The German Doctor
We spoke in French, the Doctor and I.
His first words were to apologize.
To say they had found him guilty.
He had spent three years in prison.
Il y avait des expériences, experiments,
he said, ordered by his superiors.
Qu'est-ce qu'on pouvait faire?
What could he do? I had no answer.
—Nor did I ask for the particulars
of what he'd done. After all, it was
our first night, a cocktail ice breaker,
on a Mediterranean cruise, and only now,
do I imagine, forty years later, the splaying
open of skin, the meticulous peeling back
of its layers to shade a lamp in the quiet
leisure of my living room: slippers, pipe,
my well worn leather chair, its own skin now
crackling with age, and that good book I am
more than halfway through as I anticipate
the comforting justice of its ending.