Am Sonnenhang

by Aki Schilz

Originally published in ARC Anthology (May 2012)

For my great-aunt Mathilde Fischer, much loved and always missed.

Am Sonnenhang 5

I find the razor placed haphazardly
across the tray bridging the bathtub.
Kneeling beside it, I inspect it,
note the absence of dust,

the fuzz caught between the blades –
you must have been using it
right until they took you into the home
after the fall, and there’s something sweet

and terrible about this small, plastic razor
that bewilders me, because you were always
soft as the underside of a peach;
with a fuzziness that is not like the corn-stubble
of shaved skin.

The house smells of you,
but is empty. I am glad to rest in it,
knowing that soon it will be sold,
and Am Sonnenhang will be another place
to box away with the poppy field at the bottom of your road,
the pub that sold your favourite loaf of bread,
the street you power-walked down to church on Sundays,
the stretch of Saar-path with the best aspect
without you to give it meaning

or your famous Weinkuchen, and strawberry jam,
and cold meats for breakfast, and the moth you battled,
valiantly, on behalf of your great-niece, my sister,
or you trying to pronounce ‘apple’ in your German voice
that refused to be anything but German.

I caught sight of you, once,
in the mirror as you removed your nightdress:
you unrolled your hair as if it was
a ritual of ancient significance you observed,

quietly, and every night. You were beautiful,
and your nakedness was not shocking,
but as comforting to me, then, as your God to you
in the small shrine you had made in the front room.

The skin was smooth where your left breast had been,
the scar tracing its absence barely puckering,
barely purple.

You were soft –

you blessed the usual places with your usual cologne
whose blue and gold bottle I would find,
years later, in the bathroom of a house in Oxford,
startling me into consciousness of its smell
even with the top still screwed on.

I think of your hands, fumbling now
to unscrew the lid, fingers bent
over themselves, skin dark with spots
and clinging delicately to you
like the film on a boiled egg;

the shell, brittle and cracked,
lying discarded on the kitchen side:

unknowing of itself
fragile to every touch

Tilli und ich