Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Excavation #1: The Castle

In Germany, Uncategorized on May 2, 2011 at 5:12 pm

The Excavation series is excerpted from my MFA thesis, entitled Ruins. These short chapters deal with youthful imagination and an increasing desire to explore the world. Photograph of Castle Isenberg, as imagined by a Westphalian artist.

Mom told me to find Lucas. He was in the basement, she said. I hopped down the strange stairs. I didn’t know this house. I didn’t even really know Lucas—just the son of my Mom’s friend. When I reached the carpet, I saw a very big room. Bigger than any room in my house. The walls were cinderblock, and the floor was scattered with toys. Tanks and action figures and plastic guns.

But when I saw the Castle, everything else faded. A single light shined over it, and everything else turned to darkness. All the walls were made of balsawood, but they were supposed look like stone. A drawbridge fell from a gatehouse’s mouth. All along the battlements, knights stood at the ready. They wielded swords and halberds. Gloved hands whirled flails, and shields parried blows. And their armor—the silver armor actually gleamed. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fall of Castle Isenberg

In Germany on August 26, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Arkipelagos Castle Isenberg

The following is an excerpt from The Iron Mountain, now available by Sabella Press. The photograph above was taken in the ruins of Burg Isenberg.

A small army arrives at Castle Isenberg. If there is anyone left inside the structure, they find a way to leap down from the walls, or escape through the sally gate. The Castle is empty, abandoned. When the army arrives, warmed against the bitter cold by woolen tunics, they dismount and chop at the door. Or they cut down a tree and ram it into the door until it finally falls open. It’s frightening, how empty the castle is. Only chickens peck at the frosted ground.

The invaders make a sweep of the keep and gatehouse and living quarters. They make camp in the many chambers, in the cellars, anywhere they can. They have much work to do.

In the following weeks and months, they cut down more trees. They gather scraps of wood and branches from the forest, whipping them against the ground to clear away snow and ice. The piles of brush and timber grow. Meanwhile, they take picks and axes and start chopping away at the walls. They dig holes, small tunnels. They drive their tools into the stonework, digging out the mortar, chipping away at the masonry until the metal is blunted. They work day and night. The days pass slowly. Their heads ring with the sounds of banging and scraping. The tink of metal on stone grows repetitive, then maddening. But they continue with their work.

They spend Christmas and the New Year in the freezing castle. Some grow fond of it, wondering why they must chip at the walls. It seems like such a waste. After sleeping in warm beds – stolen from the former Master – after enjoying the large quarters of a nobleman, they wonder why they can’t just stay here, managing the castle, watching over the Ruhr. They drink beer at night and each morning watch the sun rise over the valley. It seems so insensible to deface such a magnificent fortress. But they continue. They have their orders. They have no choice. They must undo what has been done.

And they know, just as well as the new Archbishop, that such a stronghold will stand the test of time. Someone will steal the castle – the sons of Isenberg, perhaps – and no-one would dare besiege it. Castle Isenberg is too grand, too dangerous to be left alone. The soldiers cut rifts into the stone, breaking away the brittle rock. No ropes can pull down these walls. No catapult or trebuchet could pierce them. The stacks of wood grow, until sometime in January or February, in the most oppressive overcast of winter, when they start to move the wood.

They jam the logs into the holes in the walls. They fill the rifts with kindling and dead grass and browned leaves. They fill every nook and cranny with dry wood, anything organic – dung, oil, animal fat.

Then they light the torches.

They carry their torches to the walls. They reach over with their balls of crackling flame. The fire touches on the kindling. The fire sparks and snarls. The fire expands, spreading along the logs and bundles of twigs. It ignites, explodes. The fire leaps and vomits sparks into the air. The heat is welcome at first, then overwhelming. The fire climbs the walls, eating through the mortar. Burning stones are spit into the air, singing and whistling before they hit the ground. The fire snakes along the inner-structure of the towers, coating the ceiling, smoking through the floorboards, consuming the empty rooms (for now every possession has been stolen – payment for a job well done). The window-frames collect the fire, then fall into each other – gushing smoke, splitting into chunks of ember and glowing coal. Then the violent crash of the floors collapsing – first the roof caving into the sixth floor of the gatehouse, falling into the fifth, the fourth; without floors to keep the stonework stable, the tower itself begins to implode, sucking into itself, the stonework cracking, swallowed into the tower’s belly, betrayed by its own immeasurable weight.

The soldiers cheer – a requisite, bittersweet cry, for it is a relief to be finished, to know that they are going home, the task is complete, mission accomplished. As they ride and march away, along the lonely road, through the thick forest, the air is suffocated with smoke. Though they face away from the billowing flames, the mushroom cloud of the castle they have wrecked, they can smell their work – the chalky smell of destruction, the smell of a dynasty turning to ash.

The Iron Mountain is available on Amazon.


In Germany on June 19, 2009 at 12:00 am


Frankfurt, a smoldering pyre

smothered with bankers’ ash

and forced to scrape the sky.


Why do I let the drizzle

drizzle me,

on a sidewalk paved

with soggy mirrors,

penned in by glass,

sniffing ozone-scented snot,

shoulder-blades stiffened

by the thundering laughs

of men who don white helmets—

traversing asphalt tundra,

condescended to by towers,

billboards, steel-circled trees,

as a fifty-foot Euro

summons me to an empty,

muffled plaza?


A sample kitchen beckons

through a window

past the sign that reads geschlossen

a dustless future

stranded on an island counter

not far from Goethe’s grave.


Why am I a homing pigeon,

watching rugby in a Biergarten,

resigned to stools and silence,

seeing how a journey

of a thousand steps

ends with a single sigh?


In Germany on June 18, 2009 at 12:00 am


My train burrows

through Westphalia,

a savvy silver worm

that eats through brick

and spraypaint-slashed concrete—

a snatch of street

and smears of terra-cotta roofs

flicker humbly past the window,

pocked with cars,

insectoid bikes,

juts of pipe and chimney.

Only clouds pass calmly,

washed across the sky

like soap on quickly mopped parquet.


Cathedral spires

spike the comatose horizon—

the hour turns

but the train-car’s glass is thick

and armors out

the peel of noonday bells.


My locomotive mines

through Essen,

city of gears and whistles,

then digs beyond the smokestacks,

breaking ground in Düsseldorf,

where coats hang low

and hair is flared,

the boots clack loud,

and spectacles shape squarely.


The tunnel ends

but light is just as scarce.


In Germany on June 17, 2009 at 12:00 am


Late at night

no cab will carry me

for any price,

so my street-burned feet

must serve as wheelbarrows,

hauling me past

half-timbered ranks

and bludgeoned stone walls

that once hugged tight

the town.


Ponds of street lights

leapfrog me along the road,

which dips into

a geologic bowl

of blackness—

the only sounds

are moaning trucks

and trickling from

a gnomish creek

that slithers from shadow

to shadow.


My road is a chasm

wedged along the hillside,

guiding me past farmhouse,

trailer, trees as old as night.


An East German blackbird

hangs loose

from a farmer’s

middle finger flagpole.

Black humps of sheep

mingle in the crunching grass.


Now, high enough to see

the crown of lights

beyond staccato clouds of breath—

the town is far,

orchards embrace,

and I am near enough

to my pension-house

to remember

that a pillow

is bequeathed

to marry

my dusk-chilled face.


In Germany on June 16, 2009 at 12:00 am


Heinrich wheezes laughter

through his kringle beard,

but his joke is still an icicle:

You know the thing about Hitler,

he says. He just wanted

to be famous.


He butts my pint-glass,

a toast to nothing—

and scoffs a sentiment

half a century old:

During the War,

we wished the Allies

would bomb the Altstadt.

The Old City was only gypsies

and bad plumbing.


Picture him a boy,

in spats and lederhosen,

watching airborne hives

float slow above the hinterland

scattering bombs

as nilly as a fist of seeds.

Spindly Heinrich,

fed from cans

and sips of milk,

his marrow jiggling

while bedrock quaked

beneath his two left feet.


With time, young Heinrich

grew a paunch,

and the airplanes carried him—

time zones slid below,

and palm-trees won his pulse.

In Colombia, he says, the women

are the most beautiful in the world.

His eyes well up with dancing,

merengue stops up his ears,

and Heinrich’s gone,

to Bogotà,

a hemisphere away

from famous men

and gypsy flats

and all those rusty pipes.


In Germany on June 15, 2009 at 4:00 am


Three days

in a German village

mean walkways,

highways, bikeways, paths—

bucketed sausage

and puffy eyes,


stonewashed jeans,

sprouts of rattail hair,

and a labyrinth

of chilly pauses.


I envy them,

their algorithmic breaths,

their silences as tragic

as a refrigerator

shutting off.


Watching them bow

and walk with fingers locked

behind their waists,

I picture how

a proper German

cuts his curried


thin, I think, and even,

chewed slowly

like a mourner.