A city with a knife in its heart,
nerves exposed, arteries dangling, its temples to kingship,
religion, learning and art
begrimed, and pockmarked by bullets,
or spruced, sand-blasted and lacquered
to face the new market day. No wonder History
has a grim and elderly look.
She sits at the base of Schiller's statue,
manly, legs crossed, in her toga,
while her buxom sisters in negligé, Lyric,
Drama, and Philosophy, flirt with the passersby.
The boulevards convulse in excavations,
cranes rake the sky. The Palace of Tears
still runs with tears. In vacant lots
barrels protrude from puddles of khaki water,
pennants of shredded plastic shiver from chain link fence.
Loss opens the way, I wrote in a letter
that was not a letter of love.
On Sophienstrasse, a small, grubby-faced boy
works with scholarly concentration
to dislodge a cobblestone the size of a scone
from the sidewalk in front of Queen Sophie Luisa's church.
The neighborhood shakes to the dentist's drill:
panel by coppery panel, girder by girder,
new labor dismantles old labor's Palast der Republik.
Rosanna Warren teaches comparative literature at Boston University.