Berlin, November, 1989

Artwork: Painting “FREIHEIT” (“FREEDOM”) 3′ x 4′. painted at the New York Art Students League. Courtesy Max Reif.

In Berlin, where the Wall
was like an outcropping of the world’s
skeleton that ran right along its surface,
the Soul of the world cracked that surface
those days in November, ’89. As at shrines
on sacred meridians the world over—
Stonehenge, Angkor Wat, Macchu Picchu—
Spirit began pouring straight out of rock.
I can only imagine how pure the air was there.

At my art school on 57th Street in New York City
during a break, I saw the pictures in the TIMES,
of Angels dancing on the Wall, drunken in joy.
‘FREIHEIT! ‘ I splattered on my canvas in red graffiti
in the huge painting of it all I began that day,
as the holy air of Liberty began spreading
like a massive front of weather moving East.
What was the order of the communist countries
whose hierarchies began to topple like toy soldiers?
Poland, Hungary, Czechoslavakia, Romania, the Baltics—
(like a litany of Hitler’s armies marching backwards) .

Finally, a great rumbling filled the air
and the Soviet bear itself came crashing down,
a bear rug safely dead upon the floor.
I understood the world, those days,
sent transfusions of books in the mail
addressed simply ‘Committee for National
Salvation, Bucharest, Romania’.
Here, now, writing about those times,
I just had to open my window to let more fresh air in.

It was like the late ’60s, when simple minds
suckled on the contraband milk of ideals,
massing in Paris, New York, Prague, Chicago, Frankfurt,
believed they were suddenly sweeping away the Old Order.
My history-conscious friend told me the same thing
had happened in 1848. But the Old Order
always seemed to weather the storm, somehow.

Today, 16 years after the Wall came down,
is the air still pure there where it once stood?
I don’t know what’s happened to the New World Order.
In the headlines, the Soul has long gone back into hiding;
fear and chaos seem back to their accustomed places.
We try to keep a New Order alive in ourselves
overthrowing dictators’ armies that gather within,
knowing all the world’s show comes out of a hat,
and any minute, any day, a white dove
will flap its wings and fly up from the hat again.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, the content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.