Eugene Wukasch, Texas Architect

It has been many years since I visited the church, but curiously just this past Friday [28 April 2017] my wife and I were driving from Houston to Austin on Highway 290 and I saw the sign to Serbin. It was the first time that I had been on 290 in I don’t know how long. Naturally I thought of my poem, and now here you are asking for permission to reprint it. You are certainly welcome to do so. You may know that it was reprinted once before in Texas Co-op Power in 2002. Thank you for contacting my publisher. I might mention that I saw the church because my late friend Gene Wukasch of Austin invited me to drive out to Serbin with him. It was a wonderful experience. All the best, Dave Oliphant

Eugene Wukasch, Texas Architect

by Dave Oliphant

 

Seton Hospital coming down:

photos he took tell the story

of steel girders & cement walls

crumbled. doubled, pounded to dust-

collapsed windows, where twilight rays

floated motes over janitored floors,

his mother rolled from delivery

to a maternity ward & the further relief of sleep.

Knows the blueprints, the materials,

how substantial they were,

in their way strong as the memory.

Why were they not reused, remembered?

Speaking with quiet rage

of the waste, of energy expended,

of the halls held those hours

where & when he entered the State,

a tear forms in his foreign eye,

streams down his Austin cheek:

Damn it, I was born there!”

Texan, yes, as any,

though by name & blood a Wend,

his Spreewald, his Slavic race

poling their boats like gondoliers,

laden with cabbage & engravings

of the very scene he paints.

His tale, mortar to our luncheon talk,

glides us through those shadowy waters,

disappears us down basement plumbing,

into her screams at his coming

on a table splintered to smithereens,

the vacant block for sale,

its sidewalks still intact

outlining the emptiness of weeds,

the trees, spreading elms, rooted yet,

though reaching about as exiles

missing landmarks on childhood maps,

the pale smear down to his mouth

seeking a forgotten Sorbian word

would house the lumber of loss.

(1977)

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Serbin

Dave Oliphant’s poem, “Serbin,” is included in a book of his poems, titled Memories of Texas Towns and Cities. ISBN: 978-0-924047. It was copyrighted and published in 2000 by HOST Publications, Inc, 3507 North Lamar Blvd, P. O. Box 302920, Austin, TX 78703. Oliphant began Memories of Texas Towns and Cities in the autumn of 1974 and finished it 25 years later in the fall of 1999. This is one of over 25 books of poetry Dave has published. James B. Hall in New Letters says, “Dave Oliphant is probably the most broadly gifted poet in Texas.” – Ray Spitzenberger

Serbin

by Dave Oliphant

 

the doors to its church

remain unlocked

whose ceiling is

a celestial blue

electric its chandelier

since lamps emptied of

the kerosene

they used to use

suspended from

a twelve-foot cord

halfway up or down

a white golden-winged dove

its tail feathers all agleam

flies to yet never arrives

at the pulpit level with a

second floor looks down upon

the heads all bowed in prayer

or lifted in song but above &

behind them can never see the ringed

eight-foot pipes blue gold & white

of their sanctuary’s organ built

by those like the one last Wend

leads the singing still

who came to find

a place to worship & found it here

who brought with them

their 1574 hymnal with

its notes all diamond-stemmed

for their services beneath

their trim bell tower

with its white tin siding

& its weather vane yet soaring

children learning fifty hymns

to retain the Wendish tongue

to restore antiphonal song

the ties between Christ & soul

on square white pillars stenciled leaves

impressed in orange patterns

with their painted black designs

of circles & featherings

the marble-like swirls echoing

the organist’s schwissenspiels

weavings around the held whole notes

Bach fussed at for writing those

inherited by these from Gerhard Kilian

he the great practitioner

of that Leipzig-born tradition

of slurs & passing tones

a version of the almighty ground

right out of Mendelssohn’s Fifth

a sound as if of morning’s light

shining through the winter fog

on their trip from Liverpool

had survived the cholera

as through their Singing Society

had too their “Spinning Wheel”

& though it spun for a while

it turns no more

here or elsewhere

as it did before

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