Leaves and Shadows (Berlin XVII)

The Dorotheenstadt Cemetery is permanent home of more eminent German writers than any other cemetery I know. It is located in in Berlin-Mitte and belongs to the former eastern part of the city.

There are very famous ones like Bertold Brecht with Helene Weigel above or Anna Seghers with Johann-Lorenz Schmidt below.

The style of the tombstones varies enormously – permitting individualism that the living did not necessarily enjoy.

While looking for a proper quote from one of all these writers that have come here together, I came across this little sonnet by Wolfgang Hilbig:

Blätter und Schatten

Nicht neu kann sein was du beginnst –
denn immer nimmst du was dir längst gegeben
und gibst es hin:
wie in der Liebe da es mir gebricht
an jeder Kenntnis: rot wie die Buchen Laub verstreun
maßlos am Wegrand wo ich schon sehr frühe ging …
und kannte nicht den Weg
und kenn ihn jetzt noch nicht
und kenne nicht das Kind des Schatten mir vorausläuft
und weiß nichts von der Sonne die ihr rotes Gold
dem Blattwerk einbrennt.
Und weiß nicht mehr den Herbst
der ernst in meinem Rücken ging und dem ich Schatten
war: stets neu entworfner Schatten ungezählter Herbste.

Leaves and Shadows

New cannot be what you begin –
because you always take what you’ve already been given
and give it away:
like in love where I lack
all knowledge: red as when the beeches scatter leaves
along the trail where I walked so early …
and did not know the way
and still don’t know
and don’t know the child whose shadow runs ahead
and know nothing about the sun that burns its red gold
into the foliage.
And don’t know the autumn anymore
that once walked solemnly in my back and to which I was
its shadow: Always newly drafted shadow of countless autumns.

Having become a shadow doesn’t mean to be forgotten.

The words still reach for us, like the hands in George Tabori’s tomb stone below.

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