At Death's Door

Don’t kid yourself

we’re all at death’s door

the question is how close?


Fact is we begin to die 

oh-so-slowly at birth

most of us ignore it


Young people especially 

often feel invincible

daring danger and death

yet when death does come

it’s often in a car or other mishap

or possibly disease or suicide


Past a certain age

you’ll likely die bed

be it in a hospital 

or nursing home


If  lucky, you’ll be at home 

in your own bed

surrounded by loved ones

peace be with you.


© Frederick Fullerton




Sleepwalking

while conversing  with ghosts  among foreign dreams

damned to timeless tramping

and the echo

of empty footfalls

on cobblestone streets.


© Frederick Fullerton


Dream Haiku

she dreamed in chapters

of a book never written

who would publish it?


© Frederick Fullerton

 

Parsing Truth

What’s truth? echoing Pilate  Quid es veritas? or did Pilate pose the question in the Greek Τί ἐστιν ἀλήθεια?

What’s truth?

Whose?

Is it black and white 

or damned to a gray

argumentative 

fog bank?

You may strive

to weigh any statement

or argument with a point

or counterpoint

circular counterargument

eschewing both sides of debate

To what purpose?

True fact

wherever you stand

on earth

and drop a rock

It falls—gravity

There are countless

examples of such truths

but will you point

to those instead

subject to interpretation

or personal perception?

Too many today

seek truth from opinions

they believe in

it’s easier that way

critical thinking

too strenuous

Facts and truth

may be too tedious

painful to parse

go with the flow

and believe 

what you believe

Anyway who cares

about truth

when so many folks lie

maybe that’s reality

with too many stuck

in a paradox of perplexity?


© Frederick Fullerton

Never Too Old: A Poem to Myself

Shuffling toward 75

body and mind wax brittle

memories and words fade

but remember this


You’re never too old

to learn something new

even old dogs learn

through experience


Resurrect your curiosity 

combat your decline

discover anew the gifts

of language and writing


Rediscover the beauty

and strength of words

as if learning a new

tongue from scratch


You can do it

one word at a time

in more than one tongue

hear, speak, write, enjoy.


Ignore your dwindling days.



© Frederick Fullerton

 

Wordle?

No thanks

no games

for me

but maybe 

one

call it

writing

poetry.


© Frederick Fullerton


Winter Purgatory

The euphoria

of those first wintry days

gifting snow and cheer

for the holiday season

fades fast in January

as the galling winter months

lollygag through March

like a ne'er-do-well shirking work.

There’s no illusion of charm

when the sun skulks 

behind a gray curtain of clouds

to peek out as a coy culprit

it’s a season trapped 

between winter’s hell 

and heaven’s spring

a winter purgatory.

© Frederick Fullerton



Frozen Stream Haiku

Frigid nights freeze all

a gurgling stream is silent

dreams of spring a tease.

© Frederick Fullerton



Opposites and Duplicity

When the sex 

was intense and volcanic

they collapsed and slept

as if comatose.


When the sex

was mellow and comforting

they cuddled entwined

and talked for hours


They shared stories

from childhood to the present

and spoke of funny foibles

but hid painful truths


No talk of past lovers

or hints of the sex

taboo yet held fast

mired in their memories


Over morning coffee

their eyes locked

searching for clues

and stories unsaid.

© Frederick Fullerton



Geetler Kaputt: An Anecdote

His name was Joseph but most people called him Jupp. He was my former wife’s father, my former father-in-law. 

I’m not sure if Jupp was a card-carrying Nazi when he served in the German Wehrmacht shortly after Hitler and his Nationalist-Socialist German Workers’ Party came into power in 1933. Following his hitch with the German army, he became a policeman. By that time, the German police was already under the authority of Himmler’s SS. By extension, even though he was a cop, his connection to the SS was enough for him to spend five years at a Soviet POW in Siberia after the German Reich capitulated on May 7, 1945, and WWII ended.

Jupp was married with two children. The youngest was still an infant. He was stationed with occupying Polizei in the Czech city of Brno, which the Germans called Brünn. I never knew exactly what Jupp did as a policeman, but from what I gathered from things he said, he was a regular beat cop.

As Soviet forces invaded from the east and American forces already deep into Germany in the west, Jupp and his family attempted with a police colleague, Pauli, and his wife to flee to Germany, so they could surrender to the American forces. They feared what the Soviets might do to them and their families. 

They were able to commandeer a car from the police motor pool and drove to where the American forces were across the Czech border in Bavaria. However, upon surrendering to the American forces, things didn’t go as planned. The Americans put Jupp’s wife and children and Pauli’s wife into a relocation camp, and then handed Jupp and Pauli over to the Soviets.

The Soviets didn’t think highly of Germans after Germany broke its pact with Stalin and  invaded in 1941, and thought even less of Germans with ties to the SS. In short order, the Soviet officials put Jupp and Pauli on a train with other prisoners to a Soviet POW camp in Siberia, where they remained until they were freed in 1950. 

They were among the lucky German POWs—they survived five years of imprisonment in harsh conditions in Siberia. Other Germans weren’t as lucky, as the attrition rate among German military prisoners was high. Out of some 3 millions POWS, approximately 1 million died in captivity. The Soviets released the first group of prisoners in 1950 and the last German POW was released in 1956, 11 years after the war’s end. 

Jupp and Pauli returned to Germany in 1950 to resume their former lives as best they could. Jupp and his wife produced two more children by 1953. Meanwhile, he once again became a cop and spent most of his career working as a driving instructor at the nearby Hessian State Police Academy in Wiesbaden. Ironically, Jupp walked to work each day.

Since Germany provided police training to police from other countries, Jupp met police officers from all over the world. Whatever prejudices he might have harbored before the war and during his imprisonment in Siberia, vanished to a great extent. He’d often invite members of a graduating class to his apartment for “Kaffee und Kuchen”—coffee and cake, served by his wife Maria.


When my then-wife and I returned to Germany to live in 1974. Jupp accepted me as family and we  became good friends, even developing a kind of father and son relationship. However, like many Germans of his generation, he still struggled with what academics called Vergangenheitsbewältigung, overcoming the past. Typically, he’d attempt to whitewash Nazi Germany’s history by saying that Hitler wasn’t as bad as people thought, but also did some good things. He attributed Nazi Germany’s war crimes to high-ranking decision makers around Hitler, who could sway him to authorize their actions. At the same time, he’d say, “Under Adolf, there was law and order.” Of course, he also touted German achievements in science and technology, adding that while under Hitler, the trains ran on time, Germany introduced its Autobahn highway system, and Volkswagen—became the affordable “people’s car.” It was the kind of desperate rationalization that you heard from Germans in that generation. I didn’t argue with him, but I’d ask him questions and listen to his responses.

Jupp didn’t speak much about what he did during the war or about his time in Siberia as a German POW. But when he did, he usually mentioned his positive experiences. He was a man of many practical talents as a handyman with interior and exterior renovations. He was also a passable landscape artist. Recognizing his talents, the Soviets put him to work at the camp as a kind of jack of all trades. Sometimes, they also sent prisoners with handyman skills into the surrounding villages to help with doing various jobs for the villagers, such as replacing a roof or rebuilding the stoves and ovens in the rustic Siberian homes built of wood and logs.

The only negative experience I recall him mentioning, aside from the usual complaints about Siberian winters and prison camp food, was how his artistic talent once got into trouble. He had been assigned to paint the walls of the camp chow hall and decided the walls were too bland, so he added a design to the bare walls to make the space “more welcoming,” or so he thought. The Soviet brass claimed his design resembled interlinked swastikas, but he succeeded in convincing them he had no intention of introducing a pattern of Hakenkreuze, swastikas, to the walls. He had feared they would punish him by sending him to work in the mine where his friend Pauli worked. Luckily for him, his only punishment consisted of having to paint the walls again—this time without any design embellishments.


Jupp often repeated how most Russians he encountered never failed to tell him that Hitler was dead—kaputt. But the Russians substituted the h in Hitler with a g, pronouncing it as “Geetler kaputt.” 


Note: This story/anecdote is an allegory and by no means an attempt to sugar-coat German Nazism or those "good Germans" who went with the flow. Not all Germans did. Many kept quiet, afraid to voice or act against the regime. In the ca. 12 years I spent in Germany between 1967 and 1983 (with gaps in between) I spoke with many Germans who went along with the Nazis and, who even after the war ended, felt obligated to somehow justify their beliefs. Many held onto these beliefs until they died. I also spoke to many of the offspring of that generation, since most were around my age. Some dreaded going home for the holidays because inevitably discussions would turn to the Nazi era and bitter arguments resulted. 

Consequently, I chose not to confront Jupp about his past and argue with him. I asked him questions and listened to his responses because I wanted to understand more fully the mindset. Despite whatever flaws he had or kept, there was another side to him. The man I knew was always loyal to his family and friends, always willing to help others, to share, and welcome guests--whoever they were-- into his home.

© Frederick Fullerton


Mother Nature Shows Who's Boss

The forecast was for 1-3" (2.5-7.5 cm). Mother Nature laughed and dumped a foot (30 cm) to remind us who's boss.







At Death's Door

Don’t kid yourself we’re all at death’s door the question is how close? Fact is we begin to die  oh-so-slowly at birth most of us ignore it ...