Walter Hoelbling

Lessons – Two Poems

I. skirting reality

coming to think of it

the first woman
to whom I ever
had been very close
must have been desperate
to claim a father
for her three-month child
as yet unborn

she came into my bed
out of the blue
with fierce determination

the mission failed
I was too cautious
and her rash parting
left me wondering
at her dismay

not until some months later
when I saw her push the pram
did I become aware I had
unwittingly
emerged fairly unscathed
from ancient battlegrounds
of social order

II. death of innocence

we taught each other
to enjoy
a lingering kiss
soft touches
loving glances
the built-up tension unreleased
but in a secret solitude
at night
a yearning for fulfilment
never to be granted
as we moved out of school
and into different lives

I saw you last
a few years after
alarmed by news from mutual friends
two days before your death

you did not recognize me
any more
as I stood terrified
besider your bed
in a secluded section
of the cancer ward

I had arrived too late

my loving stutter
already out of reach
your blindly searching gaze
passed on through me

it hurt
like nothing else before

I cried my grief out
in long sobbing nights
yet still not long enough
to heal the pain
nestling since then
quietly
in thinly calloused
wrinkles of my heart

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