Waiting in Treptower Park
Once she lugged bottles of water
to meet the returning soldiers, wearing a dress
of luminous blue the exact colour of his eyes.
Now she locks her bicycle to the same lamppost
every day as trains thunder into the station,
brakes screeching until gone from earshot.
Beneath the sycamores, opposite
the Bar der Reisene, she rolls
a cigarette with unsteady hands.
A bottle top cracks like a bullet
under a cyclist’s wheel.
She finds him, not in the memorial garden
as she planned, but in the shadow
of a mother carrying her baby.
The Tower of Mothers
After Käthe Kollwitz
All day, across the city, I admire the inventiveness
of balconies. How women soften wrought iron
with sunflowers and salmon geraniums.
Newly planted sycamores stretch for light
beneath giant limes which survived both wars,
alongside the stumps of trees which didn’t.
The sausage kiosks compete with cafes
in up and coming areas, wicker chairs
and a solitary gerbera on each marble-topped table.
Fathers peddle children on bicycles
while old men in vests eyeball each other.
Sparrows flit the city for crumbs.
In the underground people kiss goodbyes
and Goths with dogs settle to sleep.
Daytime fades and windows light up.
An Ikea wardrobe sits in the east
as if walls never existed
The neat lawns were always here,
broken glass in the Tiergarten.
Everyone smokes in a haze of alleyways,
while grafitti lizards freeze on the sides of buildings.
And the next morning there’s mothers
at breakfast, layering cheese and meat
on rye bread, interweaving food like brickwork.
Artist on a Berlin Street
Sometimes she mingles with the grime
of their cloth, says the words us
and together. She gives crumpled figures
on the surgery steps food,
people who live beneath the bridge’s arch.
She sketches a girl, who doesn’t know
the fumble of matches in a soldier’s hands.
That sulphur smell.
Sometimes she lets strangers
have her attic room, despite
her children’s stares,
and finds them colour
in this monochrome world,
this just another city.
Another Mother Traitor
Is it a breach of faith…, if I can
now only see madness in the war? … this frightful
insanity – the youth of Europe hurling themselves
at one another. Käthe Kollwitz
Recall one dragonfly afternoon,
a Berliner boy adventures to America,
takes off across the marshes.
Then, I brought you back
to laugh, whistle folksongs.
Now charcoal makes me choke.
Were you face down,
absorbed by all things natural?
Did you cry for me in bloodied mud,
or were you taken
in an instant, with friends?
I’ve seen boys come home.
The ones they teach
to sew, weave and farm.
Men who react to nothing
but the word ‘bomb’.
And I know mothers keep
sheets freshly laundered.
Put cigarettes and flowers
by bedsides, just in case.
No Man’s Moon
My dear children – Do not misunderstand what
I write today and do not think me ungrateful;
but I must say this to you: My deepest desire is
to no longer live. Käthe Kollwitz June 13 1944
Remember the pear tree.
So irresistible in our ramble
for sweetness. The blush of an apple,
held tight in my hands.
But when I return bruised
from the city, and you rush
to share my crop, understand
I can’t stop windfalls.
I no longer have time to doze.
Every night I explore sky,
from black holes to ripe ochre.
Darkness with its open arms,
burrows my inner core.
I can decipher childhood poems.
Account for every word and face.
I’ve spat out pith many times,
the pleasure it gives and takes.
But I must tell you
there aren’t any soldiers there.
It’s my mother waits on the other side