Lipik’s graveyard is lush as tropics,
Croatia, Yugoslavia, 1982
blushing a hundred wet blooms,
the village women tending them.
A vendor sent me to this garden,
directing me in perfect Deutsch
and promising that I could reach
the grave of Alfred Miller,
son of the village innkeeper,
who died hiding, running
with partisans, his yellow star on,
shot near the war’s end by Nazis (Croatian).
Across from the vendor’s kiosk
was the mustard-colored inn,
its name worn thin—so thin
one more rain might have ruined it.
But genealogy resists
the picturesque: no grave exists
for Alfred here, there’s nothing
I can make bloom like these women can,
pumping and watering all afternoon.
Only one grave here has been forgotten:
a German grave, overgrown with weeds
and buried behind three feet
of dried vines. One evergreen
is the cenotaph I claim.
The tulips’ goblets now toast Alfred’s name.
(Reprinted by permission from The Nation.
Copyright © 1997 by Jennifer Rose. All rights reserved.)