Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

can't whitewash the heart, the people will be free

i went to st michael's church around the corner from my hostel in east berlin.

the building was in a state of organized decay, bits of half-construction everywhere. the stained glass windows had been replaced with blank, clear sheets of glass. the icons of the saints and of christ in statuary are all banged and bumped and dusted with white paint as if a vandal came through in the night and painted them all white and in the morning an altar boy with sandpaper instigated a hasty liberation. all over the walls - the bright white walls - the empty canvas glow memorialiazed all the paintings lost. in one, hidden corner, a single curve of angels remain unsmothered, unforgotten. metal bracings like a splint for a broken leg hold up the decaying walls. they're ugly, but they keep the walls here.

and all the people were here. the old, the young, the strong, the proud, the dumb. the damaged organ could barely hold a tune. the dusty missals smelled like mold and cheap perfume. the people came to their church, and prayed to god. and no state police crony could whitewash their patient hearts. the church is not the art. the church is not the walls. the church is the congregation. you can't whitewash their hearts.

east berlin fell fifteen years ago, and west berlin embraced her because they were all one nation, under god - in their hearts.

after mass, i walked around the corner to this webcafe. i know i'm in east berlin because of the poorer buildings. i also know i'm here because of the graffiti. in a communist state, the government takes your self away. and all through the streets, the graffiti culture remains. children in the night spraying their names in gaudy colors. they say "i am alive. i am exhilerated. i am carving my own memorial in this stone and there's nothing you can do about it!"

i think the ghosts of the lost neo-classical icons exploded in joyful dadaism, pop-art primalism, all over these tired streets.

good morning, berlin.

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