Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “Munich”

The Hungarian Uprising

I was not yet born when they toppled the statue of Stalin. In the street its detached head so large it could have been the boulder Sisyphus was doomed to push upward for eternity. However, on the thirtieth anniversary at the University of Munich I was handed a leaflet.

My poem:

A Leaflet (October 1986)
The quiet mourning
deep dark descent of grandeur.
Drowned elixir.
Three thousand dead as Budapest bleeds.

If I ever visit Budapest, I will certainly go to see Stalin’s Boots in Memento Park.

Hans and Sophie Scholl

In Munich I lived in Schwabing, a borough once the home of prominent cultural figures like Thomas and Heinrich Mann. I was unaware of it being better or worse than other parts of the city, but my decidedly downscale lodgings may have played a role. I am not sure whether it had become what present day Alexanderplatz is to its previous incarnation written about so eloquently in Döblin’s masterpiece.

It was very simple: a bed, a small refrigerator, and even a tinier sink, and a hot plate. I ate mainly at the University of Munich mensa (cafeteria).

In front of the university was Geschwister-Scholl-Platz, named after a brother and sister who were key members of The White Rose Movement, a small group of university students and a professor, who opposed to Nazism wrote and distributed pamphlets. Here are some lines from one of them:

Since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way … The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals … Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!

On a very unfortunate day, Hans and Sophie Scholl were caught in the university atrium. They were beheaded less than a week later.

Today you will find this in front of the university:

A poem:

I Sit

I sit even at this hour at a small university bar
having walked the marbled halls past statues.
And so this is where they stood,
and this is where the other emerged
to catch these two descending
alone among the spiraling staircase.

Willy Brandt

A quarter of a century ago I spent time in Munich studying German and during my time there I was fortunate to see Willy Brandt speak on two occasions.  The first was in a smoky beer hall where mugs were raised in cheers to him.  The second was in Marienplatz where he spoke of the need for tolerance.

Here’s a poem I wrote about the second occasion:

Willy Brandt

With what force were words delivered
and with what fervor brought our hands to clap.

A man standing with dignity
echoing out
into the early evening truths.

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