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.