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Abendessen

The statues of Berlin spent

decades underwater- during the final days

all of them were tossed, all those iron men

were tossed into the canals

for safekeeping.

 

Picture the face

of Geothe caressed

by weeds, at home beneath

a sheet of solid ice unmovable

through the darkest months.

There are no ghosts: only

statues. Haunting is a notion

too obscene, there are no ghosts: this house

is clean.

 

tourists, students

of human atrocity swarm

and sip from glass phials

her ashen residues as verigated

diverse and seductive as any French

wine, or Belgian chocolate.

The water itself

remembers, though its course

is fixed: the tour begins

at Zoo station and will conclude

at the Jewish Memorial.

 

But where do they sleep

these innumerable children

of trauma? do they make their graves

in the air, the famous curative

Berlinerluft? or in the swamp which is

the mother of this place, or in the water also,

with its long memory?

 

 On Friedelstraße there’s a junk store,

a  good one, you can deck out a house

for 50 euros. More of an indoor tip

than a shop, some skillful clambering

is required, over mountains of fur,

typewriters, carpets, photo albums, medical

imaging equipment to get to the kitchen wares.

I have strict requirements

when it comes to bedlinen, glassware

and crockery: white. white only.

 

I pick through looking for teacups

that match, silver cutlery, things to excite

my old world  yearnings, that I may recreate

a dinner from a movie,: the conversation will be artful,

the crockery will be crisp, bright, musically

white.

 

This one is discreetly patterned, shot through

with an embossed floral; this one, gilt edged;

this one, the kind you imagine sturdily placed

on a farmhouse table, it has an earnestness

that befits a hunk of strong cheese

or some wurst; this one

crosshatched with the marks

of ancient knives, this one, deep

and wide enough to cradle

a pot of udon, this one,

                       this one: this is a find.

 

Turn it in your hands, inspect for cracks, marvel

at its weight, its marvellous  Bavarian heft, and squint

at the fine pewter insignia  printed

discreetly, almost invisibly

on the rim: an eagle, that poor bird forever saddled

with the burden of empires and their branding,

an eagle, and beneath it 

 

Beware the assurances

of ordinary things: these things will be

your undoing. 

The ground above the Führerbunker

is a car park now, adjacent to a block

of flats, and  the Karstadt department store,

appropriated from the Jews, is Ms. Rosenfeld’s

local source of the finest smoked fish.

People live. that’s what they do.

They live.

We live and we drink and we

drink die schwartze Milch, die schwartzes Wasser

des Vergessens, wir trinken und trinken

and grow older.

But still, the statues. Still,

this empty house which is mine

to furnish. These things, they live

also.

 

How much can it hold?

this white bowl, how much water

for soup, and how might it feed me?

Picture the face

of a friend, another young German

asymmetrically stylish, tall and cool

in black jodhpurs and boots

picture her face

submerged picture the underground

flooded, those who came for shelter, picture them

Picture a face

smiling

 over a bowl of hot soup

Go to Sarah-Jane Norman's profile to read more poems