Innocent Encounter

From a photograph of Himmler taken by an unknown German soldier in Ukraine, summer 1941

In a meadow heavy with the scent

of everything that blooms

without anticipation of death,

two Ukrainian peasant girls

encounter the Reichsführer SS.

Freed from their labours they smile

and greet the slight bespectacled man

who appears benign, as he gently winds

a thick grass stem around his finger.

What a beautiful land, he opines

granted you by the fortune of birth.

But they don’t understand, just smile.

Yes, one could settle here, keep pigs,

and raise a strong German family…

One nods hopefully, the other laughs

and the adjutant holding his silver gloves

praises their colourful headscarves.

On iron crosses the July sun dances,

blizzards of insects over high grasses.

Farewell then, good luck!

They turn, open leather map cases.

The girls’ movement parts the rushes,

later in the firelight their flushed faces

and a full moon risen to face them all,

cut to pieces by the dark rut pools.