Berlin ist nicht so weit

For my friend Gerd Hecker

Dusky mobile

Handy, small device.

A husky voice

Komm bitte nach Berlin.

A lengthy pause, a breathy sigh

The smoke encircling

Your pale blue watery eye

Berlin will was erzählen.

Hooked, I hear you smile.

Komm mal, was gibt’s?

You’ve booked. Last flight.

Berlin ist nicht so weit…


From frosty SFX

Your Merc sniffs billboards

Intimating stillborn Grand Coalition.

Berlin kann ja nichts passieren!

Coalesced we glide,

No threat, no change.

Your side or mine.

Entfernt sind London und Berlin denn voneinander nicht so weit.


The ashtray full, Charlottenburger Stube warm

Eggs benedict benighted with your Bratkartoffel

Coffee and tobacco dregs

Berlin ist doch gemütlich, nicht?

Slithy, easy fingers

Playing with your fag pack

Teasing, earnest, sleazy

As you drag me back

While clouds curl round

Your tantalizing frown

With long blond mane caressing

Hollowed cheek and furrowed brow,

You spin a tale of Stasi way-back-when

Their felonies, embezzlements

Their larcenies and excrements

Kannst Du das glauben?


Glancing up from winy glass

To glassy eye, I squeeze your hand,

For Stasi now long gone, my dear.

Natürlich, glaub’ich schon.

Your past, my past.

Our years spin fast

In rewind, worlds apart

You send me hell to skelter:


Hand grips mine

A trot from playground

With ‘Good news, good news!

We’re moving to Berlin!’

Berlin was not too far

We’d soon be home again.

Four years was not too long.

Schon damals war es nicht zu weit.

A father’s furrow

Must be followed

B.H. then Savignyplatz

Berlin war aber doch kein Ersatz…


Neon rubble was my home,

Olympic Stadium my school.

For play the blasted concrete nests

Where Hitler sent his Youth to die,

A stone’s throw from the clay

The Frenchman raised on stilts to signify

The Soviets were here to stay

And Europe could cohabit or fry.


Berlin war heiss, you reminisce

The reclaimed cobble strays you’d raid

Corbusier to chuck at us

The occupying foe.  Ach was…

Berliner Kopfsteinpflaster

Granite, basalt, sandstone

Ten by ten by seven

One alone required a plaster.

Granatwürfel, fist-sized die

You rolled our way

And we flicked back, you say.

Kopfflicken.  Head wounds, head stones. Schicksalswürfelei…


Und Du wirst schreiben! comes your long-awaited

Cobbled shot, long-hoarded, dice unloaded

To briquette flame and a deep, deep draught of wine.

Du wirst der Autor sein!

I feign assiduous notes and dodge

This Kopfstein with a weary jibe.

For obvious to me, if not to you

That you’re the author, I the scribe.

Klar wird’s was geben…

Cash will flow, if not at first

Like paving stones but liberally deferred.

Als Partner! Du bist der Einzige, der es kann!


Tyres rumble muffled over soaking cobbles

And you build a beer mat bunker

Fit for children dodging Russky tanks

Ich arbeit’ mit Dir noch so gern.

You wave the smoke aside

Routinely.  Pour the wine.

It seeps blood red.  You wipe, uncleanly.

s wird ein grosser Film sein.

Furtive smile like Hanseatic sail

Retrieves, in stone and hail:


Our Putzfrau Gertsch of bloodied knuckle

Worker to the bone, Berlin her gaol,

Defeated twice, by Zhukov

Then by spies, informers all,

Imprisoned first by toil

And then by Wall.

The ride past Checkpoint Charlie

Dead of dawn. ‘Look straight ahead,’ he said.

His V-Mann corpse on Prenzlau cobble,

Mother’s hand across my eyes…


The beer mat watchtower

Teeters, escapees scream

Barbed in matchstick tepee.

Berlin war Zuhause, oder?

So it was but can I hack it?

Why go back there?

Who will listen or care,

When worse assaults us daily sans recourse still less repair?


Ashtray full, you stub

Your fag on china

Drown the nicotine in wine.

Komma, nachts ist ja so fein.

Mercedes hobbles merciless

On self-same cobbles,

Siegessäule boasting victories

Undone, redundant.

Overtaken, taken over

Captive I turn over only

Childhood over and over

Du kannst was draus machen, Mann!

Maybe or maybe not.

Reichskanzlerplatz now something else

The NAAFI gone that fed our troops

By torchlight under Funkturm-Nuremberg,

Corbusier no longer augurer

Of cobbled peace, his place

The neo-brutal harbinger

Of concrete outer space.


Das waren wir, you say

With stoic acquiescence

In a tense so far away

I capture only now its essence.

Stasi, Wall, Savignyplatz

Were only hooks

On which to hang

Our fading dreams, our filmic Kopfsteinpflaster.


Our adventure was the one you wanted

And I grasp too late the sense

You hid like every poet,

Alles ist fur mich zu weit.

I’m dying friend, you meant.

And you are left behind

To speak of me, of us,

An age between, a friendship lost.


Child of armistice, twelve days my elder

You were my best my only hope of fairer weather

Cobbles were the worst and films the best

We threw in peace together.


How could I have missed the signs?

Empty as that ashtray now,

The love, the guile, the sweet seduction

Of those pale blue eyes

No man or woman could resist.

Ja sicher, I reply without conviction.

Wunderbar! You cry without compunction.

Erinnerst Dich an unsere Kämpfe?


Barely.  But I see too clear

The cobbles raining round us

With no healing balm to see us through

The night in store.

Our story ends, too soon.

And I am here to write it

With no hand to hold, no friend to phone

On dusky mobile and no husky voice

To ask me how I’m doing

How it’s going, where it’s heading:

Places that we never went or ever might.

Heut’ abend ist Berlin sehr weit.


© Gareth Jones, October 2018

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