The statues of Berlin spent
decades underwater- during the final days
all of them were tossed, all those iron men
were tossed into the canals
Picture the face
of Geothe caressed
by weeds, at home beneath
a sheet of solid ice unmovable
through the darkest months.
There are no ghosts: only
statues. Haunting is a notion
too obscene, there are no ghosts: this house
of human atrocity swarm
and sip from glass phials
her ashen residues as verigated
diverse and seductive as any French
wine, or Belgian chocolate.
The water itself
remembers, though its course
is fixed: the tour begins
at Zoo station and will conclude
at the Jewish Memorial.
But where do they sleep
these innumerable children
of trauma? do they make their graves
in the air, the famous curative
Berlinerluft? or in the swamp which is
the mother of this place, or in the water also,
with its long memory?
On Friedelstraße there’s a junk store,
a good one, you can deck out a house
for 50 euros. More of an indoor tip
than a shop, some skillful clambering
is required, over mountains of fur,
typewriters, carpets, photo albums, medical
imaging equipment to get to the kitchen wares.
I have strict requirements
when it comes to bedlinen, glassware
and crockery: white. white only.
I pick through looking for teacups
that match, silver cutlery, things to excite
my old world yearnings, that I may recreate
a dinner from a movie,: the conversation will be artful,
the crockery will be crisp, bright, musically
This one is discreetly patterned, shot through
with an embossed floral; this one, gilt edged;
this one, the kind you imagine sturdily placed
on a farmhouse table, it has an earnestness
that befits a hunk of strong cheese
or some wurst; this one
crosshatched with the marks
of ancient knives, this one, deep
and wide enough to cradle
a pot of udon, this one,
this one: this is a find.
Turn it in your hands, inspect for cracks, marvel
at its weight, its marvellous Bavarian heft, and squint
at the fine pewter insignia printed
discreetly, almost invisibly
on the rim: an eagle, that poor bird forever saddled
with the burden of empires and their branding,
an eagle, and beneath it
Beware the assurances
of ordinary things: these things will be
The ground above the Führerbunker
is a car park now, adjacent to a block
of flats, and the Karstadt department store,
appropriated from the Jews, is Ms. Rosenfeld’s
local source of the finest smoked fish.
People live. that’s what they do.
We live and we drink and we
drink die schwartze Milch, die schwartzes Wasser
des Vergessens, wir trinken und trinken
and grow older.
But still, the statues. Still,
this empty house which is mine
to furnish. These things, they live
How much can it hold?
this white bowl, how much water
for soup, and how might it feed me?
Picture the face
of a friend, another young German
asymmetrically stylish, tall and cool
in black jodhpurs and boots
picture her face
submerged picture the underground
flooded, those who came for shelter, picture them
Picture a face
over a bowl of hot soup
Sarah-Jane Norman is a cross-disciplinary artist and writer, originally from Sydney, Australia. She is known in Australia and abroad for her body of intimate work, such as Rest Area (2006), Songs of Rapture and Torture (2007-2010) and Take this, for it is my Body (2010).