1 Nineteen Eighty-Nine How history could lead to human happiness The theme.

The tragic view will never lack for champions So bye. Not here. Time to leave the fact of tragedy Behind and tell what happened, better, dance what happened: Twenty years ago my daughter danced; she knew What was happening, knew it was good, I don't know how But she knew, and danced: the wall’s collapse, the evil People’s disarray, scent of the new, of course Pilar, she knew, and did not need (we did) to question. We were as we were, of faith not much, and good reason, Because as children we saw shut the grim world’s lid. Domino rows of nuns set up and collapsed each day Making us pray. What you don't know is your fault, they told us. Everything rests on you. Because we could not know, We took up the world, Russia in chains enchaining; Zoo of saints, holy card fever of apparitions, We toed hairtrigger tightropes above the destroying abyss, the War that would come unless we prayed. We took up the weight of a Planet weightless in fire, in vacuum. We took up the world Because what had stopped listening to this world
1959

2 might listen to us Soft-mouthed children letting go our prayers to heaven. We Took up the work as we were told, took up prayer, Took up the weight of the work of prayer to rescue a world Hanging from our lips. At night I dreamed the clack of rosaries. I am, so I ask: Was this the year the prayers were answered? Choir of the world, nights of past and present, we prayed, and Down past Hungarian priest teachers who had hidden in hayricks (Lips greying at borders as Nazi voices neared) And leapt into the winter night to choke and run-We read their tree-trunk wrists; no doubt about it, they'd killed, Gladly--who, when we answered roll without knowing our lessons, Knocked us down and screamed, How you not have study?, At us, these freedom boys jacking off the years-Their stories on one another, how one's hair had gone white The night Russian tanks trampled into Budapest, how another Wrenched out a Red grunt's arm for a garbage-pancake, How the Blessed Virgin cradled me in my cell as I awaited The firing squad--all of them woke up screaming nights, all Prayed like stonebreakers, harder than we'd ever seen anyone pray, Now bargaining, now demanding, now threatening heaven so clearly

3 there, Combusting self utterly, dying into the words, Praying sinful prayers of hatred, viscera, history; Down past corridors dunning with alarms and Duck and Cover, Throats junked with confusion as we practiced hunching underneath Our desks and toyed with gum and read carved initials Joking, listening hard for the Russian hum of bombers; Down past stick figures in Civil Defense cartoons Instructing us what to do in the event, as radioactive Silt slipped through doors, windows, sickening stick people Not lucky enough to locate an underground shelter While luckier sticks sat safe behind concrete, playing cards in Fearsome 2-D lamplight, awaiting the all-clear, As if, in the lie of patriotic TV, there could be an all-clear Once houses burst, pencil-trees smoldered, and time was poisoned; Down past air raid sirens whining on afternoons already Furnaces in rehearsal for California summer--in sober twos We marched across griddle blacktops, schoolyard wriggling, miraging, Into the church vestibule, we blinking at sudden, cool dark, Groping down a trapdoor stairway, throat to a dead, concrete Gut, fluorescent air, bunks, shelves and shelves
1962

4 Stacked with the largest cans of peas we had ever seen-When all whispered games of boys played across questioning Eyes in underground shelter, perfect atomic oven, God won't let it happen whispered to still daymares of Invisible wind-borne benediction of death's-head fallout, Flash deaf instant of airless annihilation, Until, like fear delayed, the sun-hot hurricane wall Melted eyes, cities, forests, borders, futures-Silence in a cool bunker; panic beneath a church; Down to an autumn night, a house swaddled in suburbs, When we walked the rooms saying, How about that? Can we Believe it?, and nightly news ran tape of what looked like a party-Legs in Western jeans, lives dancing on a Wall, Hammering holes in the Wall, spraypainting handwriting on the Wall In tongues known and unknown, chanting rock and roll, Posing, stars for tonight in the global media spotlight, Strolling two by two past Checkpoint Charlie guards To shop--stake in the heart of a past of lowered standards-Taking souvenirs, and our four-year-old daughter lisped, dancing, Daddy, they took down that evil wall you told me about And the bad people aren’t winning anymore, when even She knew and was glad, I realized I never stopped praying.
1989

5

The Year In the streets outside, the good life numbs the praying nerve; Pain rends like a ripsaw along the grain of the world. On the right, I steady the nail; on the left, I avert my eyes; I, middleman, bring down the hammer. Suburban air reeks with the shame of omission: the greatest flight From history in history. Unearthly energy of denial girds Silence at any cost. Money waters a cataract garden. This year, of all my years, let me write down. Nineteen eighty-nine was born with NATO and Warsaw Pact Tanks nose to nose across Eastern Europe. For many years The forecast was grey. Suicide massed like a cold front, A winter habit, Saint Tedium, body never Let rot. Monuments arose of mendacity and terror. A new man, We’d heard the name, a Gorbachev, port wine stain Reminding us his televised political head was flesh, Remained standing when Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko fell Lightly as Assyrian towers. Those days still a question mark. Gorbachev, that oddity, speaking of open Communism, Taking it not all the way, building his own undoing. Prague
1/2 1/1

6 in a desolate January: crowds of thousands bulked Dark coats against the dark. They remembered a human Candle: Jan Palach, who, twenty-one years before, had Ignited his body to an outcry against tanks. Forbidden singing. Rumors: decay in the regime. Again the old shout, Nineteen sixty-eight's song of spring, and See: routine claws of the bear mauling the crowd, Bullets into coats, routine blood, routine death. With such a beginning, you wouldn't have thought this a savior year. Those who died died. Call them heroes. Yet there was Something old and tired about it. I remember where I was,
1/19 1/15

Barber's bourgeois chatter as Gorbachev's sound-bitten face Swirled, image pale on television. Flesh went proud When Gorbachev muttered, We can no longer subsidize. Now I get The Joke. Not even force, but cash, more stupid than steel Of file cabinets/ rhetoric/ bayonets/ ships/ winter Siberian factory towns and imported revolutionaries Everywhere. Vertigo, earth swerving off its axis: only Money, only money. With that, the union unzipped. In a Warsaw kitchen, a handful of women risked their lives

7 To publish a newspaper. Smuggled piece by piece across Europe, Paper, ink, and printing press lived in their apartment. Western trade unions sent money. All over Warsaw, Police were searching for the rogue publishers. All over Poland, Readers were turning their pages. All over Warsaw, spies and Informants and comic police were searching. They thought sure it was Published by men, and they ransacked Poland. Meanwhile, in the kitchen What would become the Election Gazette was cooked, raw and true, While stupid shock troops rummaged the country, sure it was men. On the outskirts of what was important, an American president was sworn in,
1/20

While Gorbachev was pulling troops, pulling bombs. In Hungary Imre Pozsgay spoke words that retold history: that Nineteen fifty-six, when a priest's hair went white, Was not the official story--a failed counter-revolution-But the unofficial truth (and isn't all truth, sexed Body, whisper of magnetism, charm of quarks, unofficial? Some singers say Plato had it right: truth a tale Uncaring of tellers, awaits no confirmation); he said Hungarians were martyred in a popular uprising--this from a Communist. What kind of turning-point was it? A ballerina en point, bruised toe Drilling through the stage floor to the molten center?
1/29

8 March, hard month, storm, leaf, and light? A hinge--a door opens--and there, revealed, is all That darkness hid? A bend in the road that brings on A treasure-embroidered land? The first stone axe? Or was that year a bothered eye closing, opening? If these words could be said, anything could. And that was January. We knew more months were coming, more heroes, more dead. February started in Paraguay, for thirty-five years the mortal Playground of Alfredo Stroesser, thug. He'd stolen presidencies, But now a coup tripped him up. Coup coup coup,
2/3

Little to choose between sclerotic generalissimo and the Medal-chests who putsched him and promised elections at an unspecified time. He retired to be rich and await trial on unspecified charges. Sun is distant from Warsaw in winter, but Lech Wałęsa, Nobel laureate shipyard electrician, underground president of History's most beautifully-named trade union (Solidarność), jailed under martial law, harassed by paranoid Generals, mispronounced on American television, hauled sun near. Seven years of sleep and Solidarity still was warm Breath, human lips that spoke to Wojciech Jaruzelski (Yet another general), cold man, Prime Minister, Grey lifetime. If those two could speak, anyone could.
2/6

9 Wałęsa’s greatness lay in his ugly brand of patience, Aplomb amid flammable mobs. He'd seen endless uprisings (Gdańsk Shipyards), knew Poles who'd kill to the last Pole. Better to birth Poland's future with dogged speech. Russia slinked from Afghanistan, spat at the barren border. In Czechoslovakia, a playwright who threatened (another dangerous poet) To turn the country free, Václav Havel, genius of Grim persistence, was jailed.
2/22 2/15

From the schoolhalls of prayer, I ask, Havel before twilit thousands, Wałęsa, jostled in drab halls, Did you know--you must have known--you were whorls in the Fingerprint? Now I know why men of stone believed a Hand Hasted them through time. They say, "They were made to do it." Two sallow bourgeoises in poor coats called and Nations responded, answered a prayer with exultation and death. Poetry's too dangerous; that's why they threw Havel in jail. Another week, and February gone. March was quiet, If subterranean shifts, grinding of continental plates, the screaming

10 Inchwise csárdás of land masses is quiet. Pandora Opened her legs. Her water burst, pelvis cracked, Muscle and bone parted, the year headed down the canal. In a Warsaw kitchen, women printed truth. Poland Read it. Poland's moles burrowed everywhere, but no luck. April. Georgia. Sun was nearer. Chaos sang,
4/14

Deafened. Crowds. More crowds. Again, crowds. (That was a year of Crowds on tiny screens. All year we watched, to be there, Bound by strands of impulse through space, much as we imagined In school our prayers bound us to heaven. Isolated/connected, We shouted to the images, Stand firm. Remember: justice.) None of the papers carried it, but there were Polish underground markets Selling anything to anyone in both Berlins. You could buy Anything with enough black dollars. Surely the papers Should have seen them, these indefatigable purveyors of anything, Flim-flamming enough dough to send back home. If anyone was going to have a revolution, they were. Tblisi's streets gagged with crowds. That old trick Again, a Politburo favorite: shoot into their hearts. In April sun of transition and no mercy, some fell, And the world saw it on tape. They exaggerated the numbers, but
4/14

11 the world Saw. Georgia's leaders, terrified, stood down, fled. Three days more, and, impossible in Poland, Solidarity unbanned. Three more days, and we had to turn to the other Side of the world. There, too, perineum tore, Lips wrenched, head crowned. China, that country No song can cage--can prayer reach so far?--China, too. Set down names, already chimes on the wind, Traces on wood: Li Peng, Fang Lizhi, Hu Yaobang, Wang Dan, Zhao Ziyang, Hou Dejian, Xiao Bin, Ziao Hongliang, Li Jinghua, And you, Chai Ling, on whose girl's shoulders fell The leaden tread of revolution, who tried to think her way Through to the Best of Ways, whose courage made her Commander in Chief, Defend Tienanmen Square Committee. At first, like Christ, You refused . . . ill with conscience, you stood, resisted revolts in the Ranks, intrigues, cliques against claques. When some ran, You called stand; when some said negotiate, you cried firm. When everyone ran or was gunned down, you took to the radio Calling on all in ancient language to shed blood for China. Later, some would say, She was the reason

12 So many died. Others would say, She was our soul. Chai Lin, you live far from China now, And I wonder how your conscience is. Does memory sear you, Or do you think China grew fertile beneath the bloodshowers? So many times you hesitated, but each time, clown and priestess, You took the cup, the blame, the chance, the leap, the joke. Oldsters stymied on high in China. Bullhorn chorus, Underground choir of mimeo posters, unauthorized flyers, (Othello's unauthorized kisses), rumor a lucifer spurting In a dynamite of anything. Millions and millions of bicycles, bicyclists, Students, jeans, shades, rock 'n' roll. Police scuttled them, They were coming from everywhere, drunk with risk, as deer Edge to drink at the dwindling pond where alligators cluster and Wait for the margin to drag their prey within jawstrike. Thirst against Instinct, innocents venture closer to the alligator heart, The Forbidden City, Square of Heavenly Peace, gate of the
4/20

13 Imperial Palace, where Mao had declared the People's Republic. And while innocents approached, that very week, Gorbachev Scraped fat clots from Russia's arteries: hardliners Out of the Central Committee. No time to recover: two Days later, millions filled Tienanmen Square. Hu Yaobang shouted all day long to Deaf warlords in council. His list of China's evils Hour after hour brought a question: What do you have to say to us? Hu: We are failing the people of China. Next morning, his heart Went black. Four thousand students, coals glowing at a breath, placed A banner for Hu, Soul of China, on the Martyrs' Monument. At his funeral, fifty thousand, first wave, danger-drunk. Boycott classes; call for talks. TV and the People's Daily (Warlord ventriloquism) lashed out. One hundred and fifty thousand (Ventricle at diastole) marched; five hundred thousand Watched. Numbers, numbers. This place is good to speak of The failure that changed China, those who believed too much. May 1, national holiday, passed with students Mortifying old men, spitting on their lie of order: May said spring meant sorrow-too-long. Tienanmen Square crested, a China within a China. Old men who would win swore and wrangled.
4/25

14 I need a breathing time between prayer and crippling denial in China--so I go back to Hungary, to May 2. An iron curtain shadowed my childhood. No one knows Why we keep curtains, or why we let them down, Or why we made up an iron one, more poetry and propaganda than Telluric metal--we wanted to believe in it, wrote the checks as Required in the halls of business and coercion, Russia and my country, Everyone, greatest waste of human and natural resources Ever anywhere, mountain range of Babels, an Arsenal for a hundred wars, so few ever fought, And we'll never have a cent of it back, no, not ever--could have Rebuilt a hundred Bedford-Stuyvesants, trained a hundred Trenton and Chicago slum schools in biotechnology, Cleansed the air and water of a solar system, but we'll never See any of it again. Instead, we terrified three Decades of children and prepared them all for horror for nothing. When a man lets down his borders, invites the other's delighted Emigration into his country--when a woman lets down her borders, And the other, within her privacy, has plain air, free walk-It is an amazement of human magic. On the second day of May

15 In this year, Hungary struck its iron curtain, That sadness/sameness that had turned the Austrian border to a Black and white photo. When men and women let down their borders, The forbidden becomes the frontier; now pioneering can start. Return to China, to May 4, when seventy years Before, students had arisen. Thousands, thousands, thousands. Deafness on the dais. Fight, then, with famine, a few Tents in Tienanmen, bikes, flags, buses spraypainted With reasons for hunger. A mild bay ripple, a few Hundred kids in the Cyclops eye of all humanity. Sacrilege: resolute starvation in the Square and everybody saw, Including Gorbachev, visiting China to renew relations, Smiling with Raisa and Deng Xiaoping, squat and deaf. Czechoslovakia:
5/17

they let Havel go. More dangerous To jail poetry than let it out into the open where you can watch it. They said You can leave now if you just sign here; Thanks, he said, but no. Trap versus tact. And so, in the comedy that the tragedy had become, they let him walk. Poetry out in the open. Memory. It was all over.

16 In Beijing,
5/18

Wuer Kaixi, dauntless boy, shouted at Li Peng an hour on TV. What are you trying To tell us? didn't work on TV.
5/20-22

Orders to clear out. Starvers refused. Beatings, ambulances. The Army marched out of the Great Hall of the People and found The people ready to reason with them, gently resisting. The Army sat and the people sat, had singing contests: "The Three Disciplines and Eight Points of Attention"; "Without the Communist Party, There Will Be No New China"-Respect sidled past impatience and squatted, uneasy, with irony; Toward evening the Army marched back to the Great Hall of the People. The tent city where the stomach caved grew tenfold, And a million people, the second wave, came in from the provinces by

Train, got lifts to the Square on student motorbikes, student Trucks, red flags waving, students believing, unripe Fruit hanging. Back to Europe for another breath, to East German elections--so obviously rigged that the voters Laughed down the shamed officials. Fruit rotting. When the heart pumps against pressure too long, it dies. Heart attack

17 in China: expulsion of all moderates from government (the students should have Run right then: crocodiles were stirring, But thirst, thirst), and the chances of hundreds in Tienanmen Square Would die . . . but how could they know that when they all had fallen in love? From a magazine cover her face subdued me--the future's woman, All colors seduced to tan; full eyes tapered; Veldt walker, ice woman, boglander, tropics mother, Their histories in her lips, taste, sense of surrounds. She is, though I see her every day on the streets, not here yet But a gantlet's end of time, change. You might well call her Goddess of Freedom, sculpt her from blank plaster
5/30 5/26

As they did at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, tricycling her In sections to Tienanmen Square. Put her together, artists, Styrofoam, wood, East, West, windblown, clutching A torch with left hand and right. Every newspaper in the world Renewed her eyeless stare at Mao Zedong's portrait Outraged in the sacred square. She, standing there, had five Days to live. Crowds took on body around her, washed around her

18 Feet. She, they locked, as key and receptor Lock and the nexus changes in conformation, Opens into new possibilities, she their sperm and they her Zona pellucida. Lock: division, division, division Along a relay of charge and exchange culminating in being. Electric words of new things in China flew among them, Sin of belief committed in the open. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC, CBC carried it everywhere, A white shirt dazzle, students in dance of thrilled suspense, And what a shock. I was almost afraid to see it. Change like this meant my world was dying. I tasted the old man's Resentment at the future, his world taken away bit by bit-Only a moment. A prayer was being answered, reply so complex that Each thing was its opposite: these kids and their naive Woodstock Awaited their massacre and triumph. The People's Army, even now gathering and Following orders, would slaughter them, end the old China. For days after they built the Goddess,
5/30-6/2

dumb freeze among the leaders. Uprisings were rumored in cities in the dusty, irretrievable distance. A farmer cudgeled the publicans who dared to tax his pigs. Hydraulic pressure: people streaming into Beijing, soldiers, Police, animals, cameras (the eye stayed open) squaring Inversely as the volume. China had held its breath for centuries.

19 Bursting lungs. Deer were drinking. Bold and on camera (Tribunals watched the western shows to learn whom to kill), Students lectured the government, waved books, and sang. Police trucks wheeled about the streets. A few arrests. Street merchants on motorbikes--they called themselves the Flying Tigers--

Rode in and out of Beijing, reporting the movement of troops. Both the mountain and its shadow,
6/2

now the Army was assembling and Rolling into the bursting town. They came to murder their Countrymen if ordered. Encountered human walls, reaching out, Calling them brother, reminding them of history. Hands pulled soldiers down from the trucks, embraced, beat them; Soldiers looked on with dead faces, wept with shame, begged. Farmers, workers, laborers lay down in front of the trucks. The people made an obstacle course out of the city, Stole buses, trucks, cars, blocked the arteries. A human whitewater surged at the trucks. People and soldiers Stared. Stalled. Ache. Aura of unease. Rumors of Tanks. A mobile earthquake rolled. (Fear works, Force works. Both turned billions to marionettes Waving red books. But the sting rips out the guts of the Stinger.) Blind as steel, the slow smash scraped

20 Aside the flattened bodies, auto corpses, burned-out Wreck of resistance, probed, battered, ruined its way toward the Square. Thousands ran. Warnings chattered on loudspeakers. The world press was harangued onto airplanes, the eye of the world Thumbed. Thousands stayed in the Square of Heavenly Peace. Rumbles: a moraine of nightmare nights shoved ahead of the Tanks. Machine guns squeezed off hundreds of lives as they Came. The Square drained. Thousands ran screaming
6/4

Into the screaming streets, the screaming guns, the hospitals, jails, their Futures over. Some escaped. China ended its History in cowardice. What else is a tank? I can't hear you, I can't see you, I am all decision, swivel, steel. You win and must be punished. Look at what they did. Or, rather, we can't look. We'll never see this clearly. Some say the army and the students dickered the night, And when dawn came, they let the few remaining wander Home, to be arrested, tried, and erased later. Some say that blood obeys the mass of the earth: Two hundred students sat, some believing, some unbelieving, Betrayed and ready in the Square. An ambient roar of Metal injustice muffled them up. A warning of warnings. They could have dragged them away, roped them, gassed them, but

21 the comedy was, Having bludgeoned their way thus far, they had to butcher. In a vicious absurdity of deployment, fifty riflemen knelt in their Sight. Twenty paces. The old men thought Nobody saw the next, but a Spanish camera crew Got it. There is a word the newspapers use: atrocity. From far away, the Spanish cameras caught the silence, the Final warning, the order. Crack. A first row fell, Were taken away. Another warning, order, crack-Took away everything, turned a hopeful, fearful being to a Slopped protein sack. Crack--brainflower, spasm, Afterimage. Despair of a state: fire into the crowd. Some say thirty died. Some say three hundred. It doesn't Matter. They cleared the Square, and the unreason, the purge began: the Spreading green stain of the Army went after anybody, Stabbed and strafed the night, gunning the alleys, invading the Houses, torching the blocks. Some soldiers ran into Traps. Their people caught them, beat them, hanged them, beheaded them,

Burned them, and fled. Mao's China was over, but before the Corpse stiffened up, the reflex kick would kill. Unspeakable night in city and country, the People's Army Raping past and future with sick fury of defeat, Glutting the prisons, crippling the gallows, getting back on

22 Top--tracers in darkness--scattered fires--anonymous Anguish--who were they who died, cornered, shadowed, Smothered, drowned, slit? When will a song tell Their last seconds? When no one stops praying? In the wasteful, indifferent attention with which all prayer is answered, Next dawn, the sun over China was a juddering bag of plasma. If history is built in how we imagine, how we pay out Lines to one another--to bind, to rescue-Then prayer is answered in both dream and act, in every Soul that ever lived and in its wake, not only Some aggregate backmind but also its dragnet of ricochets, From first lightfall in the clearing of the infant mind. Answer Is asymptote, replying though withdrawing though nearing though deflecting. Our lives are not a passage of moments we happen to own But brim with other lives lived otherwise. We kiss and grieve Along chains billions long. We send all beyond us; No oblivion. More than us remembers. Live As though each act were rapt in the utter radiosity of cause. I think he lived like that, the pedestrian, the one who seemed

23 Just crossing the road, intent on getting to work, mindless of the Column of tanks leaving the stifled heart of Beijing. But See: in mid-jaywalk he seemed to come to, midstreet, Turn to face his brother the tank, which bore a space of Roar and desolation toward him (behind it, fifty more) and He was enough to stop them. He stood, he reasoned, would not Let them go. I would sing your name If any knew it. When all was gunfire, you said, Brother, Tell me, why did it happen?, asking the world's question. Tanks stalled, column halted, you reasoned. That was the year, man and tank, men in machines. You would move on, the year roll like tanks, but before your Friends dragged you away, your need to know halted armies. Nineteen eighty-nine crested in that conversation, The fallible embrace of words asking tanks why, Word whizzing into the universe, receding down the Chain of excuses. I know what he asked, but I can't hear the answer.

24 My passions are Changan Avenue gagged with motors and corpses. My will is millions rioting in the flash-lanced night; my drives are what Happens to voices, limbs, when there is nothing to believe, Breathe, be, when love is the light of a vanished nebula. Know this: We are afraid history makes sense, Afraid of human goodness and its awkward burden of love. You who stood and reasoned with tanks, I thank you for reminding me. That was the first forepang of the climactic change, which has come Gradually, feminine climax, these six years and more. Mao, wake up. Money-making rides the bicycles. China is Connecting to the world it could always imagine away before. A grip has relaxed, though coercion still whips its steel tail. Each Tienanmen anniversary, the Square is hustled closed. Protest? People know better. You'd have to be crazy. Make money. Why risk everything when change goes on by itself? Grief Not yet cooled for the blasted children of the uprising. Many Farm in distant prisons. Some fled West, where they Shiver in the strangeness. Others pull their China over their heads. Why, still grieving, heap more grief?
1996

25 Why not make money? Does history have any meaning? That depends. Is meaning More like mass and entropy, or more like lust or hunger? More like angles of light, seducing with death in October, Or more like Picasso's gaze at a woman before the stroke? With consciousness, time, and language bent to the same axle, We are meaning machines. As the spider pays out the ductile Web to rig the bough, as the owl prowls night Territory, brilliant in his domain, as walls of river bulk up to the Edge of Niagara and plummet in a choiceless roar, meaning-This constant narrator, this portable audience--is what we do, Our tropism, our green turning toward the light. No madwoman in chains in prison, no genius corseted in libraries, No one stands outside the unsilenceable. Like the electrical wave That readies the heart for each beat, what has ever happened Replays in billions of hearts, washing over the world. (Nothingness is not what we face.

26 We face the multifarious Jugglery of the real, the multiverse, its choir of throats.) I can see why anyone, faced with the story as it is, Would retire to their lives, say, Isn't this--haven't we done-Enough? Not this too. Who could Live so mindful? Live all lives as our own When our own are so hard to catch? Isn't history one more suffering, One more wave of noise, envelope requesting cash? Where's our shovel? Give us a corner of shade for digging. The suburbs are the organized denial of history, but even there We seamsters--desire the needle, memory the thread--are Making a Joseph's coat of meaning to wear in the world. Time and mind and history are made of the same material, One another. (Geese fly, locked in flock Consciousness: one dips, all dip.) Watching that year on TV, I learned among the ghosts: Time whispers, without a whence or a whither, its many whys. History is our time-lapse film, of how branches branch, how they Arborize, dendritify. Watching the movie, we want the movie. Remembrance waters desire, and up springs that sunflower, longing. A man turns into a hound alone at night with the moon, A woman to a jilted photograph mourning the desertion of color. My son was Christ. Each one of us came out of Egypt--

27 Not that the past builds up to us, or that we are the answer, But that we stand in relation, and know better when we triangulate. History comes to tell us this: our lives mean in Chaoses giving rise to the play of relations. I'm no Expert. Maybe loss, the sea, the stars, town seen from a mountaintop, Are strangers everywhere in the universe except the storyteller mind. Or maybe all things are related, and all we do is say so. But In the space and time of history, minds change, you know. They Did in Wenceslas Square, the Kremlin, Tienanmen, Brandenburg Gate. With the storm out of China, we barely heard that the Ayatollah Khomeini,
6/3 A.R. Ammons

Priest of bitterness, bully of God, clock-strangler, had Died. Years come, years go, but promises Stay. In Poland they promised a free vote--no,
6/4

Really. We were going to wonder if it would ever happen, when in Hungary they dug up Imre Nagy's bones, bore them to a Place called honorable. His blood, like the blood That dyed the Olympic Pool in nineteen fifty-six,
6/17

28 Inked the invisible, taught us what bore us up, what we knew too Little. God, what a June. And the underground traders from Poland, those Tireless tramp entrepreneurs, hawked their stuff before the Brandenburg Gate. That July, the globe warmed (summer Too was a promise); in the lands of vacation, everyone fled Except the Polish traders snagging a few tourists. In their stalls, their mirrors with snakeskin borders, hot boom boxes, Bob Marley T-shirts, they were buying and selling the realest revolution. The tourist dollar helped topple the guard towers, snip the Razor wire--and the guts of the garrison state ruptured. But that July, it was not underground bucks alone, Not universal passion to own limousines or star in Movies. This too: the wish of this animal to flee evil, Take the full chance of life. July began To flee East Germany, take refuge in West German Missions In East Berlin, Prague, Budapest. Those who could Escaped into Austria over the rifted Hungarian Border--

29 fingers slipped under the blouse, stroking the forbidden Against the will of the past, softening granite will, Raising cold aureole, erecting nourishment out of No-Cleansing breath of July was strained with guilt over China. In Poland, Jaruzelski allowed a paper to be published. Out of the Kitchen it came: The Elections Gazette. Underground now overground. The women kissed and continued; the moles were reassigned. Not until the August shadows began to lean toward winter Did that sockdolager summer resurrect. In Czechoslovakia,
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A feast day drew thousands. Twenty-one years before, the treads Flattened a cup full of sunlight, the calyx of the Prague Spring. Everyone remembered. Alexander Dubček was still alive. So was Míloš Jakeš; so was Gustáv Husák. Back in January, Spring out of season, bullets brought winter-So now in August they marched and sang and remembered in the Humid promise of August, the pre-eclampsia of August (The year would squeeze off more dead before long), in that pressure summer Stunning a baking world.

30 A midwife dips her finger into Warm oil, runs it around the lips, the head, A tender encouragement: they marched, to say they remembered, to Let the state know. Remembrance, the finger, the oil. Later, the joyful parting, tearful push into the future. Now Hands joined across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania; the Action potential of memory surged along a human chain, Three cultures remembering their erasure (in the face of tyranny Memory is an insult). Next day, in Poland, a promise was kept. Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Solidarity man, elected prime minister. Jaruzelski was still there, tumor behind the gland, but How much the air had changed. Polish voted, Polish Elected. Jaruzelski, rendered president rendered irrelevant Before the doubtless will of Poland and Russia's bankruptcy. In East Germany, they pushed to found a democratic Party. Before long, they'd call it New Forum. Many Laughed at New Forum, the way a child does What it hopes wins praise--but Bärbel Bohley, doctor and Clown, led the nigglers, ticklers, hecklers, prayers. I tried, millions tried, not to hope too hard. I prayed, millions prayed, so hard the prayers stopped being Words. Could the world really be changing? Could we be seeing our dreams yet
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Not be dreaming? Prayers tell you when dreams are important. Let me

31 for a moment dream that all births are happy, beginning With a wife's smile, her loving relaxation, a tender parting Of borders, and a husband's loving restraint in moving between her Lips, a gentle, appropriate engagement; that these two move Through metamorphic fire, pain that makes her hate him, To a second parting, reminder of the brutality of fate, and of the animal, Until all is forgotten when the infant, fragrant and slippery with vernix-Perfect, tiny fingers working, lips in an O--is Lifted down to her breast. I dream of the easing of borders Because of opponents turned friends, skeptics turned supporters--the stranger who led to a Smile to a caress to a union to a daughter to a son. These: the Strongest sweets of my life. (When the borders fell, we were scared: What next? We had to build. For all its disappointments and failures, The newborn world was better. Better birth than an old world.) September: we'd already had the first draft, the wolf's-eye blue

32 Sky foretelling autumn, when, at six o'clock on September 11, midnight Budapest time, I heard the Radio: Hungary has opened its borders --when a woman opens hers, it Makes up for being a man--wait--was I asleep?-Sat up. Without TV, I saw, thousands of miles away, Cities of doors ajar, families crowding the trains, Traffic jams down through East Germany to the border With Austria. Burst aneurysm; lifeblood fleeing the brain; Blown bulkhead, and the ship tilting. Smile, caress Into a newborn. Let no one tell you otherwise: those who Actually fled made the revolution, those who decided, Split their households, sent their children ahead alone Onto the gesticulating trains, to meet again or not (Go to this address and meet me there, if there Is an address. Meet me at the ominous station where nobody Comes to meet you. Meet me in the streets of a stranger town. Meet me in the somnolent warehouse districts, the distorted trainyards. Meet me on the blocks where you no know one, where families are outlawed, Where your soul and language are foreign, where breathing is

33 perplexity, where the Church steeple tilts and the towers bear down. Meet me ), Drove all night, lied and bargained at the checkpoints, wandered Tent cities in Budapest looking for one another, who Shacked with strangers, looking for one another, in Vienna, who Became, looking for one another, a drag on the system, who Completed the U (looking) in West Germany (for one Another), where their language (looking for), not their history (One), was spoken (another), are the ones this poem should praise. Why credit anyone else? In six weeks, fifty thousand Would plunge into the cold of not knowing. They lost everything looking And made everything back for one another. In a wrack-line Riding the tide, bright ruin on a black wave, Desperate and resolute against forces no one can name or control, They were the ones who fought and (one another) won Whatever hold on a future and a difference they could. I give them A poem. That's all I've got. I did nothing but watch from Here, where nothing was happening. Hungary opened its borders, And since Hungary bordered on Austria and Austria on the rest of the world And the moon of money pulled and the ocean of history swelled

34 And Russia had nothing left, down came the hurdles; the guards Were reassigned; in peaceable chaos, thousands and thousands and thousands Obliterated memory of borders, fled into newborn fright. The news was the tanks that did not roll, orders that were not Given, reprisals that stayed at home. Only the relaxation, the Discharge, the broadcast of seed. This was when you heard, on American streets, It's really starting to happen, as if It were January, not September, as if our saying made it real. Even this place, where leaders are paid to keep things Quiet, even this place took on the charge Building in Europe as the unearthly/inevitable suffuses through Loins on the verge--a climax tide of families, single Men, single women, lost sons, lost Daughters (my son my daughter my mother my father), exodus/ Ejaculation/prolapse/hegira. Hungary was the woman whose Smile and relaxing gladdened Europe, made grateful as

35 Men are grateful. And the woman did more: she promised a free Vote. Imre Pozsgay again: a multiparty system. When will we all admit it? Some promises are fulfilled. (Cynics take a convenient speedway. Not for them the Local route called human goodness. Bends in the road, Curves, switchbacks: too long, the business route. But if humanity can name the good and work toward it, History isn't simple, fate only a nickname for What we do in an open world. Goodness tastes like Chaos, taking a course you can name only afterward, God's Will, as they used to call it, as it yet may be, Aggregate of the achievements of good men and good women. Craft a prayer out of subject, verb, object: Time travels, as far as we know, in one direction.) September: thousands in Leipzig. Six thousand refugees Crammed and expectant in the West German embassy in Prague Were let go--and special trains, nails across the face of Communism, crossed East Germany and let them off in the West. For weeks they came, the wanderers, and kept coming, in farmtrucks, In coughing Trabants, in the jammed trains. They slept in the streets, In the squares. They walked. They burdened the Red Cross, the relief
Dostoevskii

36 Organizations. East Germany said good riddance to the Malcontents, criminals, unwanted. But day told and night Retold that everyone was leaving. In the free cities of Europe, They marched to remember those turned wastrels for freedom, And in the bound cities: in Leipzig they gathered Monday Nights, and the crowds grew and grew; in Prague no curfew could Stanch the assemblies; in Bucharest, they picketed and were arrested; In Moscow, they marched and were not. In American newspapers, a fever of Rumor, reportage, long-distance confusion. Where were the Armies? We're waiting for the bullets. October: Indian summer. Hotter. East Germany, nostalgic for oppression, declared its Borders closed. (When a woman does that, nothing can make A man sadder.) Eric Honecker was still head of state. He'd fought Hitler, died for a decade in prison, emerged as a Communist savior. Now he was sick, like the country that had Never been his. Having become what he'd fought, Honecker Gored where he'd bled. Troops and tanks were summoned, As were the Stasi, secret police sworn to defile in the name of purity, As was that traditional mask of thieves, the passive voice.

37 We let go of September as we let go of summer. Monday, October 2: fifteen thousand in Leipzig. Who told them to come? What did they think would come of it? Where do new ideas (what else is life?) come from? Fifteen hundred refugees in the West German embassy (Warsaw this time) were let go west. Seven thousand and six hundred More glutted the Prague embassy. Dark words and threats-More special trains, slaps in the face, took them west. October hell for Honecker. Younger men muscling Him and his cancer aside. Marathons through dingy nights, Harangues in the endangered halls. Whingeing phonecalls. Honecker held on by

Name alone. Reports of defiance with a hundred thousand Heads. The Stasi, spinal cord without a brain, Murdered, jailed, and betrayed as in China on this October. In Leipzig, torches, placards, bullhorns: it looked like Prague, Looked like Beijing, looked like Tblisi, Kraków, Budapest, Bucharest, Kiev, Sofia, Belgrade. Honecker denied it, Terrified, but I happen to know that throughout the world people were Praying. He wrestled with the younger men, who no longer

38 Cared whether Communism lived. They were just plugs longing for the Outlet. (We give power all its names, when it is always Only men wrestling.) Gorbachev came to visit. On October 7, all over East Germany, they tried to remember The fortieth anniversary of the Great Mess and make it the last. Novel response: security forces, arrests, sirens, Warnings to disperse. Two days later, Monday again, And, as if a meeting had been called of some gigantic club, Leipzig Doubled. There were no streets, just heads and shoulders, no bricks, Just song. Most glorious time in a city's equivocal history. Seventy thousand people/candles lit up Leipzig, An open dare in the open eyes of the open world. Students and bankers, naives and bourgeoises, the impassioned and the just plain Sick of it all, they wandered into the same streets Together. Good things can happen together. Ask the woman who Relaxes her borders, the man who crosses, the billions in churches. In Leipzig they marched until there were too many, and then they Stood, body to body, the city a body together.

39 That night they found something new to raise, not swords, not signs, but Candles. Exposed to the night, tiny silk flames Held in ten, twenty, sixty, eighty, one hundred Thousand, three hundred thousand hands. A forest fire of Leipzig grew as Beijing had grown. Pinpoints. Candles. As I feel through the dark house, I hold a candle before me. Night has turned all the ways I know to an obstacle course. Couches crouch; doors are fists for my eyes. Trust to my little light. Guide me, tent of flame. A candle is a prayer against all that is not light. October 9, day of light in history. Leipzig: Bodies. Bodies. Breathing bodies. Burning bodies. Everybodies. Bold from their sweep of two days before, Henchmen arrived, made grand drama of their assembly, The rolling out of the implements, discussions of strategy, and in fact the Crowds were frightened, but they couldn't disperse. This new Body was too thick. They and their candles stood. They enticed the police, blessed and mocked and sang to the police. Tienanmen had worked, and they all knew it. Could work again, And they all knew it. The bullets had the thugs, and they all knew it--but

40 There was nowhere to go with walls of everybody breasting one another, So terror passed from crowd to criminals, important and powerless. Stalemate minutes dwindled the dick of power, swelled the Congress of every candleman and candlewoman aflame in Leipzig. In that blessed paralysis, candles burned, not bullets. Song: No other Tienanmen. Era's end --In South Africa, a budge: Walter Sisulu was released from the burning Tire of prison. A corner of mercy crumbled off the monolith; in Nineteen ninety, after 26 years, Nelson Mandela would Go free--then, soon, the long, particolored Lines of voters. History writing. Apartheid snuffed-That very day, an awards ceremony in West Germany. Winner of The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade: Václav Havel. The authorities detained his body, So he sent his soul in an essay: "A Word about the Word." Helmut Kohl, Chancellor of West Germany, sat with Richard von Weizsäcker, President, in the front row, An empty seat between them. Next day, being a Monday,
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41 Meant Leipzig, the demo, a hundred thousand candles, Tongues as of a Paraclete, an intercessor. Each candle Was the tongue of its holder, prayer on the tongue of its holder, tongues of Such fire as is not mortal, not material-Each of us intercedes for herself, for himself-Words, go-betweens, breaths, spirit made fire To the spirit in light, to our own spirit, or to another, Or to Another. Leipzig was where it began. It ended: Next day, October 18, Honecker resigned, to be interviewed, Prosecuted, buried. Egon Krenz was his successor. In Leipzig, fever flashed into delirium. On October 23, Hungary proclaimed the new Hungarian Republic. To celebrate, Three hundred thousand candles flared in Leipzig, Thugs nowhere anywhere. They ran from the crush of that quiet Embrace that would fold them in forgetting, gentlest punishment. All we have to do is stand together and hold Light together. All we have to do is pray

42 Together. No wonder no one does it. Once, I saw monks Stagger to noontime mass, overalls smeared with labor They'd done since dawn in the fields, worldless slavery to the Word. I Saw I couldn't, not fearless, not strong, not worthy, not me, but They, Leipzig show what we have to do and why No one does-so did Peter Fechter's bloody Passion and murder. In nineteen sixty-two, he was Eighteen. Borders madden a man, hedge him, shadow him, And he couldn't, bricks, wire, soldiers, bear this new one Sundering Berlin from Berlin, Germany from Germany, so much the Wall of walls they capitalized its name. He tried to climb it Near Checkpoint Charlie, lay in the barbed wire, shot and Calling, taking a writhing hour, child into corpse. His German murderers watched. American MPs watched. Crowds on the Western side, free, frozen, watched. They saw how fear can seal the world. The guards gave him His hour and dragged his body away. Five hundred others, One by one, over thirty years. So there was still work to
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43 Do in Leipzig. Something was winning, but it had to keep winning. After so long, sensitive documents, delicate instruments, Scripted confessions, so many ice-locked promises, no one Wanted to stop praying. Only a forest fire of candles could Gentle out the past, only the forest that sings What all true lovers learn to sing--Ich liebe Euch doch alle. I know everything, And in spite of all I know, because of all I know, Nevertheless, even so, yet, yes. Pine forests of the human soul sing in the wind of Such knowledge, and wind friction forces the flame of Love-in-spite-of-it-all, without which there can be no love of Our species. Filia: least-spoken love, embarrassing Leg of the Greek trifecta eros, agape, filia; We close our mouths against this most obliging love. In Leipzig, they knew and said they knew and loved anyway, Lit candles to say so. In spite of it all, No one stopped praying. He who comes too late Is punished by life--Gorbachev's words, and he should know. He was the clown of greatness

44 tunneling under himself While bigtop crowds beyond him, knowing in darkness what he Cannot, applauds his jests as the ground beneath him caves. He wrote himself into the comic role of floodgate keeper. No Keaton doing splits between dock and rowboat could do it Better. Now that his words had wedged the gate open, he was Condemned always to arrive too late and say what had already Happened. On October 26, he praised October for having Been October--endorse the recent developments in Europe. On Christmas in nineteen ninety-one, he'd resign a Presidency no longer His, dissolve a Union already breached beyond him. On time, he'd come too late again, and life got out the Whip. To Czechoslovakia two days later (October of Octobers), seventy-one years old, crossroads country, Hungarian/Slovak, German, Czech, Hitler's bauble, then Brezhnev's. Lakes, springs, what flows, what is forced up under Pressure.

45 You protest with your feet one of two ways: Stand (Leipzig) or run (two thousand a day from East Germany, Three hundred and fifty thousand, another Leipzig, in Nineteen eighty-nine). In Czechoslovakia, many had Always stood. Their poets, their singers, their students used their Arts to clown forth the truth of their long sorrow. They had tasted rape of tanks, extorted smut of industry, Official godlessness. Their month was not yet, but Their November began October twenty-eighth. In Prague, they Gathered to allude to Czechoslovakia's ambivalent birthday. Here came the police again, clowns of mortality, and as if Leipzig did not exist (the blind will still be blind In a forest of candles), they sowed intimidation until Order was, as they say, restored. In cabs and coffeeshops of Prague, the long stand continued. October died in Light in Leipzig. Mass and gravity, momentum, attraction, Four hundred thousand people/prayers/candles. Before the year moves to November, I want you to think of Leipzig. Most of our lives we are creatures who wear necessity as our skin.

46 We have to live as we do, so we do. It is not heroic. Perhaps it is a little, let's say, humiliating, let's say, Shameful. Necessity is a combine whose wheels mow down souls-Or is this our grey fairy tale? Perhaps no act is ever Only for ourselves. Before you answer, think of your answer. Leipzig's chandlers burned
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(and they knew it) for Prague and Beijing, Krakow and Riga. If they burned knowing (martyrs who survived) (Ich liebe Euch doch alle), what is a bourgeois? And then, in November, falling month when the past collapsed, A true nation-in-a-square arose, one million in Berlin, Star-headed, storm-voiced, uncertain and thrilled. One million People at night in one place gives the air motive; Voices and footfall at elbow cascade with mass voice, Mass step. What is hard to say is how each Voice spoke to itself before it spoke with the mass, how Each step took itself before the heavens Strode in the street. They marched for themselves and for Leipzig too,
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To ask a question. For weeks, the black clot had held Against the swell, but on November the first, East Germany reopened

47 Its border with Czechoslovakia. Two days after that, No more special formalities at the borders-raising a question Voiced and revoiced by the million in Berlin on the night of the fourth-Why, then, a Wall? Heavens walked the streets and asked it (This was a revolution of asking, not shooting; of praying, not smashing)-Why dam a river that drains the other way? Rivers flowed Across suddenly obsolete borders; they marched in Berlin, and the Wall stood, its own question, its own answer. Our Daughter watched the news. In the twilight room, shadows of News waved like a pine bough in a November storm. She asked words that were, if any were, a Prayer: Daddy, is this good? I said I believed It was. She thought so too. In the windows flickered images of Images of bodies like stars/prayers/candles/questions; Announcers said meanwhile meanwhile, each here with its there-Could this be the year we were told of, when all the prayers were answered?

I told our daughter how they'd made us pray in the days of

48 Dawn and dusk anxiety, comic book predictions, Mushrooming paragraphs, codes, counterspies, jammed communications. We knelt in our classrooms, afraid as ordered, prayed as told. Our daughter gazed: millions on television, on the windows, in the shifting Dark. Maybe this is the year, our daughter told me. Antiphonal: one million in Berlin, five hundred thousand in Leipzig. Half millions. Millions. Those who stayed and Those who crossed borders, feet answering feet, Sentences in mirror form. I have held it off long enough. Restraint is sweet but tiring; when time comes, we Must do as time does. When a man thinks he loves a woman But just before he tells her--just before she tells him-They meet, they talk, they are shy, they are excited, their senses report a World of power and color--but they do not tell each other, Not yet. They and time have not arrived. They part, to Turn it over, this new jewel found in the road. They have not said it yet, they do not dare say it Even to themselves, but they know they will, they know it has
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49 happened; Within themselves they feel murmurs as of great engines, Inevitability, chaos, fate. It is all too much, fragile, And so they are content to be still in the throes of great reverberations--and That is how we were for five days, after the million in Berlin, Leipzig's reply of half a million, after East Germany relaxed its border with Poland--we knew it was Happening. We and this great motion shared a center, yet we Went to work, as those in love must go to work; History put, as love must be, in the background-But just as the man and woman know there is a body they have yet to Know, we knew there was a Wall that had yet to-and fell. Never in history had the breach of a wall united a city; We'd lain siege to the armored towns, catapulted boulders, Riven gaps by force majeure, exposing the townspeople, but Never in history, such a bitter and joyful dismantling. Our daughter said,
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Daddy, they took down that evil wall you told me about And the bad people don't have power anymore. I didn't Believe her; I turned on the television. Backsides ground In Levis. Kids sang, spraypainted slogans in rock and Roll, taking hammers to it, crowbars to it, kicking it, Climbing it (Peter Fechter couldn't), pulling others

50 Up-cut to checkmated guards at Checkpoint Charlie, Letting crowds past to exult and party and above all Shop. Images on tape, by satellite from Europe, signals Caromed, compressed and reprocessed; colors garish, shouts And songs overloading; lights leaving burn trails in the Festive evening. Germans walked a Germany unknown; Friends embraced, long wall-estranged; sons and Fathers, mothers, daughters, cousins, Germans embraced Germans. The camera eye got lost in the crowd. Where Were we now? Kissing in a square; drinking champagne in the Streets of Berlin; singing in a smoky pub; shoulders Cattling past the camera. Germans just beholding one Another. I could not tell our daughter what this meant-I'd woven my own shroud of meaning around that wall; Others had taught me how, and I'd waited all my life To watch it come down. How could I tell her how dark the schoolhalls had

51 Been the day our priests said, You: be ready to Die as martyrs if it comes. You will be received Immediately into heaven? I rehearsed my nothingness. My parents, My brothers and sisters, my school, my town, my country, laid waste Because of the distant faceless. I made fists Puny in the westering darkness. Those years were a dream, Viscous landscape, shadows in paranoid black, spidery Caricatures. I ran to get home some nights. Stayed awake in bed. I prayed as told for thousands of millions enslaved. I pictured Children like me. What sports did they play? What books did they read? Who did they pray for? Some of my classmates asked me, Do you Think it'll happen? Tough guys said they didn't care: Armageddon. Right. I knew that the world was working beyond my Knowledge. How could I save it? Why did my mother and father Go to work? And here, anticlimax intertwined With climax, it fell to the German kids to make fun of it all. They clowned it well, burlesqued the high seriousness, reminded us That we who built the Wall did not deserve to breach it. Ceremony begone. Fan of Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Marceau,

52 I liked being told my fear was a chimaera, as I had always Known. In the hands of the kids, the Wall went from symbol to shit In a party that, true to carnival, proclaimed its own forgetting. (As kiss forgets fight, revolutions are made to be forgotten. If Prague is a chi-chi shopping center now, if Leipzig Has breakfast and gets to work, if Berlin worries about bills, Those things are what the revolutions earned.) I liked being told I'd be forgotten As I watched our daughter dance along with the televised wallbreakers. And on that night, November 9, nineteen eighty-nine, They reversed the Babel story and began to speak a new language. Einheit was its mother-noun. No one had been suggesting Anything like oneness, but once a border falls, We find out what we've been thinking (man and woman, Having pushed past an uncertain point to elation, Say things they've never said or thought of saying). Now They spoke of Einheit in the streets of East and West Berlin,

53 Still East and West. Sentences changed: what was once Wir sind das Volk was now Wir sind Ein Volk. To make one where there was two We must have fusion, fiction against fission, to unleash energy Into a slowing cosmos. I do not think we will ever Have a world without borders--what I want will never Be. But from November 9, the meaning of borders Changed, from outrage of coercion to pique of difference. Germany would Not become Ein this year, but next. The Wall had been broken, Nightmares stilled, and our daughter danced in not my world but Hers. (A President claimed credit for the wall crumbling. No one Listened. It wasn't crime and taxes. He's an unemployed millionaire. Laugh, history, at the old men taking credit at a distance. At Francis Fukuyama--The future ends with us.) Next day, in Bulgaria, Todor Zhivkov was thrown out. Three more days, and Hans Modrow was appointed
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54 Prime Minister of East Germany. He spoke open Words, relaxed language, unified sentences. By being Open, by relaxing, we get closer to one. Next day, In Namibia, lower right corner of Africa, long Germany's plaything, then South Africa's, the UN Ran the first election, and who won? SWAPO, after Twenty-three years of bush fighting, with Castro's help, for Independence. It must have been contagious. A country Never before on its own--but they wanted it, they wanted it, and they'd Get it next year. If this November wasn't the Greatest of all, tell me another. Only a week the Wall had been down, when--and how are these things decided? . . . No one decides . . . they happen . . . in flares, disjunctions, gaps Blown in the wall of time . . . but Foucault was wrong if he saw Only the irrational. Times become right. Suffering builds,
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55 Slowly at first, here and there, rising imperceptibly, but Gaining, until it spikes, and the line explodes vertically off the graph-Eight days after the Wall was breached, Czechoslovakia--where Deep, sweet aquifers, spring pressures, hydraulic Persuasions surface what quenches the thirst, makes you drunk-Took its turn with the future. My autumns have been momentous. In pumpkin light, climaxing fields, the heavy afternoons When life strains to burst and be over, I have heard The grand chord and the echo in the empty hall, the ultimate And the moment after the ultimate, and neither has disappointed. Autumn has taught me that things come round to their appointments. No wonder We light the bonfire, spread the feast, play the ghost. No autumn more momentous than this autumn, of cold nights, velvet, Poets made leaders-and the praise I write is tempered, for I know

56 What happened later, one state made two, reverse of Germany, Slovakia and Czech Republic, uncertain way forward. Yet this is the greatest praise, to say uncertainty was worth it, That we'd rather be free to walk uncertain than forced for sure. This is history, not storybook. The real world is hard; no one Wants to read those papers. But we should cherish the world As it is, know it that way. That is what The Velvet Revolution earned-10/17

that most disorganized revolution, Students arguing with farmers, writers with middle managers, Folk singers and their damned guitars, poets, actors, Anyone, everyone, taking the task into new corners, Not particularly in touch but working approximately together As sometimes it happens that a succulent sends down roots, and another Weed prospers somewhere else, and miscellaneous seeds Light on unpromising ground and thread and insinuate and extend Their grip, until, by a collusion of chance and what organisms do, Green covers enough ground, some coefficient of physics is Equalled--and chaos secures the hill against erosion. (Sometimes, man and woman, out of touch, work together.) Since Hitler, Czechoslovakia had been punished for praying--but

57 lately the Churches of Prague had reverberated on every possible anniversary, Any pretext for gathering, for saying all soon would be over. All year police had been beating the same five thousand people, Faithful demonstrators, avid petition signers, Willing to go where police said no, familiar with jails, Indefatigable writers of manifestos, whippers of crowds; Now, with Havel free, poetry unleashed on the world, They needed a way to get everyone else to come out, to make Prague their Leipzig (that city still burned every Monday). Words were published, and the words people read changed their minds; Candescence of conscience poured molten into the molds of thousands of souls, Hardened into an alloy of resolve that shone and resisted the urge To forget the whole thing. Poetry, for once, did what it could. November 17 was their best chance. Some corpses are Dangerous. Fifty years before, Jan Opletal, A student, had fallen in demonstrations against the Nazis To come to this point. His bones were dangerous. Wherever they lay,

58 Instant shrine. So they dug him up, the authorities in charge of Death and living, they moved him out of Prague, to secret Boneyards, but word got out. After fifty years, memory was Habit. A Jan in January. Another Jan in November. They applied for the required permit, scheduled the usual demonstration. Fine, said the authorities, but Wenceslas Square is off limits (That is where your soul is; visitation rights denied). Twenty thousand students went along in their nice demonstration, Coloring within the official lines, the police spectating. In Every move toward climax, even, I think, in dreams, Someone, sometwo, somemany make a decision--or maybe Decisions descend as messengers into the brains of prophets, Who riot, who force the blaze. Or maybe climax comes By itself, a magic. Wherever turnings come from, snaps in the Cells, kicks in the spinal cord, here it came: Fifteen hundred bolted for Wenceslas Square to visit their

59 Soul, and the police, as if there had been no January, no Leipzig, Billy-clubbed, tear-gassed, trucked them off. Hundreds to hospital, and a Useful rumor that one had died. How much a year can Change the world. Even in January, marchers could be slaughtered in the Usual procedure. But now, with nineteen eighty-nine nearly Gone, it seemed played out, the old totalitarian Endgame. All year the world had been saying it couldn't work Anymore--and even where they were wrong (China), something was Irrecoverably dead. So they stuffed the jails with students and Waited for the usual protests to crest and fall back . . . Crested . . . crested . . . quiet tsunami of the repressed (overnight, Hans Modrow spoke of a treaty of community in Germany. What an idea: that if we stand together, if we open to the World the question of what is right, something will happen). Next night, at the Realistic Theater, dramatists discussed a strike. Painters and sculptors joined them. Havel wrote the script, Stage directions, characters, even the lines to be spoken. Call it Civic Forum: Whoever feels he's a member

60 Is. They met in theaters, in the Magic Lantern, on tiny Dark stages. Word got out. Crowds waiting for a Word. Meanwhile, students had video’d the truncheons and tear gas And police of the seventeenth, and they drove out to the countryside, To show the workers what was really going on: We know you're afraid. We're afraid too-Here is best to speak of Nataša Dudinská, for she Was one of those crazy students. All energy and momentum, she Went into the schools and convinced them to shut down for the Country's good. She drove back and forth from Prague to the Countryside, carrying newspapers wet from the printer, making sure They got out to the country before they could get mysteriously Lost. For some reason, the newspapers had begun to tell the Truth. Novel concept, words, soft as a bomb, Changing mind by mind. Svobodné Slovo was first, then Lidová Demokracie, then Mladá Fronta-What changes minds? What do minds change from and To? From there, Nataša Dudinská raced back to Wenceslas Square, where you Could drop a penny and it would not hit the ground. So many! In little more than a week, the Dudinskás of Czechoslovakia

61 Brought down a strike that showed that the yeggs were losing purchase. At the Headquarters of the Union of Czechoslovak Creative Artists, They were painting and printing posters to throw up all over the country--for the Workers sent their children to Prague to be educated. The dogs were Tearing their children, would tear any child, as always. Arguments In the Prague streets; outbreaks here and there; in the coffeeshops, Heated coffee, heated words. The TV was blind, the Radio mum. It had to happen in the streets. It needed a Leader in the November cold. People can love one another; it Happens occasionally. On the twentieth, Leipzig burned in the cold, A million warm throats calling for Einheit--oh Large word. Leipzig sang of Prague, a city Proof that human beings can imagine themselves as gods, so Gorgeous its avenues. Ladislav Adamec, Prime Minister, Agreed to meet with Civic Forum, but would not talk to Havel. Havel got out of the car but was turned away. You could not walk through Prague for the crowds.
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62 In the wintering Square They set up banks of speakers, and the next day Havel spoke. A writer, not a public speaker. But he had suffered, He had written, and he had a point. There in the Square that Was their soul, uncanny in a million clouds of frozen Breath, he spoke, and the crowd spoke back, and he spoke, and the crowd

Answered in euphoric back-and-forthness. At the Kontakt studio, Cameramen were fighting over the cameras--sometimes you saw Havel at the microphone; other times, a rock band. Havel won-Míloš Jakeš (Party boss), step down; you, too, Gustáv Husák, president of a people who do not want you. Release the prisoners; punish the violent. No one Slept in Prague those nights. No one stopped praying. (What do you think they were doing in churches all these years? What were we, children of the world, praying for?) Churches were packed. The squares were packed. They started saying Havel na Hrany!--Havel to the Castle. Make him president. From Wenceslas Square down Národní Avenue, Prague overflowed. The leaders of Civic Forum learned to run everywhere, Follow the script, hide in the Magic Lantern. At the demonstrations, the Crowds sang for peace, and when they were asked to go home, they

63 took Keys out of their pockets and shook them, thousands on thousands, Sparkling music of a human heaven. Leipzig had its candles; Prague had the music of St. Vitus' Bell and the keys to its soul. Something was about to happen: sleepless, drunk with expectation, Massing in a responsorial psalm, everyone thrummed like Jets. Nataša Dudinská was in a taxi, trapped in the
11/24

Traffic jam, throatsore. She'd been shouting the usual hours in a meeting. Her cabbie was talking past the speed limit. Everyone's radios Crackled with conflicting information. Then she and the cabbie heard: Jakeš was stepping down. Future, rend the present. Dreamlike moment: weeping cabbie, embracing strangers Staggering from their cars, with all the other drivers, Shaking hands, weeping, on their knees and praying. Bells and keys and rock music. Havel na Hrany! Now the hardest work: to end it when the opponent is Out on his feet. The Party still had its fist, the army. Everyone knew the tanks were just ignition away. The government itself must go.

64 On November 25, In the flaying winds on Letná Plain, Havel spoke to Three quarters of a million versions of his own soul, Who called for pressure with shivering words, rang their keys. Adamec said he'd come next day, to apologize for the seventeenth, And he gasped when he saw a million people ready to talk. They Turned his words into an antiphon, call and response Turning his name to a verse and refrain, so they could join in. He couldn't follow. He tried to lecture. That's when they knew It really was over for him. When he said that the Party would rectify its Errors, the million cried Too late! Too late! That Is when it ended. Behind him stood Dubček, keyway between that failed Prague Spring of nineteen sixty-eight and this bitter Winter of triumph. Adamec finished, was finished. They ended with the Lord's Prayer. No one stopped praying.

65 Next day, a strike: Just for two hours, the country went still. The mines were holes, The schools buildings. No one worked. No one stopped praying. Havel left the crowds, took cover in the Magic Lantern-And on the thirtieth, the Communist Party gave up. There never was a month like that December. MemoryDefeator, killer, projector of images on walls. On the first day, Gorbachev met with Pope John Paul II and Who could believe that? Old poet, breakneck Skier, man in a funny hat, inebriate of the divine, whose Whispers found the ears of unbelief-ask Marcos, Ask Noriega, ask Jaruzelski, ask Gorbachev, Ask Adamec whose shadow it was that blazed like fusion in the Million-mind uprisings. His. And you won't find Those men anywhere. He stood throughout, and

66 At the end, he stood. They fell to the awful might of Peace and a much-mistaken, adamant man, who stood like A clockmaker-god apart from the scene. A great one of this Century, he witnessed its prayers acted out on TV, Europe so throng-swollen it seemed about to sink. Next, at Malta, Gorbachev
12/3

met with an invisible man named Bush. So what? They declared the end of a war that had never Been fought. Bizarre ceremony--to shake hands over the corpse of a Ghost. Take credit for killing a nothing they had woven. Goodbye, Cold War. Strange, but I do not feel like dancing. Ciao, Bello. Specter, spell, haunting. No, I Can't wish you Rest in Peace; there's nowhere for a nothing to lie. How can I mourn, when the best thing about you is that you never happened? I should have grown up, like most children, hungry and a little afraid; Instead, you were evil eye of morning, poison of the afternoon. We sat in circles and asked each other: When will we die? You ate up my parents' taxes, more than ten Medicares. I can't even blame you. Your creators didn't know you were nothing. Prophets who cried in the anxious world and converted themselves,

67 They took the cash. Declared you over. Bowed to the applause. Cold or hot, you hateful Scream, you're worse than God. To the north,
12/3

lightning in East Germany: Down the chute, Egon Krenz, Party leader; down, the whole Politburo, the whole Central Committee. That was the Real goodbye. Bush and Gorbachev, once again, Came too late and smiled for the cameras, punished by life. That evening, in Czechoslovakia, Václav and Olga Havel Walked in Průhonice Park. The skies made them dizzy After two weeks underground. Back at the Magic Lantern, Havel: At last, outside under the high, wide heavens, I realized that this is for real, definitely not a dream. Next day,
12/4

in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (still going), Gorbachev condemned the tanks, the murders, the bruised bloom of Prague nineteen sixty-eight. Too late! Too late! Cried the million on Letná Plain. Those who come too late . . .

68 On the sixth, Egon Krenz lugged his ego out of Government. Now all there were were two Germanies inching together, As the cells at the edge of a wound layer toward the center and healing. Next day, Czechoslovakia had news to stop the heart: Adamec, thwarted and balked, bailed out. (We didn't know that Further east at a crossroads country the Romans had named After themselves, a crossroads race of Latins and Slavs and Magyars--in the way that people, behind their own backs, Play fate and their own saviors--were making an unconscious decision.) On the tenth, Czechoslovakia again (we were breathless
12/7

69 Each night, as though running through the calendar, as though the year,

Tilted, were emptying into the next. I, our daughter Watched): Gustáv Husák appointed a noncommunist government, then Quit. Wholly free elections at the end of the month; Havel na Hrany? Could a free people elect a playwright? Same day: fifty thousand people demonstrated in Bulgaria. (People were getting good at this.) Something new in a Country not free since the Turks smashed the Bulgars Six centuries ago: a Union of Democratic Forces, a Group named after nineteen eighty-nine itself. They Said they wanted democracy. And, in the devastating, careening Magic of this year, multiparty elections, That is, free elections, were promised for nineteen ninety. Bring the camera eye back around to Africa To see a strange thing: an old prisoner, an ex-boxer, Meeting with a head of state. South Africa, and Nelson Mandela, He of Free Nelson Mandela,
12/14

70 song and cry on The lips of the world, met with Frederick Willem de Klerk. Now, why would they do that? Our daughter cried. She knew That they would let him go. De Klerk was good at reading, And the air and sunlight wrote him daily letters. Three Letters he knew quite well: ANC, African National Congress. Perhaps he had added up the Blood plus animal hatred plus Soweto plus shock-troop legacy In a country of anguished loveliness and decided it couldn't go on. Or maybe he simply read his correspondents, air and light. Mandela seemed to blink, walking in the light and air. Soon, de Klerk would unbanish the ANC and free him; Soon there would be elections; soon was becoming now, and Our daughter looked at me for a clue as how to feel. I smiled though my bewilderment as she danced to the crowds on TV. Swing it, oh swing the camera across the Atlantic, to Chile, Shoestring down the western coast of South America Twirled round the swollen digits of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, Home of Neruda, who sang this century as no one will sing it. Once upon a time,
1973

71 thanks to the CIA, a fascist replaced a Marxist. Allende fell, and Pinochet rode his limousines, ducked the Well-intended bullet, rigged elections, killed and Imprisoned and promised. The nineteen-eighties, constipated Decade, strained, and he dropped. A plebiscite cried No more Past nineteen ninety. In the land of Macchu Picchu, riots and Murders. The rainshadow of the world darkened his reign at last. Shifting his thrombotic thighs, he called the great election, And on December 14, two weeks left in the year, Patricio Aylwin was elected President of Chile, and Pinochet Waddled back to his ranch. On four of the seven continents Human beings were acting in congress, changing their worlds Except where there were penguins or kangaroos or Yankees. Beloved Brazil-delta of races, America itself-I drank your language from the alluvial throat of Milton Nacimento. You forced even him to sing wordless songs, his albums all Melodies, wails, ululations-for you were everything except free, Brazil,

72 Until on the seventeenth you elected your first President in nearly Thirty years, Fernando Collor de Mello. (To be sure, He soon took leave, arm-in-arm with scandal. Welcome to democracy, Brazil, to the pit of party politics.) Why do you hate yourself, Brazil, slash and burn yourself, Steal your gold, fell your jungles for McDonald's burgers, Shove your tribespeople into cities?--and yet what are you But the World Dance? Brown river swollen with life Slifing toward the sun? Keep flowing. I want to see where you wind, What torrents you join, what springs in your heat. On that same day A schoolbus braked before a church in Timişoara, Romania, and Machinegunned the crowd on the steps. Elderly, infant, they folded, Flowers in the blood. Exit schoolbus, guns flaming. Fate was written: Nicolae Ceauşescu had eight days left. Easy enough to say Ceauşescu was a tyrant-But the evil in him was no more than the evil in myself. Let's have the courage. Gaze in the bulged mirror. Say it: If I had been Ceauşescu I would have done what he did:

73 Serve the time when young; prove my loyalty and correctness; Believe my Marx, fight to rise, kill for the good of Romania--and here is my sickness--somewhere in that brutal scramble, Lose track of distinctions: between Romania's good And what I wanted; between the fond dreams of Marx and My dreams for myself; between telling my people my dreams And whipping them toward a hallucination. In time, see myself As victor, father, savior. Assemble a soulless army of Hirelings and housecarls, famish them for power, give them a Roman Name: Securitate. See Romania as my children, and Whenever a child rebelled, do as fathers have always Done through time: kill it and muzzle the rest. Romania, clove of garlic to flatten beneath the knife, to Scrape off the cutting board. Dilute the flavor: scoop out the Ancient heart of Bucharest . . . the bazaars, the winding streets, The neighborhoods, all that spoke of any other time, Of the rich and generous coincidences that made Romania Romania . . . Pitch up a faceless city of supremacy, stone, and ugliness (Elena's face . . . my wife, official goddess . . . for her. . . Some of my half-built palaces still stand, wind in the girders, Vows eviscerated). Sacrifice everything to the infected dream. Export women's gymnastics, the scabbed and calloused girls

74 Unconcerned with gravity (they saw their parents every two years), Their flourish, balance, and muscle suggesting womanhood they lacked, As though four decades of choking on dirt of promises Were dispelled by the girlish genius of Nadia Comaneci; Mortgage the future of twenty-three million people to pay off Romania's debts, for the sake of a press conference/praise conference; The relocations, instant cities, evening blackouts, My children not quite frozen, not quite starved to death, Coal, contracts, Bărăgan Plains, everything sold off, Five-year plans, ten-year plans, failures on schedule, Stealing half of Romania to create industrial metastases, Dream so consuming I'd forgotten what it was, One-bulb houses, stunted polis, architectures of myself Until all of Romania was an orphanage of iron cribs, Crenellated labyrinth of corridors leading to the heart of deprivation, An eyeless, acephalic mouth on a stem, screaming. I would have done what he did. And when the momentum came near, A year, nineteen eighty-nine, happening in Romania Because it had happened everywhere else, I'd be the father who Sees he's through--and I would rise to my true depravity,

75 Kill and distract with a new precision, an old amnesia, Kidnap demonstrators, disappear their lives in the world. Nineteen eighty-nine had been a harangue in Romania, a Vendetta against Hungarian, hunting a language, a culture. Nationalism: last resort of dictators in danger. (You Magyar monks who slugged us into diligence, tamped Latin Into our brains--once we'd stumbled through Cicero and Vergil, You grinned: So? Smart boys, isn't it? Try our impossible Language. Next to her, Latin is mama-dada. Magyar: orphan wandering the mouth, words like centipedes Endlessly segmented. We recognized nothing, except that it was poetry.) Fate: a clergyman, Laszlo Toekes, ethnic Hungarian Who obsessed a demagogue tugging the rope toward the past. It was not the size of his congregation at the Timi_oara Reformed Church, but the text of his sermons, strings of sentences That split and recombined, genetic code of conviction, human rights and God and change, read off at the ribosome of the changing mind, That lost Ceauşescu his humanity. Dammed off from sense like Most tyrants, he gave the order to evict the priest, then Flew to Iran while his country convulsed. (Fool, he returned.) Hate

76 is a kind of death, a terrible forgetting of ourselves, A blindness that falls, unlearning of language, jungle reversion, Stroke, disconnect past understanding, a numbing by lightning. Not even China, with its endless mountains and history and army, was As savage as Timişoara. Ceauşescu knew what was coming. He'd shouted it down all year, yet here, thousands of bodies with Spirits sensing this is it were poised to throw themselves Between priest and bullets. I would have said what he said: If that is what they want I have bullets enough. In a cold corner of December far from the gaze of the world, A special cowardice of machine guns and helicopters Struck the townspeople.
12/17

It would be the last time this year A tyrant fired at their hearts. Thousands were willing to die. Into the streets unarmed they went, made heroes by anger. Transfigured, they raised their hands together, ordinary people Whose hopes reach only as far as their checks, who cleave to habit As to a goddess.

77 Their children taught them. They fell first, Crying, My mother, my father, don't mind. In terror/grief/joy, Fathers and mothers ran into the fire, worse than they knew. Cut down, so many saw that they had lost their worlds. I hope that some remembered that they had turned the battle, And that, as unremembrance fell, some died glad. I lost them all, lost them forever, lose them now And for good. Wherever they are, they are not with me in the flesh I care for. No angel's whispers behind the stair of my Soul comfort me. I want their light, the Pebbled velvet of their skin, the shimmer of their patter, the weight Of them in touch, smell, taste, touch, their private Secret selves only I ever knew. My sleepless weeks writhe with the instant of their pain. In the crevasse Of two, three, of four, of gravel-eyed five, when I know The loss of them, I know it was even worse for them. Each of us is here only by the unlikeliest string of Survivals through millennia, one determined nomad, One lucky trekker shambling across moon-frozen Plains after another, hundreds of motherings furtive in the

78 Darkest corners one step ahead of the coal-black Cougar padding vacant-eyed, all stealth, calculus, claw. Error and accident burst forth in us into miracle, And I threw the clay of miracle in each of those I lost. As I go from the graves empty-handed, bombardments pound like hearts. Say we are only animals a few base pairs from madness-But what beast kills so knowingly, gazing in the victim's eyes, Its own eyes? Perhaps the Timişoara refugees Lied, leveraged the numbers. Perhaps, ingenious in outrage, They dug up all the boneyards and faked the mass graves-The moldering dead, whose faces caved, who gestured to nothing, Who lay exposed and wrenched past decency, piled in hundreds In the city streets . . . we sinned to look at them, we, Humiliated before our future selves. Perhaps the photos were All a trick to shock the world. Let me then Praise such grisly genius, enlisting the dead in revolt. Timişoara swelled with a wave of police, ebbed with a

79 Wave of protest. Doors flew open . . . thefts of life . . . Families crawled through the icy woods, looking for graves. Blackshirts crouched on church steeples and picked off passersby. Back came the crowds, the rockfests, the Molotov cocktail parties, the Cans of nails in dynamite. Suicidal with loyalty, the people Would not stop the police would not stop to the last. According to all reports, no one stopped praying. Breakneck jerk from cold to warmth, Romania to Panama: Pockfaced clown of evil, Manuel Noriega, Last-class pal of power, broker of kickbacks, Potbelly with epaulets, old-fashioned small-change dictator, Had started to embarrass his friends. Not his fault America Sniffed billions up its nose. Manuel, capitalist candyman, Fly laying eggs in ordure, merely skimmed the profits. Busy year, Manuel: building up your pile, Surviving coups, slitting and mugging your opposition, Slapping down elections, farting at world threats. Like a weasel with a cow in utero, Panama was somewhat uneasy, A U.S. base in its midst. All year long each side

80 Had swapped arrests, charges, hostages. Six months of whining At Manuel had hauled no wood, and now the United States was Punching him on the arm, waiting for the wrong move. Noriega obliged. Robert Paz, a marine, Was killed, his family saddened. Operation Echo. Languid invasion: as the American Army, awe itself, fanned out, Shoppers dickered over Christmas gifts at stall and bodega. Automatic gunbursts flickered aquí y allá in Panama City While ghosts with guns flicked behind the trees down the streets while Business meetings went on dinner parties TVs.
12/20 12/19

American TV was best. There you could see anchormen in Fatigues for some reason; electronic maps throbbing; experts Working their expert jaws before backdrops without a soldier. Gunfire and death there were--a dictator's Keystone Cops Versus a giant's fingernail. It would take a few days; a city Outjungles the jungle. Not so much fighting as chasing--but this Was the first of two easy wars (Saddam Hussein, Genius of evasion, gnat in the eye, saint of the blockheaded, Was next: Baghdad green in infrared flames,
1990

A pearl necklace of bombardment descending, smart bombs on videotape, The Revolutionary Guard, starvation their sergeant, fright

81 their general, Knelt to their saviors, a few confused Italian journalists-And thousands of Iraqis gone from the earth, from those who wanted them) That killed real people. Manuel, unreal person, Your friend George has sent you a 24,000-soldier Love note. Save your head, worth millions. Under cover of A looter's holiday in streets where Christ will soon be born, Dodge for real. Where, oh where is a clown to hide? Simultaneity-our daughter and I dizzy with news, Blued by the screen-in Berlin confederacy, Germany to Germany. Ceauşescu flew a deluded plane back to Romania--the Future is a permanent virus we cannot choose but catch; it Spreads by mouth, by touch, feeds on the riches of the serum, Defies osmosis across the blood-brain barrier. Ceauşescu Airborne, the virus spread from Timişoara to Bucharest. Who caught it? Who else? Students. This was a year of students, of Churchgoers, of the faceless and desperate, of anyone prone to
12/18-20

82 belief. Who do people decide in masses to risk it all? Because they are forced to the stake. Nothing left. Time has Chosen. It is a good day to die. Or because they see the Chaos before the goal, the keeper overrun. As elsewhere, the students started it. Ceauşescu touched down Tilted. His tires bumped earth in yelps of blue smoke. In Bucharest, the Students rioted. Klieg lights, riflefire, helicopters, Sirens, tanks. A city falling apart, the walls of Custom down, and the teeth at the throat: Securitate in Full gorge. It doesn't make any sense, but I Would have done what Ceauşescu did: call a rally to Celebrate myself. (It had always worked before.) When I took the dais the mantle of habit lowered And hundreds of thousands quieted. The month before, I'd stolen The usual elections, and now I spoke of order, Of what I had accomplished, of me, myself, Romania,
12/21

83 And at first it worked. Elena, a badlands at dusk behind me, Nodded at my large words, applauded the usual lines. Shills by the thousands clapped and hurrahed to geld the crowd, So at first it worked. We settled into the rhythm of old, Father to ciphers. Then my midsentence face changed. That was my death though I did not know it. Out of the thousands, a Voice a distant other another other, distant, Were pulling apart my fingers, my words. Behind me, agents Took down names, sent off spies, thrashers, snipers-Voice joined voice distance shrank I shouted louder Voice and voice fear shrinking I shrank louder Voice after voice distance gone I melting--

84 Now a voice with five hundred thousand throats, as though I would Listen--that was when my face changed, in terminal surprise at my Sudden death--Elena, gone already, indignant at Being gone. And so I began to hector, lecture, Pester, wagging finger, just a former dictator Exposed, an elderly scold. I fled the podium, the Palace. As I tried to disappear, the city was a shout Behind me, an exorcism on pillars of fire and smoke. People and police brawled in the longest night of the year. . . . A woman and man ran across Golden Gate Into the night, the night accepting them. She accepted Him, her portals enclosing, rendering him a spline between Present and future. Even the pluripotent cell has gates. Shuttle the iron, calcium, potassium ions through, that the Tiny atomic factories may roar and life persist. My Ears are gates that open people to me, me to Them, their precious voices. Precious gates, mine Are closing.
1980

85 Gates for Beethoven, traffic, the voice of the Woman who ran with me, such acceptance, one end to the Other. We flowed next to two ribbons, ruby and opal Streaming over the Golden Gate, shuttle of lives. My nostrils are gates to my memory. Orrisroot. Sandalwood. Charlie. Where I was, the moment when. Memory smooths the Rough blanket of fact, edits out the periphery, Frames it--but through my nostrils, diesel, and I keen at a Cruel goodbye years ago. Fingerpaints: Gates to an ancient kindergarten. Iodine: a vivid kiss (Agnes Mioducki once when she asked and once when she didn't; We were five, in a dusky hall in November; she proposed; Okay, I said, and we went out to play, opening a gate from Dusk to evening). Eden had gates, we're told, of our Design. When Enkidu touched the gate to Humbaba's wood, his Hand shriveled and death began. Precious passage, that Life persist. The good is to go gates open, to open Gates for another, to show what gates may open. Let us go gates open, borders down, willing to learn languages. Open, we still are different, delightful for being open. I write that on this day
12/22 1958

the Brandenburg Gates were opened.

86 They mobbed Mark-Engels Platz, billowed by the milling thousands down Unter den Linden, undone of lindens in the last World War, Lively again in free conjunctions of living Berliners. They Redeemed two cities into one Berlin, and The colonnades, the pavilions, the Quadriga of Victory, Neoclassic triumphs, Watchers over history, over eighteen forty-eight (sister year), over a Kaiser's folly turned brows of fascist architecture scarred by the Russian breaking of Hitler, turned archways of passage denied, Repaired in the Cold War to speak of total power-Now, now, for the first time, they let them be Gates, To open, to let forth, invite to mingle, to issue, to Pass. Let the exultant exult; they deserved it, for What they'd done and the healing still to come: the nausea of Naziism, still churning, and two generations who Spied on one another to feed the octopus Terror. (Even the Polish black marketers, those harbingers, partied in their booths, Glad that markets were opened, leery of coming competition.)

87 What history says was spoken in the open stone of the Gates: How gates open, to go gates open. When the succubus of dreams tortures us, and we find we cannot awaken, We blame the eyes we open, whose vision cannot ransom us. In the waning days of the year, cold and dark lowering, Two dictators a hemisphere apart ran from revolutions, Hid in cities, put on disguises, evaded, reduced to Men unable to wake from what they had created. One we can laugh at: Noriega, cringing his way through Panama City, every streetcorner bristling with U.S. Soldiers looking for something to do. Even the snipers were Getting bored. But Elena and Nicolae Ceauşescu . . . there is no Laughter. Applications for immortality rejected, Their monumental metropolises half-built, Romania all but sacked, they fled the stomachs, purses, Imaginations denied. Who chased them? Opportunists, Tricksters with timing, cool killers sick of waiting, Ready to take. Who ran with the dictator? Those already Dead.

88 In Bucharest, Securitate battled the army, Now on the people's side (there survival lay). In the television building, a provisional government of students and ex-communists Ran command central, shouted orders all over. They captured a general. Very pleasant. He agreed to their terms. They wanted to show him they were different, let him use the Phone. He said he was negotiating, and they Believed him--as he called in coordinates to the enemy Gunners. Bombs and bullets smashed the windows, very Accurate. They tore the phone out, tied him up. Below, Army and police and people battled street by street, Killing and dying in the killing cold. Ceauşescu ran. No hill would cover him, no tree shade. He and Elena Touched hands that couldn't believe. The world learned a New name: Ion Iliescu. There seemed to Be some question-12/22-24

89 savior? time-server? raptor? Well, his people were chasing the bad guys, therefore hero He. Ceauşescu changed car after car and saw all roads bricked Off . . . twisted sycamores, uncomfortable valleys . . . How could they not have known, pursuer and pursued to chase was to Catch, to catch to kill?-but he wasn't running from them; He was running from Leipzig, whose candles were raised against him; Berlin, whose Gates opened against him; Prague, whose keys and Bells tintinnabulated against him; Beijing, whose Goddess was blind against him; and television, the bodies in dying Color, suppurating hospitals, families in rifles, the News NO ONE IS IN CHARGE, his Face, Elena's, on the mass-media mural, frescoed in

90 Nets of quivering electrons--5,000 dead in Bucharest-Coffin truckloads rattling--truth and lies conspiring Against him. They caught him in Tîrgovişte, an inch on the map from Bucharest and they didn't know what to do with him. Conflicting reports Harried the airwaves; they heard the radio, saw the TV: University Square a killing field; Securitate Fighting to win then survive then kill then hurt Transition all was thrown up NO ONE, NO ONE IN CHARGE Cities awash in fire, aflame in blood, the temples Riven all of them, captors, captured, cast into the real World no, the real one where law is a holiday and everything

91 Happens. The old man, the old woman shouted In voices they knew. Release us. Now, felons. Dead already, all of you. Only an old man, Very persuasive. They had to do something bound and blinded them Threw them in an armored car and began to drive over the Countryside, around and around in loops of panic, taking Directions from rebel helicopters reporting death everywhere, Driver and shotgun screaming at each other dictators screaming Radio news of professors, generals, old enemies of the regime Bumbling toward a government driving, driving in circles, for Three days, hornblende-black, news of commando raids, Free Romanian Television taken, lost, retaken, Blind dictator screaming like wheels, dirt, gravel, Driver, shotgun, codes, choppers, driving, driving in a Released world all walls down. When the blindfolds lifted They saw a farmhouse in
12/25

92 odor of pigshit a Gods-knows-where. They Ached from the truck, were taken to a bare room, wooden Planks groaning. Sat in chairs. Ceauşescu knew All of the drones around him. Now he commanded them Just as always: Release us in the name of our sacred law. Contempt and impatience jigged his eyes. It was not him who Was afraid. He shouted orders. They looked at one another, then A mole spoke: Extraordinary military court.

Ceauşescu scoffed. He was right. These were smaller men. Mole read off some questions pencilled on a lunch bag: Do you or do you not? Genocide? Sixty thousand? Destruction of the economy? Assassin of our spirit? Fleeing the country? embezzle our patrimony? overseas accounts? Elena snorted: These are your charges? Petty, dreary Mockery. Genius of the harangue, he rejected, demanded, Completely right this was no law he had them pinned And never knew he was going to die until a Man appeared at a back door, carrying that engine of death, a Video camera.

93 Mole repeated the questions. Now rose Old man's voice, indignant at the red Eye of the camera as if, in a year of taped rebellion They'd best make sure they got this down to show the world, to Make it real. An actuality, legitimate Murder. Disgrace. Travesty. No authority. Refuse to Answer--the grandeur of his delusion forbade their pity, for He, like Marcos, Hussein, Noriega, was immured; he was Defiance apart. The weed fear had not split that wall. . . . Finds you guilty of every charge . . . sentences you . . . He shouted Idiots, rose above them in the naked room where The walls cried Idiots. The red eye shone. The court hesitated, Got them up; red shone the eye; they trooped outside, Boots resounding on walls and floor. Refuse to acknowledge Clowns Charlatans

94 Nothing but murderers this was Elena, who First saw the rifles and laughed with rage, she and her husband Braving them in the law. It might have been Mole: Merry Christmas Out went the eye. Across a field, crows flashed from a maple . . . On went the eye recording silence, smoke, fog, Man, woman, garden. They rushed the tape back to Bucharest, to Free Romanian Television and a sigh was released in Romania. From that moment the gunfire drained away. No one was Sure what was happening. Some cried Charade! The old bosses had Simply changed sides. Why give them power Just because they'd killed? At century's end, an ancient Mode of succession. Divorced from bestiality, Romania drew Aside the blanket and welcomed its new spouse, uncertainty-While a clown and former general scurried to the Vatican Embassy In Panama City and begged for asylum.

95 Which thing first? our Daughter asked. Bloody, funny, stunning Christmas, Ceauşescu gone, Noriega hanging on the Vatican's flagging nipple (The U.S. Army blasted maddening rock and roll Into the compound to flush him-Oh God The Archies I surrender), and Alexander Dubček elected president of the Czechoslovak Federal parliament. Our daughter was four, our son one. Pine was fresh in the room. I know the world does not Believe, but if our daughter is right, this was the year Flowers vanquished the tanks, when nineteen sixty-eight Switched digits, flipped one over. In the afternoon, Exhausted by gifts, our children slept nor did they dream What I dreamed at four. We, my wife said, give them this quiet. On Christmas night TV the crowds hailed Dubček, Blew kisses to Noriega sleepless in the Vatican Embassy (We hate him We hate him We hate him),
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96 fought and planned in Bucharest, All of us soluble fish
André Breton

streamlining as we swim. Four days later, in Czechoslovakia, they elected president the Scriptwriter for the Velvet Revolution. Havel na Hrany -12/29

He scuffed at the mike, spoke his first political words. On that same day, they made typewriters legal in Romania, and Marin, Ceauşescu's brother, hanged himself in Vienna. As Nineteen eighty-nine ended, Poland changed its name and Braced for capitalism, Romania called off the vigilantes and Announced April elections, the Pope served midnight Mass, The women of the Elections Gazette looked for western investors, and Noriega, flayed by the Eagles, cowered in the Vatican Embassy. On a rooftop in a New York forest, we looked through a glass, Toasted the courageous millions in champagne and freezing stars.

Now it fell to the peoples to thrash a way into a future In the clamber of parties, mouse courage of legislatures,

97 Purpose lost sight of in the drizzle of interest-Russia bawls, writhes, stuck in the birthing passage-Czechoslovakia splits. Havel in, then out, then In again. Wałęsa loses the Presidency. Here and there, the old thieves feed on the people's Impatience. How to juggle Getting, efficient and inhumane, with Caring, humane and inefficient? Good luck. What voice answers prayer is fearfully complex, fearfully Human. Flesh of the map fists and divides, four, eight, Sixteen, thirty-two, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Macedonia, Letters snaking across mountains and borders. Prayer Finds answers in the grit of process, or should I say No answers, but a gesture, open-handed, forward . . . I look back on this year and think our daughter was right: This was the year the prayers were answered, great tasks done, Greater awaiting. This was the year we knelt in school for. Of course, she takes for granted that life is a conversation, that To pray is to make a formality of the ordinary. For Her, everything hears, everything listens. No children kneel In the hysterical darkness of elders, schools and schools and

98 schools of them, Praying claustrophobia away. Her life is a clearing; We never stopped praying. I think she was right. The moment we commit ourselves, providence begins.
W. H. Murray

Each house is a cosmos on a galaxy street on this speck of a planet. In this great dying of frogs, that latest forward lobe, The soul organ, quizzes its surroundings, drawing Story from welter. There is that in this life to bid us Knock on our neighbors' doors, ask how it is with them, And listen for their answers. This year led us to a world to be Deserved--if only we knew what the work of deserving was.

For the Next Century The good swimmer knows her arms, her legs, her timing. Swells oppose and channel belittles. Horizon: desert. But her hauling breaths (courage) and her shoulders (patience) work. She knows it will be her arms alone that will raise the shore. Could we have a swimmer's faith,

99 to love the midst of history As the greased stroker loves midnight lost in the aching Channel, This ocean (time) we swim in would be granite to our step. Let the I enlarge! Dilate for the veritable light Of what I truly is--a slub in the linen of time, Knot worked in a network jangling with choices, contrail Arcing through alternatives, Saint Sebastian of cause. Take a gay hammer to the cased icon of the self. Let this new I, no longer lost, though often left, Be white and iris, setting and diamond, blazing nerve to the Fever switchboard brain. Refuse all readymade lenses for a World that deserves to be seen and seen in. Let down roots/ Arteries/nerves to soak the earth in blood and mad epinephrine (Frida's painting). Bind us by the gut-strings to our enworldment. Already for generations now, all these immense centuries it has been Happening--the sacred infection of the pristine being, delicious Mixture of bloods against law, hectic hemorrhage across borders, the Coming of the brick-grey almond-eyed genius-race, What humankind, who knows why?, has always feared. Let all pronouns marry. Worship the known and unknown who Sank in us their seed. Work to deserve the past of Lies and heroes' blood, to earn a world you will not Ever see. Rejoice at the future, that canyon to be filled

100 With work and suffering. This dance--the heart fails,
Walter Benjamin

The heart races to be at the dance--this anthem of what is Not here yet, in the death of families and sunrises against the odds, These are what we, against ourselves, have ever sung and danced: Let the I enlarge. Let the I enlarge.

1962 No one stop praying. In October nineteen sixty-two, Missile sites in the paper, teachers let us out early. Quiet and wonder suspended crowds of parents and children. I walked home to an empty house where the paper said What the radio said and the radio said what the television said: Satellites saw the missiles, satellites told the scientists, Scientists built the missiles, soldiers and satellites aimed them At cities of mothers and fathers, at the hard, combustive sleep of Children, heroic as the slumber of trees, at murderers and priests, at Me, ground zero. The modern world was true And I saw it on page 1-A of the Santa Ana Register. To the floor I went, saying it, a century's choir of suppliants Drowning my words in an ocean of whispers as the huddled men beetled

101 In eye-socket war rooms, as a steel egg of battleships awaited A glans of destroyers, as gamblers gambled against gambling, the game of Deathlike sangfroid torching a paper world. And Khrushchev Blinked. Years have tranced past. Was it my prayer Or the power of prayer from four billion throats, The unimaginable will of all the world's people-They must not do this--that forced Khrushchev's bothered eye, Kennedy's fricative bed, Oswald's rifle, Johnson's nightmare, King's dream, Mao's iron flowers, Nixon's damp handshake, The waste of generations, South Africa, Philippines, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Chile, Russia, Hungary, Palestine, Ireland? O nightmare tumult of answers, prayer avalanche, O torn peace. There, then, I prayed Against world's end. When I was done, the house Dark with misered October light, I, nine, Wandered outside, and, wandering, found our cul-de-sac, that teardrop Swarming with children in the center. They'd gathered, who knows why?, Left records, homework, living rooms. We twined like a strand Of living stuff in the belly of a cell. We were strangely Dignified, courteous, as though about to take the first

102 Handful of earth and let it slip into our world's Grave. We scanned face after face after face for the headlines. As No children's should, our hearts let in the end Of all we knew. We were all children Everywhere that night, savanna, taiga, clutched in cities, Singing to flocks on mountainsides, picking pockets in slums, Staring from mother's back, led by an elder hand Hour after aching, reaching hour. We fought and Ignored one another daily, but on that night of the missile's shadow, We were as still and soft as moss. And all around us, On every porch, standing on every step, as in any Place that night in the whole world, a mother and a father Came forth and gazed, a supple ring as round and wide As a world of mothers and fathers, encircling our ring of children Who gazed at them gazing at us. No one stop praying.