Unter den Linden

Post image for Unter den Linden

How do you paint the colours of a breeze?
I have no names, and yet I feel it on my face
As palpable as if it were still May 1982
And we were sitting in that street café
Unter den Linden, in East Berlin:
Warm-cool, quick-slow, here and there and here again,
Tugging at our faces just as love was tugging at our hearts.
I can tell you the colour of the linden trees:
Permanent Green Light.
(It has never changed in my heart.)
The buildings, pocked-marked with bullet-holes from 1945,
Were Raw Umber and Mars Black, I remember.
The tablecloths were chequered the inevitable
Scarlet Lake and Titanium White.
And the sky over Berlin,
The same sky for Westerners and Easterners alike,
Was of course Cerulean Blue.
It was a Cerulean Blue day.
As for the rose which I smuggled across the border
In the pocket of my decadent Western leather jacket,
The name of that red, as I recall, was freedom.


First published in Poetic Pilgrimages: James Hogg at Eighty, Edited by Wolfgang Görtschacher, William Oxley, Glyn Pursglove, and Andreas Schachermayr, University of Salzburg Press 2010; reprinted inThe Colour of Love by Jonathan Steffen, Acumen Publications 2011

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