“Jahrzehnt in Berlin” by Kara Cochran


The only thing I’d feared
in the west was the cold

der Graue Stadt swaddling us in winter, my chest shuddered
as I breathed my scarf hot, wiggling wool-socked toes in boots
cars slicking down ice-platted streets and buses
sighing their unending exhaust as the first flakes fell

the slow-moving water that waited below frozen facade
as my brother and his friend parted glass branches
with ungloved fingers, laughter echoed through darkened trees,
through my shouts of protest, sneakers to pond’s edge,
closer to the other side when the glazed surface cracked
and my heart stopped cold —
until my hand found a branch to pull them ashore.


I thought I knew what fear was
until the train to Sachsenhausen

my teacher’s wrinkled finger across pursed lips, whispered
reden sie bitte nicht auf English, es ist unsicher.
I looked from face to blurred face, city stops full of dark
winter figures, to fields and rural platforms
blanketed in snow. Neonazi?…Neonazi? I wondered,
pulling my jacket collar close.


It wasn’t until I was older that I understood
some walls are never gone

remnants of bright eighties cheapness, posters on posters
outside construction sites grown wild with weeds,
rusted Trabbis and 99 Luftballons and Goodbye, Lenin!
Nina Hagan’s lipsticked mouth dangling a cigarette.

I no longer fear the Deutschpunks with neon-spiked hair
all-black and combat boots, headphones blaring Rammstein
a decade of freedom from Stasi and wires beneath wallpaper
der Mauer that once constrained them sold in pieces
at souvenir shops, a generation shouting

we are here,
we are still here.


Kara Cochran is a writer, editor, and instructor. She holds an MFA from Rosemont College and a BA in English Creative Writing and German Studies from Denison University. She teaches English Composition at Temple University, Widener University and Delaware County Community College. Kara is also the former Managing Editor of Rathalla Review, the Assistant Program Director at Philadelphia Stories Junior, and a Mighty Writers workshop teacher, volunteer, and mentor. Her poems and craft essays can be found in Schuylkill Valley Journal, flashfiction.net, and Fiction Southeast, and she tweets from @philawriter.

Please note: Poetry is compressed to fit smart phone screens. If you are reading this poem on a phone screen, please turn your screen sideways to make sure that you are seeing correct line breaks for this poem.

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