In Europe by William Ray

“They’re completely drunk.”
— Mephisto

Close shadows of many angles
Covered rounded figures —
The idle, the unemployable, the angry.
On seeing my true darkness,
One pale shade fractured from the others
Circled my person, gathering teeth for his
Venomous “Heil Hitler . . .
Ku Klux Klan” — confidential — more
terrible than a shout.
I couldn’t run, so another gray shade
Pulled him back into the darkness.

I knew Europe then:
From the ennui of the theater staffer,
Not eager with her phone, uncomprehending;
From the still shades outside;
That history of darkness
That spits fire, leaves stones of
That breeds youths more crooked than
those shadows,
Hollering, honing their

All the graffiti hanging, negating the
Neo-nazis couldn’t this night stop
Nazis from bubbling steadily into my brain.

Nazis. In Poland.
Polish Nazis.

At the end of the first dance in the theater
The pale one who crept to a forward seat
Made me jump — but he only pulled
the curtain.

The dance had been fine
But the skeletal faces of the male dancers were Nazis,
Their businesslike movements, SS.
I was cheered by the “depravity” of the last dance.

Shades stood, leant, spoke their death breath
On the outside as we left
A cab seemed to squeeze into the street’s wedge
From nowhere —
We were in and gone.

People ask us, “Will you see more of Europe?”
The university’s offer of a job had included the note
“Major German cities are easily accessible.”
But our answer is the temporal, spatial
Map we’ve blocked off,
The lock and chain on the door.

It has taken too many days to
Wipe away one boy’s filth.

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