Alt-Treptow by Liam Heitmann-Rice
Away from the centre, from the anxious headache,
The mad rush of Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Tiergarten, Bundestag,
Pull me out, lift me up, and let me take
My own small piece
Of this German Manhattan: Ich möchte retten
The city I see splashed over postcards and shot on film,
The clichéd Berlin – oh please let’s steer clear, venture out on a whim
To those smaller streams, wherein I swim at a pace that suits me,
So that I can see those streets that render life so vividly;
The real Berlin, I think to call it, those grass threads of satin that you won’t find
On Museum Mile, but in the pages of Christopher and His Kind:
Nothing new, this is the view of der Ausländer. The outsider looking in,
I see a prism of amber beer Flaschen, of smashed cobblestones.
I catch in my eyes the fine yellow dust
Of sunlight blown fast through leaves; oh you must
See that constant glimmer, this tangible dream,
Of small emerald petals sprinkled with tufts,
That bright golden stuff
Sifting downwards from clouds that sing
The merry ode of Life, as one finds it, in only Berlin.
Pencil-tip winds that comb through your hair,
The tingling sensation from these fingers of air:
Cupping your ears and kissing your cheek,
The feeling is fine, wholly unique, and yet also… zu unglaublich.
For the city of white diamonds and sapphire skies
Surely can’t be totally real, it must be a lie,
To expect this gem of perfection to stay like this,
To live on in mind as it does in Time, to withstand the mist
Of porous memory, of unfaithful myth…
As I walk through the day, in shoes sponged with summer, I have a sudden need to touch something. I walk up to a tree and lay both hands flat upon the ridged bark, placing pressure on the ripples of dusty green wood as I lean in and look up, see a dense bundle of leaves and branches: the trees tightly enmeshed, every branch and twig tying a ribbon of green headscarves, united in one uniform tapestry. I squeeze a protruding flake of bark between my thumb and forefinger, pressing the green dust of the tree into the shallow openings of my fingerprints, nestling my knuckles between the warped ridges, and pinch the dry surface to affirm its existence. This sensational moment of touch, consolidating my sense of place, seeping into the roots of the city – these are hereafter the sprinklings of Berlin I carry in my skin.
Often I push my nails in to my palms,
A dull point of pain to keep me awake, to disturb the calm;
A reminder, in fact, that all this is real—
I fail at times to believe this place exists, as though I feel
It has been made only to appease my wish
To stride through paths composed on chequerboard sunlight,
To inhale floral perfume, and to think that, maybe, this just might
Be a concrete utopia, and not my paper Heaven built with words and sight.
My home of brief tenure, my short placement in this city,
I see with stubborn clarity that you, Berlin, are for me, and I, one hopes, am
Born in Western Australia, Liam is a final-year Creative Writing student at the University of East Anglia. On account of his German heritage, he wishes to settle in Berlin, a city that he reveres as the Capital of the World, and where many significant experiences in his life have been had. Besides travelling and writing prose fiction, Liam’s interests include photography, the films of Martin Scorsese, and minimalist composers such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich.