Apocalypse 1999

"The Dresden Zoo" --Poetry by Robert Zaller


Robert Zaller, a world renowned poet, recently wrote a poem in contemplation of the recent bombings by Nato forces in Yugoslavia. The poem, which was read by Professor Zaller at a gathering of international poets at the WAH Center, had a very strong impact on the audience. It was chosen to be part of the special historical exhibit APOCALYPSE 1939 at the Center in the fall. Particularly, it will be read as part of the performance series in the fall during the Center's APOCALYPSE 1999 art extravaganza. Professor Zaller will also participate in the fall symposium on THE FUTURE OF MAN.

"The poem DRESDEN ZOO commemorates the firebombing of the unprotected city of Dresden on February 13-14, 1945 in a British and American assault. Dresden had been spared the destruction already wreaked on other German cities because of its historic importance and its absence of significant military targets. The city was swollen with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the Soviet advance from the east. The firestorm created by the deliberate, patterned dropping of incendiary bombs probably killed more than 100,000 people. The allies never explained this savage act, one of the greatest atrocities in history. Most plausibly, it was intended as a calling card to the Russians, then only sixty miles away while the Allies were still bottled up on the west bank of the Rhine. The 'angel' of the poem was a figure atop Dresden's cathedral that somehow escaped destruction and was captured in a famous photograph. The destruction of the zoo was also documented. There is an obvious reference as well to Rilke's 'The Panther.'" -- Robert Zaller, Drexel University, Department of History & Politics


The horses heard it first
the first shudder of earth
tensed the tasseled ankles
the first rush of air
shook the gilded manes
and suddenly they felt
the milky odor of fear
that emanated from the walls
the restless clangor of flagpoles
the weakening of the moon.
In the cobbles of the Altstadt
a thousand year fear was forming
the fear called Holocaust
the fear called Judgement
fear leaped in blue sparks
from telephones
fear gripped the knives
in their cupboards
and the sweat that drenched the angel
of Dresden Cathedral
broke from the flanks of the horses.
Only the sirens were silent
only those-to-die of Dresden
heard nothing
until the trumpet of fear
sounded from the blind throat
and gave the city its voice.

A parliament of fires
caped the city
in one gathered breath
mounting the stair
curling into the kitchens
snuffingthe small frenzy
of breath in the cellar.
Women mad with gaiety
shed dung in the fountains
clowns and donkeys
vied for the trapeze
and wild mares, terror--
sleeked, drank the black heat
that burst their lungs.
The city disrobed
to put on new garments.
All of silk and silver must shed,
all of copper, of brass

all of duralex, isinglass, amnganese, stone
all bars, angles, scabbards, grids
all terminated geometries

Robert Zaller, 1999


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