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The Berlin Wall (from A Tall, Serious Girl, Qua Books 2003)

Why, now that it's breached, broken, does it cause
such consternation in me?

                                          CBC brings me
the cries of happy youth, the singing, people
climbing up on the now meaningless Wall,
drinking champagne --

                                     I see myself,
eighteen months ago at Checkpoint Charlie,
hurrying across the street to avoid
the grisly American museum --

                                                  In the narrow corridor,
slipped my Canadian passport under glass to the unsmiling
visor-capped uniformed young official -- he inserts a visa,
passes it back -- a loud buzzer sounds, a door swings open
into the next holding-pen -- exchange West marks for East marks,
another buzzer, another door -- a block or so of speed bumps &
barriers to control cars --

                                        then on Friedrichstrasse I stand,
an official, legal visitor to the Deutsche Demokratische Republik,
approved museum-goer, café patron, flâneur. . .

The past is a prison I long for, the past is a holding-pen,
the past is eternity because I did not die then.
Now youth breaks out of Kreuzberg & Wedding, out of Pankow
on the east side (side no longer), flows unchecked
across the border, smashes the rest of the broken wall even,
to widen the space

                              & something in my old heart
wants to stop it, wants to retain
the orderly street, the fading State
offices, gilt-scrolled windows, resembling
banking rooms, that defined my ordinary
middle-aged eternity, my stroll, wants to
put the Wall back. As if time would stop,

as if when I went to Vancouver next week there might
be a Wall, a part of the city I could not enter except
by passing through the approved crossing-point (Broadway & Clark),
answering personal questions, giving bona fides of my existence, then emerging
on the far side, the good side, the dream side,
knowing myself to be a good citizen, inspected therefore
respected, & that the State (either of them) would protect me
from death.

If the young can be kept from knowing their power
(which is the power of time), if they can be made to accept
the reigning system, one memo, one regulation at a time,
with its bullshit rationale, then the old will not die.

Then the old will walk the street of Vancouver & Berlin
fed by the respect that is paid to them by the State,
by the faces in their mirrors, & by the young, too,
unwitting collaborators, lured, conned, into the plan,

the plan behind all plans, the plan to control time.
We need not die (though we are very old), & you may remain
children, adult children. One more decade, one more year of
eternity . . .

                    But the reasons wear thin. Become disconnected from the
hours of the day. And the night. The places where assent had been given
are unattended.

A detour is found. The young see each other, not pictures
of the old. Then the Wall falls. One less memory is real, one patch of ground
liberated. And the old must learn that history

is not their house. They must learn, like the young,
to live by their wits.