Tuesday, 17 May 2016 19:28

Senefelderstrasse 19, East Berlin: a Brechtian poem

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in Poetry
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Senefelderstrasse
Senefelderstrasse
by Stan Gamester

The appeal for Brechtian poems in the Mayday editorial is bearing fruit. Here is the first one, from Keith Armstrong.

Senefelderstrasse 19, East Berlin

In the oven of a Berlin heatwave,
this crumbling block bakes
and all the bullet holed walls
flake.
Tenements skinned bare,
they burn with anxiety, death wishes,
frustrated hopes.

From a cracked and peeling courtyard window,
a Beach Boys’ track
clashes against an old woman’s ears
as she carries a bagful of bruises home.
In this rundown, sunful flat,
I am tuned in to the BBC World Service –
a cricket season just beginning,
and East Berlin sizzling
in a panful of history.

Senefelderstrasse 19, crawling with flies.
On top of the wardrobe, some volumes of Lenin slump,
there is dust everywhere, dust.
And all we are saying in all the sweltering
is ‘Give me a piece of the Wall.’
just ‘Give me a piece of the Wall.’

Look down onto the street –
the cobbles still stare,
the cracks in the pavement leer.
And, like every day, Frau Flugge traipses gamely along,
trying hard not to trip,
shabbily overdressed and hanging on
to the shrapnel of her past affections,
to the snapshots of her dreams.

From corner bars,
the gossip
snatches from doorways at passersby.
Inside, it is dark
and the money changes hands
slowly,
burning holes in the shabby pockets
of the dour Prenzlauer Berg folk:

‘The People are strong.’
‘They can’t sit more than 4 to a table here.’
‘THEY say it’s illegal.’
‘Let’s sing!’
Amongst the clenched blossom of Ernst Thallmann Park,
‘a workers’ Paradise’,
this glassy Planetarium gleams
under an ancient East German sky;
shining huge shell of a dome,
it traps stars and opens up Planets:
it is far-reaching, transcending walls.
It can stir the imaginings of all the World’s children.
It is the light at the end of Senefelderstrasse.
It beckons,
Beacons.

And Me?
I am walking in blistered hours,
sick of the sight of money
and what it does
to all the people I love.
‘A tip for your trip!
Instead of a brick from the Wall to take home,
bring back a Bertolt Brecht poem’:

‘And I always thought; the very simplest words
Must be enough. When I say what things are like
Everyone’s heart must be torn to shreds
That you’ll go down if you don’t stand up for yourself
Surely you see that.’

Through the letterbox of Senefelderstrasse 19,
I push this poem.
And, for the last time, leave
through Checkpoint Charlie.
‘Goodbye Frau Flugge, Herr Brecht,
the trams.
My friends, I wish you
Sunny days.’

Read 378 times Last modified on Thursday, 02 June 2016 09:12
Keith Armstrong

Keith Armstrong has worked as a community worker, librarian, publisher and poet, and has performed his poetry throughout the world.