A Forest of Berlin, by Brenda Coultas

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From The Writing of an Hour, a poetry collection, which was published in March by Wesleyan University Press.

A bouquet of twigs and moss and a hard orange burst of flowers.
Everyone in the forest wore black clothing, like a uniform of darkness.

Bear-lin, or Bear’s den, or Burr-lin, and the bear at the door.

Toy trucks and other smalls hidden under a shirt. Passing window
view: Reichstag replica in porcelain and full of a wintery liquor;
everyone sleeps during the day, clothing is tight and purposeful. Each
street tells a sexy love story or a grim fairy tale. In Berlin everyone
knows the little walking man, his hat shaped like a soft skillet and
everyone keeps a suitcase of tiny toiletries stashed. In Berlin, the ends
of your hair fade into turquoise. Bread is made of nuts and seeds and
cakes are rhubarb or apricot. The forest is thick with witches and all
your hard wires smoke like the flame from a fat candle.

I sat outside a café with a blanket on my lap doing heavy eating, I
woke in a city of bears that smelled of dairy farts, of meat and cheese;
I woke in a city where even the toys smoked, a plastic bear smoked a
plastic cigarette, and a toy bird, filled with red liquid, dipped its beak
into a water glass over and over for my amusement. That city turned
my own face into something hairy and soft. And these smells followed
me home from the airport.

While in this city of bears, I heard of a maiden who lived in a guard
tower, even though she was not a Checkpoint Charlie. Every evening
she stroked her hair with a boar bristle brush; the guard dogs below,
German shepherds, were serious, large and wet, and their ears
pointed forward.

But a bear wanted the maiden’s tower (prime real estate). Bears are
persistent and clever, and this bear had heard that a poem, the words
in the right combination, could spring open the heavy door reinforced
with Bronze Age rebar.

So the bear said, “ . . . hmmm,” and the maiden said, “Yes, like that.”
The door fell open like an unhinged jaw of a giant and she fled with
German shepherds to find the human whose words were stolen by
the bear. After roaming for years, she wondered if the bear had eaten
the poet.

Time is a long corridor of dogs and towers.

In later chapters, she found herself locked inside a house of hair and a
castle of friendly pleasures. She was held captive in a dungeon of lust
hidden on a vast estate where there were instruments molded from a
Poe story, in which a device meant a tool worked by hand to break the
halos of medieval lambs.


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