Photo-Poem Collaboration – Berlin


Donna Pucciani and Bonnie Woods



Sidewalk and Ball


Far from the sea,

the unmeasured distance

of flower and sky,

a red rubber ball

sidles the cobblestones.


Some random thrust of foot or hand

brought stone and toy together

as evening caught its breath

while waiting for a burst of crimson.


Leaving the sidewalk unfinished,

sweat-stung masons have taken

their muscled hands home

to hold beer and bread.


The children have been called in

for dinner, their sticky fingers

now soaped under a faucet.

Children prefer happiness to milk,

but the red ball holds the memory

of their gleeful games.


Tomorrow promises a finished

pavement, cemented in small squares

inch by patient inch. The jot

of red joy flung on concrete and curb

is rediscovered, thrown hand to hand

out of the laborers’ way, dancing

into the middle distance,


while stars hide their bright heads

in the pillows of morning,

and another day comes bounding

through Berlin.






Red Canal



The nightmare so unshakeable

descends even in daytime, subtle

as a dove:  the canal below the window

brightens into blood, the banks

on both sides smeared with crimson mud.


Thirty years ago, a woman

stood at the kitchen window

looking out at a cluster of sparrows

and barbed wire. Her hands

were floury with the day’s labors,

her heart heavy with hidden lives, lies,

the deaths of swimmers in the canal

at the hands of soldiers who used to be

her neighbors’ children playing in the street.


Could she roll out death

like a pie, serve it for dessert,

with coffee and steamed milk

disguised as hope? And now,

how can she face the scarlet waters

coursing slowly through Berlin

with all the old invisible sadnesses

in tow?


Some day the canal will lighten

into pink. The landlocked night terrors

for those gone for a swim and then

to an early grave will subside,

leaving only whitewashed buildings,

windows sparkling with sunlight, geraniums,

and the pale faces of those who cannot endure

even the sparest of memories.


What will she do now

with the gift of a gunless life?







Winter Willow Graffiti


As if the snow that fell yesterday

were not thick enough, ready

to become slush over mud and under boots.


As if the cold were not cruel enough

to frost windows and the chilblained

elderly filling hot water bottles

and drinking endless cups of tea.


As if tortuous gusts would never cease

their insidious assault on cracked walls

and shuttered balconies.


What’s left of the willow

waves listless over a concrete barrier,

whispers to the black-on-blue graffiti,


the crimson music notes

edging down the wall, thin green hearts

that once felt love, dribbled sea shells

that never knew a beach.


Looking for humanity and finding none,

the willow drifts yellow over a landscape

crammed with the violent creativity of the young,


whose bitter dreams

have claimed this corner

with a sprayed scream.


Too tired to think of Miami or Rio,

perhaps too old to remember spring,

the willow reaches down to pluck


a little of life, or anything,

from this grey winter afternoon,

seeking and finding new ways to weep.








Some days


light dawns by inches

and stays in the netherworld

all day, the low sky

pressing snow into mud,

the mud pressing roots of trees

further underground.


Last spring a leaf clutched

the barberry bush on its way down

from heaven and clung there

for months, unnoticed until today


when I sought something good

to think about. Yesterday I stocked up

on sympathy cards and get-wells–

I always keep a few in the drawer

with stationery and other obsoletes,

feeling guilty that this paper used to be a tree.


But friends are sick,

and as the gray limitless clouds

sit closer overhead, we all recognize

the brevity of this too-mild winter,

the lovable strangeness

of thunder in February,


of the physical therapist

who makes conversation while pulling

one’s knee, of the neighbor

for whom one buys multi-colored

hats for chemical baldness. Today

I select a pair of Easter socks,

hued in spring pastels and foolish rabbits,

to mail to an old friend in West Virginia

who made it through heart surgery,

scarred but reborn.







Bonnie’s Street Never Moves


The street awaits footsteps, bicycles, cars,

the vehicles of those who pursue loneliness

in continual transit.


It observes my arrival,

bringing the fevers of summer

to their inevitable end.


Apartments link arms,

peer over a canal ringed with graffiti,

watch the intrusion of a small boat.


The welcome of cobblestones

is like no other, meeting me

above the languorous glance of the water.


Someone on the fourth floor

sips wine, surveying cloud,

leaf and sky, watching


students with backpacks, a cyclist

turning a corner too quickly, an elderly soul

bent over a bag of cabbages for dinner.


The street will be there

in November, long after I leave,

when the trees flinch


naked in the wind, and in January,

when ice floes dot the canal

with the bitter remembrance of July.


In the distance, the hunched granite city

of Berlin crouches small as a fingernail,

a cluster of berries visible


on this tree-lined street where window boxes

fringe the vacant eyes of flats,

the last vestige of warmth caught

in the arms of a red geranium.





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