Anthony Hecht (1923-2004)

More Light! More Light!

For Heinrich Blucher and Hannah Arendt

Composed in the Tower before his execution
These moving verses, and being brought at that time
Painfully to the stake, submitted, declaring thus:
“I implore my God to witness that I have made no crime.”

Nor was he forsaken of courage, but the death was horrible,
The sack of gunpowder failing to ignite.
His legs were blistered sticks on which the black sap
Bubbled and burst as he howled for the Kindly Light.

And that was but one, and by no means one of the worst;
Permitted at least his pitiful dignity;
And such as were by made prayers in the name of Christ,
That shall judge all men, for his soul’s tranquility.

We move now to outside a German wood.
Three men are there commanded to dig a hole
In which the two Jews are ordered to lie down
And be buried alive by the third, who is a Pole.

Not light from the shrine at Weimar beyond the hill
Nor light from heaven appeared. But he did refuse.
A Luger settled back deeply in its glove.
He was ordered to change places with the Jews.

Much casual death had drained away their souls.
The thick dirt mounted toward the quivering chin.
When only the head was exposed the order came
To dig him out again and to get back in.

No light, no light in the blue Polish eye.
When he finished a riding boot packed down the earth.
The Luger hovered lightly in its glove.
He was shot in the belly and in three hours bled to death.

No prayers or incense rose up in those hours
Which grew to be years, and every day came mute
Ghosts from the ovens, sifting through crisp air,
And settled upon his eyes in a black soot. 

A Letter

I have been wondering
           What you are thinking about, and by now suppose
                        It is certainly not me.
           But the crocus is up, and the lark, and the blundering
                        Blood knows what it knows.
It talks to itself all night, like a sliding moonlit sea.

                          Of course, it is talking of you.
           At dawn, where the ocean has netted its catch of lights,
                        The sun plants one lithe foot
           On that spill of mirrors, but the blood goes worming through
                        Its warm Arabian nights,
Naming your pounding name again in the dark heart-root.

                          Who shall, of course, be nameless.
           Anyway, I should want you to know I have done my best,
                        As I’m sure you have, too.
           Others are bound to us, the gentle and blameless
                        Whose names are not confessed
In the ceaseless palaver. My dearest, the clear unquaried blue

                           Of those depths is all but blinding.
           You may remember that once you brought my boys
                        Two little woolly birds.
           Yesterday the older one asked for you upon finding
                        Your thrush among his toys.
And the tides welled about me, and I could find no words.

                          There is not much else to tell.
           One tries one’s best to continue as before,
                        Doing some little good.
           But I would have you know that all is not well
                        With a man dead set to ignore
The endless repetitions of his own murmurous blood.