Lunch with Eichmann

by Mike Ross

    Rhine wine glows above white linen, sparkling silverware.
    Multiple courses, soup, salad, symmetrically separated by butter pats,
    crusty rolls. Rouladen, the main course, within each serving lies hidden
    a sweet pickle, so much polite chatter, too,
    between people who scarcely know one another.
    How welcome this respite from earnest travel,
    leaving little behind except a trail of crumbs, bits of sweet bacon
    the wait staff will dispose of.
    Their aprons whisper Haus Sanssouci,
    but tasteful, spotless, everyone
    observing rules that codify civility.
    Strudel, hot from the oven, makes the firmest
    ice cream melt in pools. No smoking,
    though steam from coffee, like spirits, rises above our heads.

    Next door, beyond stripes of pachysandra, hostas,
    the hidden path to the lake, resident ghosts
    escape their dining room, take the fresh air,
    stretch cramped legs, walk the lidded groves
    around the blind eye of the Wannsee.
    So much to hammer out, annotate,
    for a task complex, nuanced.
    Considerations of schedules, rolling stock,
    locomotion, the trigonometry of transport.
    Commodities delivered on time to separate destinations.
    Within an iron net cast wider than ever before.

Mike Ross and his wife, Fran, retired to Asheville in 2006. Mike teaches courses in poetry writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville. His first book of poems, Small Engine Repair, was published in 2015. He is working on a second book of poems.

About Lunch with Eichmann—This poem arose out of a lunch in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin, in 2015. Next door was the site of the 1942 Wannsee Conference, at which Nazi officials hammered out a “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem”—a network of death camps. One participant, Adolph Eichmann, executed as a war criminal in 1962, offered this defense: “I was just following orders.”