Travels with Dad
VII – Fortifications


It’s easy to ponder the science 
of fortifications in their decayed state,
much like the anatomy of whales
found washed up on beaches,
death’s aftermath, the majesty 
of bleached spires, the hollow openings, 
once-secret innards exposed
to gaping and casual probing,
the speculation of visitors
arriving in mid-morning casualness,
carrying theories of demise 
in their backpacks.

The arrangers of stone 
on these hilltops have gone, their era past, 
the blind eyes of turrets and 
gaptooth revetments 
wait patiently crumbing for their
old foes’ ghosts;  the native
populace still bears the faces 
of the defenders, intermixed now
with the invaders, the descendents
of Napoleon’s armies practice 
maneuvers with NATO safely away 
in the west leaving the ruins 
for us to explore - steps, still steep 
with defenders’ anxiety
bow worn backs to visiting feet
harsh breaths tell the tale of ascent, 
though less rushed now,
battle-fear sweat replaced
with the flush of our casual climb
the advantage of height now prized views, 
cameras and packs banging 
like armaments against thighs.

The trade routes below us are 
paved now, armies of buses and 
trucks travel the highway east-west with 
well-filled stomachs;  the quiet 
rustle of commerce leaves
to the ears of imagination 
the stilled sound of cannons
that slumber like mascots at 
monuments’ feet in the town squares below, 
reference points for the maps 
of the foreign invaders, 
seeking their tour bus.
 
 
 Jonathan Bohrn (2007)
 

Rhineland Castle
Rhineland Castle
 2007 J. Bohrn photo archives

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