Creation Myths

Some have the grandeur of architecture,
The grandeur of the concert hall: the sentimental
Grandeur of an idea lying just beyond recall
In someone's imagination, compelled by an even
Greater music at its most monumental, 
That begins with the explosion of a drum
In chaos and the dark, the twin wellsprings of a world
That slowly comes to lie before them—a natural
One, apparently designed for them alone, 
That somehow lifts them in the end, a woman and a man, 
To Paradise and the certainty of God.

It's lovely to believe—lovely, anyway, to hear.
The chaos is still there, but rather than a distant state
From which the patterns of this life emerged, 
It feels like part of it, like sex or sleep, 
The complex workings of a dream made visible. 
This afternoon I took the S-Bahn into town, 
Getting off at a half-completed shell
In the middle of what felt like nowhere, 
One stop before the Friederichstrasse station.
I picked my way along a maze of barriers and fences, 
Down an open street and past a makeshift balcony
Overlooking a pit, the site of the creation 
Of the Hauptbahnhof to come. It was echt Berlin: 
A panorama filled with transcendental buildings to the south, 
And in the foreground towering red and yellow cranes
Branded with the initials DB, a cacophony
Assembled to articulate some inarticulate design,
But closer to the truth: a half-baked world, 
The perfect setting for a half-baked life. 
I used to think one finished what the past began, 
Instead of moving things around inside a no-man's-land, 
A landscape always on the verge, always unrealized . . . 

Purpose and design; a sort of purpose, with a form
Still waiting to emerge; and finally, lack of any
Strategy or plan, as entropy increases—
On my way back from a puzzling museum
I found myself rehearsing various ideas of order
And disorder, ideas of intent, deliberation, and control.
Three hours earlier, strolling through its galleries
Full of different kinds of cocks, encaustic cunts and oddly moving 
Piles of junk from the Berlin equivalent of OfficeMax
or Home Depot, all strewn about the floor
Of what until the war had been a neo-Renaissance
Train station, I'd suddenly felt the wonder of uncertainty
At how these things so stubbornly neglected to emerge
From the rubble of Creation's threshing floor,
But simply lay there—all this stuff—deliberately chosen, 
I suppose, yet out of context signifying nothing but themselves.
I'd felt absurdly happy. Maybe it was the notion
That the realm of the imaginary coincided with the present,
With an ordinary day spent wandering here and there, 
And later on that evening, The Creation at the Philharmonie.
At any rate, I'd seen enough. There was no place else
I especially wanted to go—no more exhibitions
Or architecture—and nothing I particularly wanted to do
—Window-shopping in the stores along the Ku'damm—
And so I wandered through its massive doors
Into the afternoon and the museum of the future.

From Ninety-fifth Street. Copyright © 2009 by John Koethe. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.