WESTERN BERLIN 1990: MY FIRST TASTE OF FREEDOM
To the thirty-year anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall
on November 9, 1989
Straggling through the streets, mom, dad, big sister, kid sister,
lace tablecloths in our hands, painstakingly crocheted
by my late grandma,
grandma fidgeting in her grave, bones kissing bones
longing for housework and flesh.
‘Tablecloth? Homemade lace tablecloth?’
Romanians vamoosed for the first time from their country—
borders like prison walls but with no windows
guards ready to shoot,
dogs eager to sniff out and pounce on all attempts at
a horse breaker assiduously riding the willpower of millions
with food rations and snitches.
But now happiness powders our footsteps with gold
mapping a Western fata nirvana come true
through perestroika and revolutions, not miracles.
Berlin engulfs us, effortlessly arousing—
‘Breathe in, breathe out!’ mom says, struggling
to survive freedom.
‘Tablecloths? Homemade lace tablecloths?’
Billboard lights we’ve never seen,
fast-food smells we’ve never smelled,
faces without the sear of fear.
Malls, like palaces—
kings and queens waltzing their way from floor to floor,
trimmed with shopping bags, as if living, ornamented
Grocery stores, like art shows—
exhibiting what we’d missed generation after generation.
The first ever Snickers bar—
an orgasm of the taste buds.
‘Tablecloths? Lace tablecloths? Homemade!’
Ampelmännchen greenly frown from the traffic lights,
policemen eye us,
suspicious we’re daydreaming of free boarding
in top-notch prisons with
air conditioning and LED TVs in the dayrooms,
Western technology we’re yet to see.
‘Tablecloths? Lace tablecloth? Homemade!’
Rain on Unter den Linden Boulevard,
Frederick the Great royally ignores us, raindrops
dripping on our heads from Conde’s tail like horse piss
on chickens in the wrong place at the wrong time
in the wrong life.
‘Tablecloths? Lace! Homemade!’
‘Danke Schoen!’ says a grey-haired Jungfrau Maria
in a worn raincoat
handing us a few Deutsche marks for the ethnic
not that she needed it, but we really looked
‘Can you also read my palms?’
in her faraway grave, grandma would smirk
if she could.
Mom, dad, big sis, kid sis—
the painfully full bladders finally celebrating Western freedom
in a city with no public washrooms
and the fear of communism.
A stroll through Berlin after the fall of its wall.
Each November, rain stains the leftover homemade lace tablecloths
in my memory
The next-door neighbour asks me to pray together
for the welfare of the humankind.
She doesn’t believe I’ve long forgotten
the ‘Lord’s Prayer.’
She gives me a book of prayers and tells me
to read the text from it.
She doesn’t believe I can’t see well because
of my cataract.
She starts praying and tells me to repeat after her.
I wouldn’t mind but I can’t understand the words.
When I ask her to repeat she gets mad.
‘You only care about your own writing!’ she screams.
She doesn’t believe poems produce oxygen