Twenty years ago today the people of Berlin pulled down the wall that separated East and West Germany. In a recent interview, former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev called the Wall, “one of the shameful symbols of the Cold War.” Historians will continue to debate why the Wall fell at the time it did, and what was the “true” impetus for its demise. Two years previously, Ronald Reagan in a much publicized speech demanded that Gorbachev “tear down the wall.” Gorbachev appeared to do nothing, though his apparent silence of not reacting won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. With the collapse of the wall, the a symbol of Communism was destroyed and the Cold War started to defrost, though its breezes are still felt.
Over and under and through the Wall they came,
parched with a thirst they couldn’t quench.
Tunneling, flying, leaping, crawling, hidden
in car seats and carts, determined to wrench
themselves free from tyranny’s stench.
Oppressed, tortured, imprisoned, shot—
still the thirsty would not could not be denied.
The spring of freedom beckoned, so close, so far;
yards, feet, nay inches away they died—
and friends and loved ones cried.
Some made it! a baby hidden in a bag in a cart;
desperate men who leapt on a moving train;
a hollow car seat, tunnels, boats,
a makeshift glider, balloon and plane;
putting an end to the thirst and pain.
And then one day, one wonderful day,
they hammered and shattered and tore down the Wall!
Thirsting, singing, shouting, laughing, hugging,
chunk by chunk they watched it fall—
and the terrible thirst was quenched for all.
Computer expert turned author, Alan Cook writes mysteries and books about walking, as well as articles and poetry.
Berlin Wall Peddlers
History on sale
One chunk for only twenty dollars
Look at this one
it’s full of bullet holes
this one is stained with deserters’ blood
and see these two dark holes
they were burned by an anxious gaze
the remains of cold war on this one
still make you tremble
and what we have here
are the dancing footprints of the youth
and the shouting and clapping
when a heavy chain tore it down
Our supply is abundant
after the Berlin Wall
we’ll tear down the walls
the rich and the poor
the fortunate and the unfortunate
the oppressors and the oppressed
and of course we always have
the inexhaustible walls
between the hearts
William Marr was born in 1936 and educated in Taiwan. He came to the United States in 1961 and received his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Marquette University in 1963 and his PhD degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1969. After twenty seven years with Argonne National Laboratory, he retired from his engineering profession in 1996 to devote his full time and energy to his true passion — art and poetry.
When the Berlin Wall Fell
When the Berlin Wall fell, dear Frau Schubert, I began dreaming migraines, Mulilingual migraines, no preservatives. Bulging freedom, the excess weight of the united countries, began peering in through my windows. Its eye—I wonder what it’s thinking.
We Have It All Now
We have it all now, dear Frau Schubert. The borders’ invisible stitch. Impeccably tailored fields. Close-cropped towns. A genetic crisis. In the green house, where I’m resting: after growing a novel, Newton’s orange ripens.
Ewa Lipsak, the author of The New Century and Pet Shops. The poem was translated by Barbara Bogoczek and Tony Howard from the Polish.
Rmemberance of a Yugoslav
Yep, There was a wall. It was ornamental
and thick. Bumblebees held secret.
Meetings. Artuad was exhumed, they
brought him on a stretcher so he
could view it. Some dog it, others did
not. It was scrawny, thinner than
the Chinese one, but not quite
as scrawny as the Israelis.’
I walked on the Chinese with Ron
Padgett, who bought himself
A cap there on Jan. 2, 1963,
I walked through Berlin’s
With Metka to visit Pergamon.,
Alexanderplatz was without
People. We sat there in a People’s
canteen. In my hands I held five
West German marks, which glittered like a wafer,
I bought Honoecker’s daily
Neues Deutschland with only
one photo, how in America in 1931
People stood in line for some hot
soup. I remember people’s eyes.
Tomaz Salamun, the author of Weeds and Choices. This poem was translated by Brian Henry from the Slovenian.
It was a Weird Wall
It was a weird wall
Like the Mobius strip,
It had only one side,
The other one was unseen:
The far side of the Moon.
But some people would race
Against bullets, to rip
The barbed finish tape
With their chests, tog ive
A push to the wrecking ball,
The pendulum of the invisible clock.
My diary says:
“Natasha lost a front tooth,
Liza for the first time
Stood up in her crib
On her own.”
Vera Pavlova, the author of the forthcoming collection, If There is Something to Desire. This poem was translated by Steven Seymour from the Russian.