In the early evening I returned from Vilnius. Dusk hung over Brussels,
the street lighting popped on. A drizzle was falling. On my way home
I recalled a Yiddish poet who had spent the war years in underground
hiding-places and sewers. He fuelled the wood stove with his poems
to keep his mother and himself warm. I stared into the red rear lights
of cars and into the rain that spurted in front of me. The houses in the
Vilnius ghetto were once more on fire. And the dead sat up and looked at me.
They vanished as suddenly as they had come. That evening I wanted to go
to the graveyard to dig up my father. Once I myself had thrown a shovelful
of earth onto the coffin. Now I wanted to embrace what still remained of him,
the skeleton of an unassailable body. I wanted to feel the bones I had never
seen. I wanted to hold the skull in my hands to be able to imagine
his face. For that too I had never seen behind the mask that he
always wore. Vilnius burnt throughout the night. I cremated this poem.