Ich Bin Ein Berliner
They were glad enough to see
so much thrown in the dustbin
when the Wall came down;
but not the Ampelmannchenn,
the traffic light’s little green man
with his jaunty, Erich Honecker hat.
At the threat of his deposal
by the west’s staid cousin
there was outcry. Now
Herr Everyman’s cheery gait
sets Berlin’s tone on carrier bags,
coffee mugs, T-shirts.
Beside the Riechstag and Brandenburg Gate
he doffs his hat respectfully
amid Germany’s blackened history,
offering normality even
as teenagers racket among
Holocaust memorial slabs.
The hat’s raised also to solemn
Marx and Engels, acknowledging
their good intentions. Shaded by trees,
the statues’ hands and feet still burnished
by Ostalgie and wishful thinking
as the city goes briskly about its business,
past filling stations where border posts
and watchtowers once stood.
He beckons: what’s that he’s saying?
‘Forget the barbed wire,
the places that sent you.
Your journey’s over. Willkommin.’
Greg Freeman is a former newspaper sub-editor, and now news editor for the poetry website Write Out Loud https://www.writeoutloud.net/. His debut pamphlet collection Trainspotters was published by Indigo Dreams in 2015. ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ was written after a whistle-stop tour of Vienna, Prague and Berlin, by train.