March 22, 2011

Patrick Hicks

SITTING ON THE BERLIN WALL
                 January 1990

On my way back to Belfast I wandered past Bebelplatz,
smelled the air for burning books, glanced at Brandenburg Tor,
and went to that open field, Potsdamer Platz.
I chewed the alien words until, like the Berlin Wall,
my trust in language simply
collapsed.

Bordered by dead grass and foot-churned mud,
the long barrier, thick as memory, attacks the horizon–
a concrete scalpel slicing through the city.
I move to touch it: rough, strong, as dirty as politics.

A fresh hole smashed into the Soviet concrete
allowed noisy graffiti to frame East Germany.
I clasped a hook of rebar and swung myself up
onto the back of history. I straddled the Wall,
one foot here, the other there,
while a helicopter thumped in the distance,
its angry rotor reminding me of home, of Belfast.
I close my eyes and hover above the city of my birth–
the puff of tear gas, the pop of bombs,
funeral processions that twist
through flag-ridden streets.
The Peace Line, thick as memory,
slices the city in two, cleaving hate from hate.

Again in the middle of Potsdamer Platz,
I look from side to side,
and reassure the worried concrete
that there is still work to be done.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003