THE WHITE CITY
A grainy sequence in uncertain light
somewhere down by the harbor
looking through a dirty hotel window
into a sullen overcast morning
seeing what is to be seen there;
murky silhouettes of freighters and
spidery cranes against
the colorless expanse of the river
like some surrealist mock-up of a
fauvist painting done by a dilettante jailbird
with too much time on his hands
while above the white city
the sheen of clouds holds traces
of the same metallic blue
as the incipient hue in the hair
of the old ladies sitting in the Café Nicola
where fractured light and the Eagles’
“Hotel California” are rebounding off the
mirrored walls of the art deco interior
and the waiter is getting ready to
step outside and put another hex
on the filthy fucking pigeons.
A POEM FOR BLONDIE
Inside the tangled coils of history the coordinates of right and wrong are hot and sticky and a little confused and the orphic static slaps back like a dark song by Brecht echoing from some fluorescent-lit shadowless white laundry room far beyond Munich boulevards, the hacksaw blade of the Alps and distant Berchtesgaden, where a few grainy minutes of spliced-in footage show failed-art-student vegetarian non-smoker Adolf Hitler cuddling with beloved Blondie on the sun-raked terrace, his faithful German shepherd who later served her country by testing the cyanide pills in the bunker in Berlin, proving that they functioned perfectly well indeed and thus opening up the way to the way beyond.
If you can walk through the subway station in Hamburg-Altona climb the stairs and walk through the train station among the infinite flux of faces and figures in that arbitrary barrage of citizens rushing through the early-morning hustle & bustle and come out on the other side still feeling good about it all—with your compassion for humanity still intact—then you don’t even need to read The Flower Garland Sutra and can go into the park and sit on a bench like Antoine Roquentin in Sartre’s Nausea staring at the gnarly roots of a chestnut tree where they disappear into the earth and for each and every lack of meaning there will suddenly be a new word in a new language in which you are completely and totally fluent and something like a gratitude will well up in your throat as sweet as the nectar going down the gullet of that red-and-green-shimmering hummingbird hovering in mid-air over there by those bright pink flowers finely dusted with carbon particles from the diesel exhaust of the trains and busses and other murmuring traffic just beyond the ivy-covered wall.
MARK TERRILL was born in Berkeley, California, shipped out of San Francisco as a merchant seaman to the Far East and beyond, studied and spent time with Paul Bowles in Tangier, Morocco, and has lived in Germany since 1984, where he’s worked as a shipyard welder, road manager for rock bands, cook, postal worker and translator. The author of a dozen books and chapbooks, with other writings and translations appearing in more than 500 magazines, journals and anthologies worldwide, he’s received three Pushcart Prize nominations and was included in the anthology Ends & Beginnings (City Lights Review #6), edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Recently he’s performed his work in various venues in Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague, and was guest-editor for a special German Poetry issue of the Atlanta Review in 2008.