BERLIN ELEGY 2008



The hotel room was pure 1970s with the kind
of plumbing that won the Cold War. It overlooked
Adenauerplatz in the west of the city. O Adenauer,
first Chancellor of West Germany.
There were some trees, a fountain,
a few dark and quirky old shops.
Even the pigeons seemed to have an accent.
“Tell me, you stones, o speak, you lofty palaces!”
On the bed with its tortilla duvet
and overstuffed ravioli pillow, I would lie
as the morning bustle increased outside
and pondered whether
I would turn left past the sex shops and head
for the Charlottenburg U-bahn station,

Wilmersdorf, the palace, the museums
or turn right and make the epic walk
to the East. I would meditate
on what churches and art galleries I would visit,
in which café I would take lunch,
upon which bridge I would pause and gaze
across the Spree, watching it pulled
like silk from a bolt, like history under my eye.
Unlike the Berliner hoards, I had the luxury
of pausing, of observing them in wonder.
The baroque buildings seemed
more real to me than they
incurious at the exotic Antipodean
interloper in their midst,
not seeing further than my blond hair, serious
demeanour and polite “Guten Tag”.

So every morning, I would lie there,
Berlin dawn streaming through the theatrical
curtains, considering the possibilities: which Casper
David Friedrich painting I would stand before,
hands clasped behind my back; which new detail
would catch my eye – the statue
of a little girl and her cat on an apartment building,
or the bust of Minerva on the pediment
over the entrance to the Prussian Academy;
the sun catching the backs of the horses
on the Brandenburg Gate,
or just think about the one somewhere in the city
who was not beside me for these moments,
but by then I was dapper dressed

to applaud Berlin, and the Berliners their Berlin-ness.

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