When we were in Berlin Sara and I went to see Howl at an English subtitled cinema, and I took the line ‘I’m with you in Rockland’ (Howl, part three) as inspiration for the refrain and the writing of: ‘I was with you in Berlin’.
I was with you in Berlin, where the lights were familiar yet foreign,
The streets they lit were unpronounceable on my tongue and your mouth muttered
The accent, thick as stew, in-between my kisses,
My English endearments on a German tram
I was with you on Museum Island, where the buildings rose like the dreams of men,
Above us, and the sun lay itself down on grey walls
Like a weary curse or a prayer for rest, where
The Berlin Dome was surrounded by beggars and ice
And tourists slip, slide and tip toe, their cameras shaky hands
Capturing the stone steps and sculptures of a bucking horse
Each muscle shivering in the January clean air
I was with you in Kreuzberg, where the streets
Were filled with dog turds, and the bins are broken
Upside down emptying their stomachs like drunken students, a medley
Of cans and bottles and cigarette stubs
The dead Christmas trees are all drying out between parked cars.
I was with you in the cafes where the herbal teas arrived,
Their scent and colour like old flowers revived in the frost
And our cold fingers clutched their steamed surface,
gradually warming ourselves at three euros a glass.
As we walk past graffitied buildings, past streets for tourists, past roads filled with cars on the wrong side, as we map tracked our way to
The East Side gallery, the cold embraced me more thoroughly than your arms
And your camera clicked the last of the Berlin Wall into its place.
At the Brandenburg Gate, where you brought pieces of wall
To take back for your nephew and niece, where I deliberated over postcards
And watched bicycles pass under the angel figure. Her arm rose in triumph
As the stone fell in pillars of water from her impregnable height
to the ground at my feet.
I was with you at Checkpoint Charlie, where school children collected in
Gossipy American groups, and the sandbags piled up, reminding me of floods,
Where you insisted on wanting to know which side of the wall we would have been on, and my ignorance and lack of curiosity was a barbed wire net
Irritating your eyes. I was with you as we passed the shops full of mementos
And innumerable pieces of broken up wall
We walked to the tower of terror, where a slate- dark building sat
Like a book full of the names of dead people
And I asked if we could leave, feeling the wind push us on to other places.
I was with you in our tiny apartment, on the second flight of stairs, where
The woman with her tiny dog took her bins out each morning
And two girls on a balcony smoked opposite our window
Observing your nudity after you got out of the shower.
The walls were rinsed by our lovemaking sounds,
Cleaning myself in you and emptying my skin of the stress of maps and money
Your fever kissed lips brushing my cool face
And the night coming swiftly down,
As we made another cup of thick tasting peppermint tea.
I was with you in Berlin, in Kreuzberg, at the Brandenburg Gate, and I retain
Their names like odd one cent pieces at the bottom of our suitcase
Shaken out after months of unpacking by parts. I find our travel guide maps
Circled and arrows pointing our imaginary steps.
On paper we move
again across Potsdam platz, down Friedrichstrasse,
My English endearments echoing among the German graffiti.