He had survived the fire-bombing of Dresden,
five years in a Russian prison camp, starvation
and typhus. He survived to study in Munich,
raise a family, run a printing business, and celebrate
his 85th birthday on an ocean liner, where
the English captain shook his hand, offered him
a flute of Veuve Clicquot. He dined with the Mahoneys
of Kansas City, who had never been to Europe or
knew starvation and liked catsup with their breakfast eggs
and let him beat them at shuffleboard. At night on deck
wrapped in the zodiac, he turned to Else,
who wasn't there, to see if she was cold
and ready to retire to the comfort of their cabin.
In darkness the ship would churn past Newfoundland,
east to another continent, to Hamburg where
he would anchor in the wake of pigeons, motorbikes,
Bangladeshis selling mobile phones and where
they would be waiting for him. Fresh from
a May shower, blushing and perfumed, Else's roses
would rise to greet him from their loamy beds.
She had left him these daughters—Blanche Neige,
Dainty Bess, and Dresden—companions for the journey.