after Bertolt Brecht
Thoughts on the Duration of Exile
(Gedanken über die Dauer des Exils, c. 1937)
No pictures on the wall; why bother?
You’ll be home soon. You live out of boxes,
renting by the day. Tomorrow,
that’s when it will be, tomorrow.
The seedling that’s rooted in the split
of concrete will never make a tree.
Anyway, watering trees is not your job.
You’ll be packed and gone before then.
Don’t meet people’s eyes when they pass,
and that phrase book is dead weight
where you’re going. When the letter arrives,
you’ll know its meaning well enough.
You lie on the bed, staring at the ceiling,
its dirty curlicues of paint peeling back. They fall
randomly, as the shadows of birds
among the tank traps, at the frontier
holding its breath.
So, you decided the coat
and picture need hanging after all.
The pamphlets occupy your days.
Lately though, you’ve noticed
a drift in concentration the longer you’re away,
and outside in the yard, that chestnut tree
is tall enough for shade.