzle, the last time I saw you weak & wobbly in your armchair
by the fire still gasping from the last brain tumour removed
& the old ram you’d had put down for sending you for six
in the wet paddock attending your ewes, some contractor
on his oversized tractor hadn’t noticed the small sour cherry
I’d planted for you in hope against hope & co-Teutonic nostalgia
for the beneficence of blossoms & sauerkirschtorte. But signs

are prescient only after the event, & now you’re gone
& all that’s left are images of learning from you, old shepherd,
the art of slitting sheep throats & working the warm skin
from selvedge & brisket in a cold shed filled with classic FM,
the light that lit your eyes when you talked of class trips
to the dead heart, that arid place you felt most alive. Now

under the sliver of a waxing moon, mid-winter, among
black branches small white stars of cherry plum bloom.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on July 29, 2012.

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