.13) Berlin, November,1989 Poem by Max Reif

Max Reif


.13) Berlin, November,1989

Rating: 3.5

to Herbert Nehrlich

In Berlin, where the Wall
was like an outcropping of the world's
skeleton that ran right along its surface,
the Soul of the world cracked that surface
those days in November, '89. As at shrines
on sacred meridians the world over—
Stonehenge, Anghor Wat, Macchu Piccu—
Spirit began pouring straight out of rock.

I can only imagine how pure the air was there.
At my art school on 57th Street in New York City
during a break, I saw the pictures in the TIMES,
of Angels dancing on the Wall, drunken in joy.
'FREIHEIT! ' I splattered on my canvas in red graffiti
in the huge painting of it all I began that day,
as the holy air of Liberty began spreading
like a massive front of weather moving East.

What was the order of the communist countries
whose hierarchies began to topple like toy soldiers?
Poland, Hungary, Czechoslavakia, Romania, the Baltics—
(like a litany of Hitler's armies marching backwards) .
Finally, a great rumbling filled the air
and the Soviet bear itself came crashing down,
a bear rug safely dead upon the floor.

I understood the world, those days,
sent transfusions of books in the mail
addressed simply 'Committee for National
Salvation, Bucharest, Romania'.
Here, now, writing about those times,
I just had to open my window to let more fresh air in.

It was like the '60s, when simple minds
suckled on the contraband milk of ideals,
massing in Paris, New York, Prague, Chicago, Frankfurt,
believed they were suddenly sweeping away the Old Order.
My history-conscious friend told me the same thing
had happened in 1848. But the Old Order
always seemed to weather the storm, somehow.

Today,16 years after the Wall came down,
is the air still pure there where it once stood?
I don't know what's happened to the New World Order.
In the headlines, the Soul has long gone back into hiding;
fear and chaos seem back to their accustomed places.

We try to keep a New Order alive in ourselves
overthrowing dictators' armies that gather within,
knowing all the world's show comes out of a hat,
and any minute, any day, a white dove
will flap its wings and fly up from the hat again.

Jessica Lapalm 07 July 2007

Just the other day I was talking with a childhood friend of mine about when the wall fell. I asked her if she remembered but I don't think she really did. I was only five when it happened but even then I felt like somewhere in the world good things were possible. I'm glad to have found this poem in your collection. It was a little piece of synchronicity.

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Raynette Eitel 16 August 2005

This is a fine poem about a very special day in history. I had a wry laugh when I read 'It was like the '60s, when simple minds suckled on the contraband milk of ideals...' Every generation thinks their ideals will save the world. But I suppose the idealists build good worlds where new idealists think they can improve on it. I really love this poem and remember how thankful I was for the East Germans to have freedom at last. Raynette

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Michael Shepherd 15 August 2005

As one who remembers Berlin before the Wall - battered, ruined, with its indefinable smell of vegetables and diesel oil and cheap tobacco and precious coffee, besmirched with Cold War fears, but artistically free, its theatres alive with possibility - your last stanza is doubly true: the Wall was but a passing image of the ineffectiveness of the limited mind. Thanks for a very worthwhile poetic statement.

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Herbert Nehrlich1 14 August 2005

Though I don't have any traces of cataract and still am told by driver's licence officials that I have 20/20 vision, I completely missed the dedication! After writing the previous comment I looked and saw my name. For a moment I thought I had placed my comment under my poem somehow.... Thanks very much, a very nice gesture. You have almost inspired me to write the full story of the escape. Best wishes Herbert

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Herbert Nehrlich1 14 August 2005

This is simply brilliant, Max. As you know, I was there, from the beginning, and raeding your poem places me back smack into the middle of it again, the 'weather' was really moving West though.... Please correct spelling of Frankfurt. A masterpiece this is. Best wishes Herbert

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Max Reif

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