My friend Joseph, in his plaid shirt, old jeans
& slippers, tells me he’s studying Heidegger again.
He gives me his grey-wolf smile & I see him
as he was: the best-looking guy from Brooklyn.
Joseph’s bookcases sprawl with Neruda & Merwin,
Kant & Descartes, art books & orchestra scores.
Years ago, he almost went to live in Freiberg.
Of course, there was a woman.
Arendt was just 18 when she met Heidegger in Freiberg.
She was Jewish. By then, Heidegger had been a Nazi
for thirteen years.
After the war, Heidegger was punished.
Never allowed to resume his philosopher’s chair.
When Arendt died, her family found on her mantle
three photos: herself, her husband & Heidegger.
Arendt didn’t say ‘normal’ is the same as innocent.
She said Eichmann should be hanged.
Later, as he’s finishing his oatmeal, I ask Joseph,
Why still reading Heidegger?
He brings us to the complexity,
so we can see things in their vagueness.
Then Joseph reminds me:
Even Toynbee said Hitler had beautiful hands.
[From Confrontation 117]