Letter from Davos - a villanelle

sun falls on my desk from Spring cold and clear
in Switzerland of 1946.
a consumptive climbs his rock-face of fear

with so much time on his hands for nearing
death - without the battlefield panics
and alarms that afflicted his peers.

he does his best to make what is sheer
and scant for holds - horizontal and fixed -
as if his bed were a wall that could veer

upwards and lead him beyond despair
into sight of a blue deeper than Styx.
then the radiometer whirls on scared

during a day that leaves nothing to spare
until darkness and lights-out affix
the rotors to a halt - which fever sears

till sweat burns it out - then comes cold upstairs.
he dreams of stars without metaphysics -
just as themselves. his young man’s letters share
with us survivors - his sun and faint cheer.

Woodford Halse
12 October 2021

My wife’s great-uncle Wolfgang H├╝ffner (1921-48) a Freiburg medical student from Nordhausen typed a trove of letters to his sister in England from Davos 1944-47. I refer to his letter of 22 May 1946 when he was 24. He admired the poet and his fellow Nordhausen townsman Rudolf Hagelstange.