The sirens will not wail here again,
the thunder of bombs not prevail.
The spectre of war has vanished,
forever, it is hoped in silent repetition,
where once was done its utmost bidding.
War has always lived fitfully,
in men's imaginations,
with promises of victory, fame, and glory:
the vanquishing of foes, the plundering of riches.
But here was known war's utter hell and consequence.
70,000 died in the last 10 days of April, 1945.
And in the wild ravages of death,
the city was destroyed - bombed to rubble,
and stripped to barren earth.
Yet in the center of the Tiergarten
stands the Siegessäule,
an antique monument
to victory in another age.
It now seems quaintly obsolete,
though outwardly still radiant, triumphant, golden.
Victory at what cost?
And who should suffer defeat?
Better now that tourists come, snap pictures,
and send them home in emails.
The Wall is a little more contemporary,
and easier to understand.
Keep people out, keep people in –
an impulse as old as stones and mortar,
that has never really changed.
Our modern lives have more walls than ever,
both hidden and apparent.
But this wall, so false and damaging,
could not forever stand.
A city, like a living thing,
cannot endure division from itself.
And so the wall came down.
Now tiny smart cars smartly zip, unnoticing,
over markers inset in the pavement
(Berlin Wall 1961-1989),
as if to symbolize the transformation,
and to say, "oh, we tried all that, it doesn't work."
A more enlightened age
is supposed to have arrived.
And perhaps, perhaps wishfully,
it has, and come here first,
in this old country, made wise by its failed hubris.
And now I realize that's what I like about it here.
For the first time in years,
I am in a city, and country, at peace.
Written in Fall 2004, last revised 2016.