The White Rose
—in memory of Sophie Scholl,
executed 22 February 1943 for opposing the Nazis
How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause?
An end to terror is preferable to terror without end.
Mein Herr, the wolves of Christ follow close behind . . .
Beware, for they’ll rip out the throats of half the world—
as writ in His sacrificial blood in the lost apocryphal Book
of Maimed Beasts!
—the street poet Stiletto
The white rose unbuttoned its first petal coyly—then
another. Bearded grain-like seed heads kept on ripening
among clumps of ornamental grasses to the sides—trans-
forming into fins fused to the tails of innumerable arrows.
Before hard frost hits, they’ll guide dry shafts even deeper
into the cloned heart of the Beast gestating underground
conspiracies against man . . . hell-bent on exterminating
us all. They’ll shudder, snaking in the wind as the Beast
struggles to free itself, and at the onset of early snow,
first bow to their knees, and then without warning
disappear. Sophie, could their guillotine censor
one grain of your truth? Extinguish your light?
Dew left over from dawn ran down the roses
so imperceptibly gravity must have panicked
until I snapped a damp stem with bare hands.
Blood spatter on the petals transformed them
into wounds one might naively mistake for grief,
into wounds of exquisite beauty. Yet who in this life
is so self-absorbed as to claim such wounds as his alone?
Ah, Sophie—forgive me as God would for breathing life back into you.
My sin was hoping you’d meet the friend who came by to visit.
But ignore his clothes, the belly long ago chiseled in stone.
Ignore the slack face hiding under a beard. Ignore even
his stutter and his limping on a busted prosthetic leg.
In the end, ignore every aching surface of the world.
Squint until your eyes burn; then you’ll recognize him,
the one you must freely allow to cup both of your hands
before he shuffles past the fence tower overlooking eternity.
Accompany his shadow then with whatever remains of your mind’s eye
as he grows smaller—and briefer—hobbling toward nothingness
beside that same rutted, muddy road—step by painful step—
while everything you’ve ever known counts/down/to/zero . . .
By then I will have lost you twice, lone witness to the blush
draining from your cheeks—ruined petals of the 20th century.
How do we vindicate history’s countless martyrs—stripped of its mercy—
as you were of the Third Reich’s? We tune in to 11 PM news and eavesdrop
on howling wolves—only to pray they stop. Must martyrs await confirmation
of grace to admit this Beast, this He re-reincarnated incognito as a psychopath,
has, like you, returned? Rumor has it He lives in a penthouse on chateaubriand
and wears $10,000 suits hand-made to order in China with silk and gold thread
by indentured descendants of the Last Emperor’s last one hundred concubines
and not Doberman-sharp uniforms that in better times made real women wet.
Yet beware: Do not mock His patently dyed Aryan head of orange-blond hair!
Word is His xenophobic/misogynist/race-baiting rant penetrates our brains
the way a stiletto slips into a warm Brie—His mobs squealing to spill blood—
our poets decrying the politics of chaos after we come up for air in shock
that in fact we believe He will safeguard the homeland—our Fatherland—
Countless acres of prime real estate once your land ARE NOW MY LAND!—
to line our pockets, and, for the tang of an Old World dish deconstructed
to serve brand new—To build a motherfucking wall! Forget chain-link fence
with all its razor wire cutting bodies thin as lampshades made of human skin
into incongruous shapes for the Retro Neo-Nazi Jigsaw Puzzle People’s Party.
And forget that our hero Humpty Dumpty, poor Humpty, even with the help
of all the king’s horses and men, will never ever be put back together again.
Because this time we’ve cracked his skull and smashed him into the wall.
You never should’ve feared the Beast would be controlled.
Watch us stop protesters cold and terminate them
with our hi-tech weapons of extreme prejudice.
Get this: Even the gullible minorities love us!
We’ll win so much—we’ll tire of winning—
so put your feet up, have a few beers.
Let the bitch help clean up the gore.
Sophie—I fear what I’ve become
has abused forbidden memories.
I fear you might expose der Führer.
I fear you’ll pluck the last white rose.
I fear you’ll bleed and sacrifice this life,
defaulting on all your bonus points again!
Or—if it be the will of God—if Jesus Buddha
Krishna Odin Zeus permits you and the Beast
to breathe that same stale convention hall air
while He whips the crowd into one last frenzy
of gen-u-ine made-only-in-America stupidity,
and you—because the Second Amendment—
happen to be armed . . . what do you do?
For the love of man, what do you do?