The twelfth of July, like Neruda, wouldn’t
you also need to see IL POSTINO to start

another year off on high, given you’ll never
make it up Machu Picchu on your broken hip?
Come winter, however, can get to a park like
Stefan George’s, my other birthday buddy,

whose poems I defended liking more than Rilke’s
in that life-changing seminar up in Bascom Hall,

highest elevation in Madison, in front of which
Abe Lincoln sits on a massive throne-like chair,

who shouldn’t be in this because he wasn’t born
when we were, but into whose lap I climbed after

taking some whacks from the Rilkean gang, urged
on by Professor H…  Thank The One Above Melitta

Gerhard came along, who’d escaped the Nazis &
after retiring from an illustrious scholarly career

settled in Cambridge, where she befriended a few
of us underlings in the German Department, lit

a candle before George’s picture on her mantle,
and swore us into THE SG SOCIETY. If my mother

were alive, she’d have made SG patches for our
parkas, and off we’d have trudged into the snow,

crooning “Come to the park said to be dead…”
Bernd Heinrich would understand, whose winter

“tales” are a match for “The Winter’s Tale,” in which
I’d have cast Danny Kaye as the clown, but stopped

directing after putting on “Wozzeck” with students
at Oberlin in my salad days, “when I was green in

judgment, cold in blood.” Remember poor Wozzeck
baying, “The moon’s a bloody iron,” before he kills

Marie? Spent the longest time working with the army
actor-doc, examining Wozzeck, whose pulse he found

“small, hard, hopping.” My pulse is hopping now, as I
sit on my 86th milestone, because I’m looking up at

clouds trying to give me a nephology lesson but all
I get is a headache without the giddiness it used to

leave behind. The headache’s because who can get
over Massimo Troisi finding ways to finish Il Postino

knowing he was dying. I try to warn him every time
I watch the film; and somehow hope, as I always do,

that next time Othello will not strangle Desdemona,
nor the postman’s coming son will not be fatherless.




Stuart Friebert’s DECANTING: Selected & New Poems recently appeared from Lost Horse Press, which has also published two volumes of his Kuno Raeber translations. A second memoir and stories appeared recently as well, FIRST & LAST WORDS from Pinyon Press, which will shortly publish BETWEEN QUESTION & ANSWER: Selected Poems of Elisabeth Schmeidel. “Found in translation,” an essay on SF’s ways with many a translation, has just appeared in the Antioch Review.

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