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In Hamburg by Terry McDonagh, Irish Poet, Playwright and Writer
IN HAMBURG is a poem dedicated to Wolfgang Borchert, a German resistance fighter who was tortured for his non-conformity during the war. His health suffered as a consequence and he died of pneumonia, a very young man of twenty-seven, in 1947 in Switzerland. Despite his suffering and tender years he has left us a wonderful legacy of drama, stories and poetry. I like one of his poems, In Hamburg, so I decided to write my own ‘In Hamburg’ as I’ve lived here for longer than he did.
to the memory of Wolfgang Borchert.
In Hamburg is the Elbe. Every morning
Heinz will go down to the river to work
and he will hardy see the water, but he
knows it’s there, and when he crosses over
in a boat, he knows that fresh and salt water
collude in a sweet and sour tangle, a bit
like the dream and reality in his heart.
In Hamburg is the Alster. Every spring
longboats, yachts, masts and flags will
be freed from winter sleep, and they cannot
sense the water, but it is there because
Heinz and his wife will pull lines and sails
between the city and Winterhude, a bit
like taking tears away in summer months.
In Hamburg is the light. Every day
the sun will come up to some degree
as if it did and didn’t care, but Heinz’s wife
knows from the ship’s sirens and Heinz
at the front door, it is there. Later she will
walk by a closed up Russian bookshop, a bit
like a bunch of broken rosed from the Volga.
In Hamburg is the dark. Every night
the day will be freed of rules and regulations
and the open spaces will close up
to leave room for unbridled whispering
alongside the foot-tramp of the solitary, while
Heinz and his wife buy two bus tickets, a bit
like two words trying to find the right poem.
© Terry McDonagh