It begins in Albert Göring’s flat.
A small cramped flat in Berlin.
Albert Göring unaware
that the air is sodden
with the smell of depression.
It could be an ugly tale
about how the brother who cared,
the brother who would not hear
Heil Hitler uttered in his presence
ended his days soused in alcohol,
marrying his housekeeper
just before he died
so she’d get his pension.
Or a fable about the good Göring
and the bad Göring. Then
it could bring in
that time Albert Göring saw Jewish women
forced to scour the pavement on their knees
and joined them—on his knees
scrubbing; his self-degradation
alarming the Nazi soldiers
‘til they ordered them all to stop.
And the flamboyance, the generosity,
the hospitality, the dressing up
outrageously, a fur coat like a high-grade
prostitute wears to the opera, the intimate
knowledge of art, belief
in music, love of trees and living things,
all those protected species
and the 100,000 acres of forest
and the arms smuggled
to the Leftists in Spain.
And a childhood echo:
the pain felt
when sent to Boarding school,
a sensitive eleven-year-old
selling his violin
to buy a ticket home
from that imprisonment
and staying in bed
until they said
he never had to go back.
Except, this wasn’t Albert Göring.
This was Hermann Göring
who knew what was happening in the camps
and saw nothing wrong
with being on the winning side.
It wasn’t the boys’ fault
they grew up in Veldenstein Castle,
that their mother was von Epenstein’s lover,
that Hermann Göring wasn’t, but Albert Göring
might—or might not—have been
von Epenstein’s Jewish son.
Anyway, it was Albert Göring
who got down to scrub the pavement
and helped the Czech resistance
and after the war, had his list,
his little list of thirty-four
Jews he had saved.
Had saved by calling on his brother,
Albert Göring’s big brother Hermann Göring
who let die thousands upon thousands
and who adored Albert Göring; never refused him.
Never minded all those times
when Albert Göring, to save a life,
signed himself Hermann Göring,
the camber of the letters
skewing the horizon
between the men,
letting the black-and-white
run into something unintelligible.
Something—if we could forget
we’d ever seen the dead body
of a Jewish baby
held up to the camera
like a badly made doll—
something we might have called love.