Even before I learn he is famous, I comment
on the blithe greenlit fellow with his cheerful
stride, boater hat, a lissome swinging arm.
We are crossing Behrenstraße; never have
I been so eager to abide traffic lights. I spend
the weekend with a friend from grade school,
and after I exclaim about the kitsch traffic man
she tells me of his cult status. Up Behrenstraße
to the Komische Oper—we leave after one hour,
two hours before the show ends. Our tickets cost
12 euros each, for the worst seats in the theater.
His stop silhouette faces straight, arms out, legs
together, a little red T. Karl Peglau designed him
in 1961, after condemning standard traffic lights
that did nothing for those who could not see colors.
Before German reunification Ampelmann belonged
to East Berlin; now he belongs to the culture of
Ostalgie. This portmanteau combines nostalgie
with ost—nostalgia with east. The Berlin Wall
has been down for less time than it stood. After
one hour of comic opera, we sit for 3 outside
with beer and Irish coffee; Altweibersommer.
At the Ampelmann flagship store a block north
of the Komische Oper I get a sticker, a postcard,
a holographic bookmark, small earrings,
one red and one green, trimmed in silver.
10 hours west of flight; the whole trip sunlit.
Japan Airlines Flight 17, Vancouver to Narita.
Some hours short of the winter solstice.
Personal geographies: been this far north once before,
never south of the equator, never crossed the date line
Blue of distance, horizon lint.
Error from Latin errare, to wander.
Tidiness of airline food: it all tastes
a little of plastic, but I cannot mind.
Seatback digital maps, places ungone:
Sea of Ohkotsk, Northwest Hawaiian Ridge, Aleutian Trench.
I shrug nothing off—nothing leaves me like that; I leave nothing like that.
No word for the feeling of waking up in a house not mine, not even in German.
Seamount: a submarine mountain.
It means something that an egg
is almost the shape of the world.
On Christmas 1968, Archibald MacLeish wrote:
To see the earth as it is, small and blue and beautiful
in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves
as riders on the earth together, on that bright loveliness
in the eternal cold.
Of course, we said, we want it all.
Two other Chinese restaurants on the block
but most times we preferred that cheaplit dive
with its technicolor sauces, Grade Pending, we
craved the godless pleasure of their dumplings.
Those December afternoons would find us
beside windows snowpearled luminous cold,
the best of amnesiacs while we looted for
water chestnuts, thawed our hands around
dark tea, felt refined next to lacquered chopsticks,
accepted the arcanum of the eggroll. We had found
the warmest corner of the world.
And the rest to go? she asked us.
Annie Diamond is a Connecticut native, who earned her BA in English and creative writing from Barnard College. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Laurel Review, Misadventures, Cargoes, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships by The MacDowell Colony, The Lighthouse Works, and Boston University, where she completed her MFA in 2017.