OLD IDENTITIES 1988
Danes, now, where they settled made it clear
they weren’t to be mistaken for Prussians –
people still talked like that, Prussians, not Germans
although Bohemians called their pub The German Hotel.
Pomeranians when they arrived turned out Poles
who wouldn’t be understood, and Austrians
were Dalmatians or Croats who didn’t want
to pass for K-u-K any more than Finns
known as Russian-Finns to be Russians.
This problem of identity, how it was built in
to slab-side shanties and turned grey all over,
how smoked from blunt chimneys and crackled
in burn offs. And in whares,
because by this time the first comers were proved
over and over longlost Israelites, Vikings, Scotsmen,
Egyptians or Mexicans. Then the Irish,
they were also debatable. But the Swiss,
did anyone see the Swiss? They weren’t simply visible.
26. 10. 88
They left a mark on a land, Helvetia Road.
They were, and seem not. They went out of fashion.
Try to imagine them, faithfully going about
exact duties possibly highminded
before they were overtaken,
down the road, those ostriches
which were farmed and passed off into footnotes
along with our mothers’ severely corseted aunts,
their useful black costumes, their hobble skirts,
with those hats, whose names are faded.