The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

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Category Archives: poetry

Chapter 38 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part II

41

Fern

Sorge um einen Verlorenen Traum

O lass noch einmal jene Stunden

der Zweisamkeit vor Dir entstehen,

um die noch ungebrochene Blume

des stillen Glücks ein zweites mal zu sehen.

 

Ob du noch weißt, wie ich mit ungeübter Hand

Dir gold’ne Zeilen in das Buch der Träume schrieb,

den zarten Schleier, der versprach, ein ganzes Leben

in sanfter Milde zu umspannen, wo er verblieb?

 

Süße, schwere, einst entschwundene Wonne

drang in unsere Herzen mit dionysischer Gewalt;

denn wir als Glieder in der Kette, Ahn und Enkel eingereiht,

schicksalstrotzend, hoffnungsfroh fanden unseren Halt.

 

Mit ernstem Blick seh’ ich des Tages letzte Strahlen

in eisigen Höhen sich vor mir entfalten.

Wenn auch ein fernes Herz für mich noch schlägt,

Ich spüre Angst und Sorge in mir  walten.

 

 Fragend schau’ ich, den Hauch des Vergangenen suchend,

zum Abendhimmel hoch hinauf.

Teure Biene, komm und eil in meine Hütte

und schlag das Buch der Träume wieder auf!

 

Alberta Rose

Worry about a Lost Dream

Oh let once again those hours

of togetherness arise before you,

to see the still unbroken flower

of quiet bliss a second time.

 

Do you remember how I with inexperienced hand

wrote golden lines in our book of dreams,

the gentle veil, which promised to span a lifetime

in tender sweetness, where it remained?

 

Sweet and heavy bliss, once vanished, 

penetrated our hearts with Dionysian force;

for we, as links in the chain of ancestor and descendent,

rebellious and hopeful found our strength and support.

 

With somber glance, I see the last rays of the day

 in icy heights unfold before me.

Even though a distant heart still beats for me,

I sense fear and worry reign within me.

 

While seeking to catch the aura of the past,

I look questioningly up to the evening sky.

Dearest Biene, come and hurry to my  hut

and open the book of our dreams again!

Chapter 38 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part I

24

383px-University_of_Calgary_Logo.svg

Will a Passionate Poem make a Difference?

Picking up the pieces of a shattered dream is better than having no pieces to pick up at all.

Matshona Dhliwayo

Poetry to the Rescue!

For three long months Biene had to endure the assaults from her parents, twin brother, relatives and friends on our plans to carve out a niche for our future in Canada. No doubt, while the arguments were partly driven by selfishness and the fear of losing daughter, sister and friend, they were also motivated by love and concern for her happiness in a distant land. Biene, endowed by nature with a big heart and a keen sense of perception felt empathy especially for her mother’s despair. Thus, she made compromises, which deeply affected me and touched a very sensitive nerve.

While Biene was struggling with real people, who were bent on imposing their idea of happiness on her, I in faraway Canada had to fight a different battle. Having no one to talk to and argue with, I battled with phantoms breaking through the crevices of my beleaguered mind, where dream and reality once so intimately interwoven were drifting apart with each new letter from Germany.

Then I remembered that two years earlier I had written a novella entitled “Carthage” (yet to be translated into English). The book written for Biene was my desperate attempt to declare my love to her and to win back her heart after the engagement with her Dutch fiancé had fallen apart. So as a prelude to a very long letter I composed  a poem. It was written in the spirit of German classic literature and poetry that I was studying at the time and was definitely inspired by my worries about all the troublesome changes made to our plans. The poem was to remind Biene of our hopes and aspirations, which we had recorded less than a year earlier in our book of dreams.

In Part II of this chapter I will publish the original poem in German and for my English speaking blogging friends I will add a translation with no attempt to preserve rhyme or rhythm. My hope is that not too much of its emotional impact is lost in translation.

Chapter 27 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part III

7

Two Letters and a Poem

129

Meal Time on the Ryndam – Adolf, Eka and Peter at the Back

April 28th, 1965 Le Havre

           My dear Biene,

           We just left Le Havre and are heading towards England. Thousands of impressions hit me all at once. I feel as if I had already been on board  for a very long time. It is wonderful. Yet, I am restless, because you cannot experience all this with me. I would like describe to you how a typical day is panning out for us travelers. The tinkling of bells wakes us up in the morning. It also reminds us in this gentle way to show up for breakfast soon. Then I climb down the ladder. For I sleep in the upper bunk, while Adolf sleeps below. We can shower or take a bath for as long as we like.  Then we march off to the dining room. Never before have I seen a greater variety of food. When we return to our cabin, the steward has already made our beds. The cabin is very small, and if one had to share it with a stranger, it definitely would  not be a pleasant experience. We all have our own peculiar habits, which someone else would have to get used to.

124

Shuffle Board on the Sun Bathed Deck

          The entertainment program is so rich and varied that one does not know which item to choose first. You can watch English movies, go to the library, play all kinds of games. The big hit here is shuffleboard. After lunch you can attend a concert, go dancing in the evening or have a beer in the bar. And now I experience all this without you! That makes me a little sad and pensive. When I turn melancholic, I gladly withdraw from all these fun activities and write in my travelogue.

          Oh this heavenly weather! People are presently sun bathing and the sea is not rough, not even a trace of a swell. I want to experience a real storm. But my brother says that it will come soon enough, if I am really that keen on getting seasick.

134

Peter Strumming on his Guitar

          Your picture stands on my little desk. When at night I look down to you from my bed, I feel infinitely happy. I wished I could do the voyage all over again with you one day, when I have enough money to pick you up in Germany.

In a few days you will begin your studies, whereas I while away the time here onboard doing nothing. Tackle your academic work as if you had never applied for the stewardess program and as if you pursued a life’s career. You should know that you can help me also as a trained teacher, perhaps later assist me for a little while, in case my own studies should be dragging on.

          What would I give to be able to kiss you now! Until next time greetings to you and your parents!

          Your Peter

           On the same day Biene also wrote me a letter, which of course I was unable to read, until I arrived at my brother’s place in Calgary. I only included excerpts here to avoid breaking the chronological order of the family history.

April 28th, 1965 Velbert

           My dear Peter,

           Again you have made me cry. But don’t you worry, Peter. I did not have to cry out of sorrow (it was only lingering at the back of my mind), but from an overwhelming feeling of joy, happiness and unfathomable love. I listened to your guitar music  and to your voice on the record you had sent me. I could not grasp it! I just sat there, and tears were streaming down my cheeks. I once read that only a few people really understand how to say good-bye, and you knew how, Peter. Never will I forget this!

Dear Peter, now you have been on board for one day and with every minute you are getting closer to your destination. And when you read this letter, the long sea voyage and the road trip across Canada will already be behind you. Tell me Peter, isn’t it an incomprehensible feeling to be on the high seas and to experience the vastness and beauty of the ocean? When I experienced the sea for the first time, I was deeply moved. It was in the year we had met. My family and I were spending our vacation on the island of Corsica. Toward evening we had landed on the island. It was already night, when we reached our vacation village at the sea after an adventurous trip through the mountains. Completely exhausted we immediately fell into a deep sleep, from which I awoke unusually early in the morning. In eager anticipation to finally cast my eyes onto the sea, I quietly sneaked out, because my brother Walter was still fast asleep. Outside the air was cool and still. The sun had just risen above the horizon. The beach spread before me still completely untouched. I went a few steps down the slope and then I took in the full view of the sea! Somehow I was like in trance and could not move another step forward. Although the view was overwhelmingly beautiful, the infinite vastness also instilled in me a little bit of fear. I sat down very quietly in the sand and remained there, until the first beach guests, who frolicked in the water, broke the charm that had kept me spellbound. You alone, dear Peter, would not have dispelled the magic atmosphere.

          Inspired by her memories Biene wrote the following poem and entered it into the Book of Dreams.

The Sea

 I will forever love the sea,

Even when the gulls scream

Above thousands of storm-tossed waves.

I love the play of colors in the surf,

The billowing clouds, the sun, the warm sand, …

Oh Peter!

How much would I like to sit with you

On a lonely beach, at the sea

With its music

Rather than being

Separated from you

So infinitely far away

On the other side of the ocean.

On board of the Ryndam I also romanticized the sea as if in response to her letter that I had not even read yet.

Chapter 25 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part V

13

Biene’s Dream House

graduation

The Happy Twins Walter and Biene after Receiving their High School Diplomas

In the meantime Biene had graduated with reasonably high marks and sent me a telegram to the Tannenberg barracks to tell me the good news. Her parents were so delighted over her success that they granted her permission to visit me again in Watzenborn. Before she came, she had presented me with her idea of writing a family chronicle that would later enable us to look back at our roots.

telegram

Biene’s Telegram

In addition I had tossed in the proposal of starting a book with blank pages, which we would fill with our vision for the time, when we would be together in Canada. A description of our dream house would be part of this endeavour. Biene wholeheartedly embraced this idea and to this end immediately bought a leather-bound book,  which could be locked with a tiny key. In spite of the hustle and bustle of the graduation festivities and inevitable farewell parties she had already made her first entry with the full force of her innate romantic creativity:

44b

The Photo Biene was referring to

                    Our Little Dream House

           Now when under the first sun rays of spring the forces of nature begin to stir, I can hardly wait, until everything is blooming and the green, which is still slumbering in the swollen buds, breaks forth. Not too long ago I came across this photo and each time I look at it, dreams of a little home of my desires are awakening. You said indeed that we will set no limits to how far our fantasy will carry us, as long as it won’t do us any harm. This is how I imagine our little fantasy home to look like.

          So picture this. It is spring. Only nature has progressed a little farther than here today. For everywhere fruit trees are already blossoming and in the sea of blossoms glimmers the first tender green of rupturing buds. You walk along the edge of a small town and are caught in the intoxicating scent of flowering splendour. All of a sudden you see out of the white shimmer a little house emerge. Sheer happiness makes your heart beat faster, and you believe to dream anew like on every day; for this is our little home embedded by this blooming island. It is as I said only a little house made entirely out of dark wood reminiscent a little of a log cabin. It looks neither opulent nor grandiose, but endearing and inviting instead.

          Through the large windows the sun and the fresh aromatic air pours into the small cozy rooms. The sun glides over the furniture, which is not so ultramodern as to appear cold and nondescript, but every piece is reassuringly firm and solid and for that reason snug and comfortable. At this moment I must think of the chairs, which Aunt Lucie had painted. Such a piece of furniture is no longer dead, but in a small way radiates life.

          Oh, I forget to mention that every window bedecked by a flower box is overflowing with flowers just like on that little photo. Our little home appears as if one day it would be overgrown by nature’s luscious growth, which should provide protection against the cold months, when icy winds drive us inside into the heated room.

          Apart from that we spend most of the time in our little yard and even sleep there, when the summer nights are warm and the mosquitoes do not sting us too much. We sleep in hammocks and gaze at the starry sky before falling asleep.

          In the winter when it is stormy and desolate, our large tiled stove or fireplace will radiate warmth into the small rooms just like the sun in the summer. Where the rooms are located, I am not so sure about it yet, but I think it would be best to place our bedrooms under the roof; for the slanted attic walls seem so cozy with a bed underneath. Also your study is upstairs, where you have the most quiet and can work fast. Thus, you can devote a lot of time to us. By us I mean everything that is dear to us, the plants and the trees in the yard, the little house, the animals and – I hardly dare to write it again – our children. I believe, if only a fraction of all this may become reality, I would be the happiest woman of the entire world!

          Reading the description of Biene’s vision of our dream house, I was amazed at how far her thoughts and ideas had ventured forth with such precise details as if taken from a prophetic book. What astounded me the most, was how much the slow-moving train of life, in which we traveled together, had accelerated in recent weeks and months. Was is not only eight months ago that my novella ‘Carthage’ so fervently written and presented to her as a gift prompted here to say ‘I believe, we love each other’? And now her heart and soul envisioned us as husband and wife having a family in the home of her dreams.

         Sitting on Mother’s sofa Biene and I shared these wondrous thoughts that have so prophetically crystallized into words written down in Biene’s special dream book. They were clear and easy to grasp and to attach our hopes to. They gave us a sense of purpose and direction, a blueprint for our entire lifespan.

          The morning sun was shining brilliantly into the living room. Early spring was in the air and beckoned us to go for a stroll past the meadows behind the house towards the old mill into the nearby woods. There I once almost lost my way in the maze of trails and roads riding my new bicycle. We directed our path to a hunter’s lookout tower, which was overlooking a small clearing in the woods. We climbed up the wooden ladder to gain a higher vantage point for us. Once we had sat down on the sturdy bench, we no longer allowed our mind to dwell on our plans for the future, but had the strong urge to follow the ancient Roman saying ‘Carpe diem.’ We kissed. It was a very long and sweet kiss indeed. And if there were no other needs in this world, such as for food, drink, and shelter, you would in all likelihood still find us there today. So much we were wrapped up in enjoying the presence. The scene would have inspired the illustrious romantic English poet John Keats to compose a sequel to his famous poem ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’ entitled ‘Ode to a Hunter’s Lookout’, where our bliss would have been frozen in time for all eternity.

 

Chapter 21 of the P. and G. Klopp Story – Part I

3

Sorrows of Young Peter

 

“The Five W’s of Life:
WHO you are is what makes you special. Do not change for anyone.
WHAT lies ahead will always be a mystery. Do not be afraid to explore.
WHEN life pushes you over, you push back harder.
WHERE there are choices to make, make the one you won’t regret.
WHY things happen will never be certain. Take it in stride and move forward.”

Anonymous

 

With the transfer to the Falckenstein Barracks in Koblenz things were looking up for me. Our room was only slightly smaller than the one we had at the basic training camp, but instead of fifteen men only ten would share the sleeping facilities. The only drawback at the beginning was that the windows were facing one of the major north-south traffic arteries. The noise from the trucks and cars was considerable and lasted right through the night. At first I thought I could not sleep at all in a room inundated by the roar of engines and swishing of tires even with the windows closed. But little by little I got used to it and like the loud surf at the seashore at the Baltic Sea it no longer bothered me after a few days. I am sure that if the din below had suddenly stopped the silence would have woken me up.

80

Peter on the right with truck driver and communication assistant

Also the pace of our daily routines significantly slackened. We still had to line up and stand at attention for the morning and noon announcements. But there were now more instructional sessions both theoretical and practical with emphasis on specialization depending to which of three major groups we belonged in the signal corps. The linemen were responsible for connecting the various field centers during military exercises. They had from a physical perspective the toughest job. Rain or shine, heat or cold, their task was to unroll miles of cable and when the maneuver was over roll it back onto the empty drums on their backs. I had the good fortune that I was assigned to the second group. I was working inside a Mercedes truck packed with electronic gear, which I had learned to operate during my training sessions. The linemen would arrive huffing and puffing after a strenuous march through forests and fields. All I had to do was to connect the wires to the carrier frequency sets, call up my counterpart at the other end and tune up the line so that it would be capable of carrying several channels at once. It was the latest technology in those days, but miniscule by today’s standards, where thousands of telephone calls can be placed over a single wire or a wireless connection. The third and most prestigious group consisted of the wireless operators trained to set up and maintain point-to-point, line-of-sight connections. To be useful, the linemen also had to connect them by cable to our stations. I liked maneuvers of this kind, especially the ones that lasted a whole week, and often as a bonus resulting in an extra long weekend pass. It was during these action filled times that I began to reflect on the career proposal the captain had made to me less than a month ago. During guard duty, which I had to do every three weeks or so, whenever my turn was announced on the company bulletin board, I had also some time to do some thinking on the purpose and meaning of military service in a world that lived under the spell of the Cold War and under the threat of a massive attack by communist forces to take over Western Europe. While walking inside the fenced perimeter of our barracks I was searching for answers to those questions that popped up in my mind during those boring two-hour shifts in the dead of night. I composed a poem, which I included here in the hope that not too much is lost in translation.

Peter at work at his 'home' packed with electronic gear

Peter at work at his ‘home’ packed with electronic gear

Night Watch

Drearily the rain is falling.

I am walking in monotone even steps.

Nothing is moving in the semi-darkness.

Radio trucks like monsters are staring at me.

They appear to mock me,

Indeed threaten to devour me.

You servants of men!

To what end are you being abused?

Abused?

Aren’t you defending freedom and peace?

If you prevent that

For which you have been built,

Then sacred is your presence.

Yeah, just stare at me!

Your power brings me joy.

And I am walking past them

In monotone even steps.

 

To avoid war, an army must be strong so that an aggressor will understand that nothing would be gained and much more would be lost. It was the balance of power that kept the peace in the Cold War period, in which I was a soldier.

Chapter 19 of the P. and G. Story – Part I

5

 

Alone at the Siemens Apartment Building

 

“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.”

Richard Baxter

In search for a place to spend the next six months Mother had found a mini-apartment in a huge building complex that had been specifically built for single workers in the local Siemens factory. Small it was indeed. The room I called my own covered hardly an area of fifteen sq. m. I shared the hallway, which contained a few basic kitchen facilities, with an older man next door, who fortunately moved out before Christmas with no one moving in to replace him. On the right side of the hallway was the common bathroom with a shower instead of a bathtub. In spite of the limited space I was extremely happy to have my own four walls with a large window and even a tiny balcony facing the rising sun.

Wesel at the Rhine

Wesel at the River Rhine with the New Bridge

It was from here that I wrote my first letter to Biene’s twin brother Walter at the end of August. As promised I included schematics of electronic circuits that I thought might be of interest to him. Of course, I had not forgotten Biene, whose image began to fade in my mind, but whose idealistic afterglow I cherished all the more. “And do not forget to greet your parents and Biene from me,” I ended this letter and all subsequent ones. Walter promptly replied and inserted an advanced RC transistor diagram that was far too complex for me to understand or to be useful for my simple projects. But the desired connection had been made, and before long Biene and I were corresponding with each other. There were two important aspects to the letters, which were traveling back and forth between Velbert and Wesel. One, they opened a window and brought bright sunshine and fresh air into the often gloomy, stuffy interior of my soul; two, due to the physical distance we could write about our thoughts and feelings, wrapped up in a flowery language, carefully worded and lovingly presented. We opened our hearts to each other and discovered that we both had a romantic vein that was rich and seemed to be inexhaustible. In short, the seeds of our developing relationship had fallen on fertile ground. For me in particular, the correspondence proved to be a journey into the wonderful world of self-discovery. I enjoyed creating written tableaus depicting dream-like, often melancholic scenes with fact and fiction imaginatively intertwined. They engendered in a perpetual cycle an ever increasing sense of self-awareness. Reminiscing about a stopover at a railroad station I once wrote her.

Wanne-Eickel 22:10

          Over the railroad station sways the moon. Its pale light flickers through dense patches of fog, and the moist shimmering rails vanish behind the impenetrable wall of uncertainty. I am pacing the empty platform up and down, three minutes forth, and three minutes back. Slowly, hesitatingly the heavy hand of the clock advances from one-minute mark to the next. Lost in thoughts I look up to the moon. The cold, damp forces of nature’s power attempt to snuff out its golden light. But it is not you, good moon, who are eluding me, you, the embodiment of all my happiness. No, around me lurk the cold forces; they seize me with their moist fingers. Oh happiness, you would always dwell among people, if darkness were not all around us that hides you and saddens my heart. Two lights emerge from out of the fog. They have a goal; they glide over solid tracks. I can put my trust in them. In vain the dense fog is clutching to hold the iron vehicle; it cannot delay its course. I step onboard. 22:20

Old City Hall of Rendsburg - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Old City Hall of Rendsburg – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Shortly after I had written the letter to Biene with its sentimental railroad story, I traveled by train to Rendsburg in Northern Germany to attend my eldest brother’s wedding. Karl’s bride was Ingrid Lehmann, born in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad), East Prussia, whose father was a retired sea captain. Karl was making sure that everything was prim and proper for the festivities. He checked out my clothes and appearance very carefully and was quite pleased with the new suit I was wearing. Even though I had shaved in the morning, Karl spotted the beginning of new growth darkening the area around my chin and requested for the sake of the important event another shave. Putting my usual stubbornness aside, I complied with his request.

Wedding Ceremony at City Hall

Wedding Ceremony at City Hall

With almost all close relatives present it was a memorable wedding. At the banquet Captain Lehmann and Uncle Günther solemnly delivered words of wisdom, reflections on their lost home provinces in the East, fine speeches, which were recorded on tape and can still be heard today on audio CD. It was here in Rendsburg that for the first time I was seriously contemplating about what it would be like to tie the knot and form a life-long partnership in marriage. I also began to see that hard work at school and university must come first to realize such dreams. I thought that as an electronics engineer I might have a fairly good income to support a wife and family.

Karl and Ingrid Klopp (Lehmann) at the Wedding Banquet

Karl and Ingrid Klopp ( née Lehmann) at the Wedding Banquet

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