Monday, August 24, 2009


The sky is blue. There are white, blossoming clouds in it. They do not cover the yellow of the sun. The grass is shadowless and caught between draughted yellow-tans and greens. Healthy brown tree trunks rise to richer forest greens where the light of the sky colors through the leaves to not leave any space unpainted. The buildings queue into the palisade horizon on the far end of the grass field. They are bright burgundy. Inside another building, the walls are white. Solid white. There is no roof. The sun shines on the walls and each wall on each other. Here, like the grass, there are no shadows. Just white. In the sky, the sun now brightens the edges of the clouds like frosting on a wedding cake and I want to cry; I have never felt so guilty in a place.

This is a concentration camp.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Kiss of Rome

It still hangs on the lips of Humbolt. Outside the statues that line the rooftop ledge recall the twelve apostle statues at St. Peter's. The statue of Humbolt himself in the center of the square rises like The Obelisk in St. Peter's. It gives a distinctly imposing feeling in a space otherwise open and inviting. On his cheek there is a chip that looks like a tear. The Beatles might demand "Tell me why you cry," but walking around in fromt with a gaggle of chattering student tourists taking pictures in this place of imposed severity, it seems obvious.

On the other hand, maybe he cries because the world is not changing, but is still only being "interpreted." We seem a part of that. But, of course there needs to be some sort of interpretation before understanding and action can be taken. A quote out of context is not worth much, but here the context is Humbolt: this distinctly German space with it's post-germanic gothic grandeur, stone exterior walls blackened over time and bombs, the red-marble entrance hall, the columns of the same marble, the consistancy of the marble, the solid bronze lettering of Karl Marx, the sheer physical weight of the stone and metal that themselves seem to say to you "This IS a serious place. Act as such."But unlike the words of Marx, this tear is not given any context, or at least, we have no knowledge of it's context, which makes it all the more intrigueing should it be noticed.

The tear on the cheek merely reminds us of a human emotion. Totally accidentally. It weaps. For us? Because of us? Because we don't notice? Because we too easily pass it off as accidental? Is accidental art art at all? I think I would say "Yes." Or "No." Or, maybe, "It depends." On what, I have not yet determined.

Regardless of what it means, or where it takes my thoughts, it is, I believe, meaningful enough to recognize that they are taken somewhere, and that somewhere is, in general, Rome: Bernini's Rape of Proserpina, St. Peter's Square and Cathedral, the Capitoline Museum.

Inside Humbolt's main building, the stairwells hang molds of classic reliefs. This is the mother of all universities, and it wants so much to be Roman, or perhaps just to pay tribute to those classical roots, or the conception and generation of Western thought. The attribution of antiquity to a modern university gives this place a weight that could otherwise not be achieved. The romanticism of this place is certainly more an augment than a foundation, but nonetheless cannot be ignored. I am inclined to ask "Why this? Why this throwback to a distinctly different time and place and people?" But my answer is already with me through Marianne Moore.

"It has never been confined to one locality."

Berlin Exile

The skin is taught across the youthful face
Of the unwaveringly present tense,
The nightly pack-a-day unfiltered race
Toward lives led underneath the white-smoke fence

Between mistranslating the predicate,
And conjugating love with two more beers.
The fence top climbs into a figure eight,
That lasts as long as over-crowded cheers

For city-paid magicians stopping time
And care, with purples, reds, and burgundies,
And yellowed herringbone in soothing strokes

That cross a healthy Rubicon and mime,
"Now, now! Here you see the linden trees.
Forget the falling kiss of homeward oaks."

Temporäre Kunsthalle

You walk into the room. It is the size of a football field with a roof of average height, but too low for what you expect from a room of these dimensions. There are no lights. What light there is in the room comes from two sets of opaque glass doors on either end of the rectangular hall and one in the center of one of the longer sides. The walls are painted white. The floor is checkered gray concrete. The ceiling is checkered unpainted plywood. Above you, on the other side of the plywood, a tap dancer dances.


When I was four, I woke up to
A sound I'd never heard before--
Midwest skies in thunder storm.

I crawled into my parent's bed.
But Dad, he pulled me to the porch,
Wrapped a blanket round us both.

We saw the lightening and the clasp,
Watched the rain and felt the wind.
In time, I was asleep again.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rain and Reminiscence

The sound of water hitting glass fills the room for the first time since arriving in Berlin. It sounds like an infinite heard of feet running home, following the gravity of this place homeward bound to the ground, where they want and need to reside. There is no other place for this rain. It must fall. Es muss. Wie gehtz? Es muss. Just like time cannot stop, neither can gravity. neither can love, for that matter. Neither can the sound cease to be made into something else. It seems as if it can never just be rain. It calls back memory of events that it oversaw, that you saw through it, sounds of other forms of water, sounds unrelated to the physicality of water, but not so unrelated as you might think. It recalls the time when you were caught in a five minute thunder storm in Rome that changed the Tiber from a murky, but soft and sweet, green to a menacing and solid brown. It recalls every river in the world. Floods. Draughts. Parching tongues. And ocean tones (perhaps real, perhaps recorded and played on loop). It cannot stop. Certainly no more than can the blinking of a cursor on the black slate window. And certainly no more than love.

Love is a tricky word. I think I love Berlin. But I don’t think I’ve earned it yet.

The rain falls and I am at once whisked back to falls, winters and springs in Seattle. I woke up and as soon as I recognized the sound familiar to my ears I smiled a broad smile that was uncontrollable to my lips. They widened and eventually parted, exposing my teeth, top and bottom rows both. I breathed and I could smell the stench of my unwashed mouth, but I could hear the rain. I instead smelled the rain on asphalt. The fresh, the almost stuffy, but so close to stuffy you know it’s releasing and freeing a caged scent into the world and that knowledge will never make me hate the smell of a draughted rain on stone. Never.