Poetry from Dan Cuddy

Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Often in my wounded warrior years

I think back to Frankfurt, Germany

twenty years after the horror

though I then was

not mindful of the whistle

and bang of bombs,

the dry or the wet mess of rubble;

the streets were postcards reconstructing,

bratwurst sizzling

beer warm, not needing chill,

frauleins in calf-high boots,

mini-skirts, tight sweaters

that your eyes groped wildly, though judiciously.

The sun shone down

as in a travel magazine,

so rich that azure,

the greens dark, bright

in that damp Taunus District climate.

My legs were good.

I walked

one end of the city to the other

never fearing knife, gun, Gestapo, thug;

I walked


the look of the Holy Roman Empire,

of genuine Roman soldiers before that,

the armor clinking or clacking as they walked,

the precision of determined feet on stone, on ground.

I imagined campfires on dark nights,

logs, twigs burning, the crackle,

and the river silent in the shadows out there somewhere.

I strolled by the now and seemingly forever named

Main River,

the stippled white light of noon


and I

even by myself,

mostly by myself,


the scene like Caspar David Friedrich,

a wanderer above a sea of fog,

but the fog was in the mind,

history, not the eye,

in the mind

and then the cold touch of a railing,

and next to me the frown and pull away

of that pretty girl that I would have liked to meet..

I heard stories of the war,

saw the aria of the old opera house,

the building a shell exploded

with a Beethoven burst.

The fog did not lift;

besides imagined Sturm und Drang.

there was only the crudity, the stupidity

of enlisted army life,

only the George Grosz faces

of people I knew,


punks I knew,

kids like me,

when face to face

with a mirror,

and later

through years of sifted sunlight,

time established itself,

the haze of history arose

from its corpse.

I saw in perspective

a personal walk on a stage empty

awaiting the next act of the larger drama.

I was grateful that I lived in less

than Wagnerian times,

the entrances and exits

were losing their impressions

in the accumulating dust,

in the wearing away of wounds

in the sweeping away of the dust.

History is so much cloud;

The brief shapes evaporate

But the essence of storm

Always arises, bit by bit,

And grumbles out to another country,

Bites lightning quick,

Floods with impassioned blood

And roars the rhetoric of anger and grief.

In Frankfurt I roamed the wisps of the past

As if the conclusion of one war was final,

 but it is the human heart that’s always ready for new battle,

arming itself with distrust, suspicion,

vainglorious ambition,

A generation falls dead,

So many puppets rot away,

All that courage, fear, blindness,

Visionary grief evaporated like water,

Puddles of blood hidden, absorbed by weeds,

The dancing flowers of peace so charming,

Disarming nations with the veneer of civilization.

How so much is reconstructed, built with hope,

But all the foundations are built on forgetting, or if

Memory is invoked, the kings, queens, sergeants,

Killers and the fallen are made of bronze or stone.

No blood, no veins, no laughs or tears

Come out of the unchanging mouths of statues,

Posterity that has that faux nobility,

Like scripture has that holier than thou reverence.

Nothing is grounded in the common world of bombs, armor.

The head is still wrapped in historic fog,

----Dan Cuddy


The Gasthaus On Homburger Landstrasse


Johan or “John”

owned a profitable business

a gasthaus

serving Henninger Bier


all manner of whiskey

schnitzel, wurst, pommes frites

that the young depraved American army craved

A somewhat homey place,

the wood paneling,

the white and yellow opaque glass

of the lower window panes,

the comfortable tables,

not too closely spaced;

Locals visited it too,

not just soldiers

that wanted to get off-base

but had to stay nearby,

Edwards Kaserne just across the street

and Third Armor headquarters' gate,

this side half a block down.

John had a glass eye.

He in his late forties

a soldier in Hitler's army,

his frau,

attractive face,

a bit plump

but good living settles, spreads,

sits in contented conversation.

Renoir would approve.

Life moves on.

Certainly, John was not

a war criminal

but a skinny youth

in the bad times,

when harangue and euphoria

were the orders of the day.

John just wanted to get along;

it was his duty to serve,

defend the homeland,

had nothing to do with Jews.

he didn't particularly like Nazis.

He was a dark-haired German

lean, young,

given a uniform, a gun.

John was not an intellectual;

he fell into the general apoplexy,

nurtured no visible conscience

or protest,

just an ordinary man,

Ecco Homo,

the events swarming

before his eyes

within, without his mind,

he just wanted life,

not a soldier's death,

not a hero's monument,

and so,

twenty years after the war

he had a plump attractive wife

who gave him a peck of affection

in public and more in the marriage bed,

three floors above that gasthaus

where soldiers would come and go

talking of drinking and bordellos,

but the American soldiers

were kids

and the couple

like chaperones

kept a semblance of order,

had little trouble with loud voices,

off-key American singing.

A profitable business,

an ordinary life,

not a romantic’s dream

but preferable to the ride

of the Valkyries

one learns to tap forgetfulness

toast the present,

---Dan Cuddy