“My coming to England [sic] in this way is, as I realize, so unusual that nobody will easily understand it. I was confronted by a very hard decision. I do not think I could have arrived at my final choice unless I had continually kept before my eyes the vision of an endless line of children’s coffins with weeping mothers behind them, both English and German, and another line of coffins of mothers with mourning children.”
—Rudolf Hess to his wife Ilse, June 10, 1941
He had fought in the trenches, watched the rats
gnawing the feet of dead or dying soldiers,
the flower of Europa slain in youth.
He understood Trakl’s pain, the grandsons who
would never father future generations.
So the mission in his mind was clear:
he climbed into the cockpit of a fighter
and flew to Scotland. Ankle broken now,
parachute on the ground, he babbled to
a farmer, to Lord Churchill. Neither listened.
They declared him mad, and locked him up
inside the tower of London, where the rooks
of war besieged his mind, and where the clouds
brought back memories of his Grecian mother.
At Nuremberg his final words were: “I
have no regrets.” He would repeat them how
many times in his cell at Spandau prison
as years turned into decades and he found
himself the lone remaining prisoner?
Towards the end, he’d whisper to pale flowers,
glance at Erich Honecker’s grey portrait,
the covers of East German TV guides,
senile, limping, propped up by a cane,
a friendless, shunned, and isolated man.
When the guards found him in the summer garden
a power cord was wrapped around his neck.
From Tikkun Olam and Other Poems