by Greg Nicholl
Coaxed by hordes gathering on the wall,
we changed plans, took a last-minute train
from Frankfurt to Berlin to pass into the crowds
alongside Potsdamer Platz where we rented
rock picks from a woman kneeling on a blanket
then took turns striking the graffitied concrete
for chips to schlepp home. It’s how I learned
to value incident over memento—the chunks
of cement nothing but asbestos-laden dust
stashed in a shoebox beneath my bed. Let me
know I was there. If not the whole story,
a part of it. Let me take wrong turns.
Dead ends. Let me stumble across a building,
pastel-painted and slipped between two rows
of East German housing, so that I can gape
at its cubist squirrels and dolphins,
the geometric giraffe hovering seven stories
above a deserted bus stop. Let chance unveil
the impromptu folk concert on the deck
of a houseboat docked in the Landwehr Canal.
The beer garden tucked away in the upper level
of a shopping center parking garage. Let me attest
to the broad fissures that surfaced along the wall
where cement was removed, the rebar inside
pried wide enough apart to allow us to cross
into the once-guarded death strip beyond
so we could watch body after body pass through
and then continue on, as if testing their feet
for the first time.
Greg Nicholl’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in: The Cortland Review, Nimrod, North American Review, Sugar House Review, West Branch, and elsewhere. He is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a freelance editor currently living in Boston.