:: Article

Three Poems After Berlin

By Claire Potter.

Don’t pass him the water after sex!
– Immediately after sex!
It’s so business-like

For an instant then you felt
pragmatic, less of a bohemian
next to his striding Canadian ease.
There in his Berlin bed –
merely a mattress on the floor,
(but telling dressed in HEDDA LÖV)

In short, you thought of England.
As you lay there, (it’s solid breakfasts)
staring at the tapping light
bulbs, hanging like a pair of
balls, you allow yourself
a moment:
It was hardly a union of souls,
far from a love declaration.
Why shouldn’t I pass the water?
Heart to heart?
Glass to gob.
Get it drank you ungrateful sod.


(if I keep my eyes closed for a little longer my arms will seem to double in weight and my legs will buckle under slumber.)

There is a man in black sitting at the opposite end of the carriage from where I stand with K.. and his brother E..
His broad-rimmed hat and trimmed goatee beard are his unique features. His trademarks. The things that make him stand out among all the other faces on the U8. He looks like a Mexican horse rider. A whip-cracker. A death bringer.
I want him to catch me and hold my stare, make me feel that he knows my thoughts. I want to feel like this is a significant moment, for his eyes to bore into mine.

Three stops and E.. and I exit the train. We part ways on the platform and I take the stairs up to street level where I start to run home. To the place I am renting for five days. To the place I am pretending is home in my fictitious new life in Berlin.


His plan for us is to travel north, to the ex Iraqi embassy. He points out buildings where he has had beers with friends visiting from Poland, traveling companions from India, various girls from various places. Sitting on the top deck here is the same as sitting on the top deck at home and that is what I am interested in. I want to match things up and tie things together. I look out the window and the tour continues despite the fact that I have no use for the information.

I am disappointed when we arrive. I spend a great deal of time smiling over a damp piece of paper that I find outside the kicked-through door. I am feigning more interest than I feel but I carry it between an extended thumb and forefinger as though it where a shining example of everything he had promised.

In the building there is the usual; desks, files, shredders. The carpet is swollen and water logged, the wallpaper is dripping from the walls and broken polystyrene ceiling tiles line our ground-floor path. I seem to gasp in awe and wander away from my guide.

We take the stairs and as I drag my hand along a mosaic wall I cut my finger. The glass will come out in four days time but right now I don’t think there is anything beneath the skin.
Are you OK? he asks.
Yes I am, I reply.

The decaying dead fox or dog is lying in the centre of a sofa which sits at the top of the stair case. Last time it was over there apparently. There are two sticks on the floor, they must be the moving sticks. The rhythm sticks. Not received heartily, but then again, not dealt sincerely either.

Burnt pages torn from books look like slices of toast. It reminds me of concentration camps for no real reason, but I am here and I am looking to be moved by history and I will use anything. I linger by the pile of toast with a sad and wistful expression but he’s not looking so I move on.

The old offices with tipped out filing cabinets, the open books in foreign tongue, the damp visa application forms, they all become one thing and I can’t find any interest in it. Boring people find things boring and we go to see the castle that’s just round the corner from here, where I took such and such a body when they were visiting from such and such a place. Big buildings aren’t automatically castles. This thought brings on my Empire Complex and I fight off my historical English thoughts. The last thing I want to do is appear to be where I’m from.

Claire Potter is a writer/artist who has been recently published in Soanyway magazine and exhibited at A Foundation. She is currently working with maps and footpath guides for a forthcoming exhibition in the basement of Wolstenholme Project, Liverpool. She also blogs here.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, April 2nd, 2009.