March 2020

Back to Issue 7

After the War

By Marcelle Freiman

After ‘Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe’ 1984-6 by Anselm Kiefer


In his deepest dreams the ruined

city of Hamburg saw derelict bodies

          stopped: the child was seeking

splinters of coal

          along the train tracks 

for fire at home – to melt the fat

his mother collected from the sausage-works,

the way it caught on the rim of a bucket –

the taste still edges his tongue

          despite the sachertorte and coffee: 


rumours of memory, a brown rust residue

stays in the cells of his bone and skin knowing –

          even as lead-weight wings

would struggle to propel the nights

          heavily into daylight – 

          he carried clumps of lead

in his pockets, walking into 1951.


The rage to forget created

clean-spun shining rebuilt cities, 

old cobbles forged to new streets –

          still the leaded stones

pulled down on heart muscle

          while his shoulder-blades fought

to lift – like the emerald-faced

wild geese over the river,

          their heavy bodies ascending:

and the lead-grey memories

flints of coal imprinted

on frozen knees

still scrape the rough papers

of wintering skies.