1. American Cemetery at Hamm: 5,076 Dead
Someone counted the dead.
Someone counted the stars
and crosses needed, the earth
that must be moved, the trees
that must be cut down and hauled away.
Someone envisioned the rubble cleared,
the quiet park, the monument
stark and white and quiet
on a raw November day.
Someone planned the shape of these rows
and how many rows to make, how to place
the curves calculated to endlessly shift
as one walks past, a parade in perfect order,
horror and pain and heartbreak and hope
smoothed away and covered with green turf.
Someone carved the names
in stone: Mike and John
and John and Jack,
Fred and Stanley
Today fountains trickle and the groundskeepers
prepare for winter; they leaf-strip and prune
roses though they still bud and bloom.
2. German Cemetery at Sandweiler: 10,913 Dead
Comrades buried under huge autumnal trees
and brown-stone crosses with two names each,
two sets of birth and death dates. I stumble
over the simple subtraction, unable to unknow
that so many were only 18, 19, 20 years old.
The groundskeeper blows leaves from the path
into great piles beneath the nearest tree,
a weight and ache at the back of my throat,
madness and hate whirling loose in the world,
ghosts and demons of all our days.
Last weekend, we visited these two World War II cemeteries in Luxembourg. You can see photos of the cemeteries and learn more about them here (American cemetery) and here (German cemetery).