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Recorded for Poem-a-Day March 8, 2019.
About this Poem 

“‘A Unified Berlin’ emerged from a Mellon Foundation-sponsored trip to Berlin and Nicosia, Cyprus, where a group of American writers and scholars explored two cities broken by war and other kinds of rupture. Our team met with politicians, artists, workers and activists and heard their stories. This is one man's story.”
—Ann Townsend

A Unified Berlin

The Junior Minister waved a hand
                          toward the courtyard where, he said,

                                       Goering’s private lion used to live.

                         With him we climbed Parliament’s steps,

walls pockmarked still with bullet holes. 
                         In the conference room the Social Democrats

                                     passed trays of petit fours and coffee.

                         We were perhaps insufficient, he said.

His voice, uninflected: they shipped
                         my father to Stalingrad. Forty days

                                      and dead. In the room,

                         the transcriptionist, the translator,

and security stationed against
                         the wall. Some time passed.

                                     In East Germany, he said, at least

                         it was always terrible. Bad luck, he said,


to be on that side of the wall. Even
                         the apples were poison. We were

                                     to understand this was a little joke. 

                         He brought the teacup to his mouth,

but did not drink. His fingernails
                         were tapered and very clean.

                                     When you are the victim, he said,

it doesn’t matter who is killing you.

Copyright © 2019 by Ann Townsend. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Ann Townsend. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ann Townsend

Ann Townsend

Ann Townsend is the author of Dear Delinquent (Sarabande Books, 2019) andThe Coronary Garden (Sarabande Books, 2005).

by this poet

poem

New York Public Library, Edna St. Vincent Millay archives

Because Norma saved even the grocery lists,
              it was no surprise to find a lock of hair

                            coiled and glued loosely into the scrapbook,
crimped and rusty, more weird

and alive than any

2
poem
Despair needles you with its whisper,
it is agnostic, it believes in irony,
like a fly’s buzz it is perceptions, a busy

blood clot that says alive, alive.

I’m not the stopped motion, the straight line out.
Your garlands are "convivial, festival, sacrificial,
nuptual, honorary, funebrial."

That spring, when we