When the sirens began, we went underground,
and when we surfaced, the streets were gone.
The war gave us the name.  Later,
when the men who lived were still in prison,
the women were left to clean everything up.

We collected the houses, churches, hospitals,
the halls where I had never danced,
impossible to sort.  We all did something.
One woman pulled stone after stone from the rubble.
One hammered mortar from the edges.

One stacked bricks in orderly piles
next to the mountains --- Trümmerbergen.
The rubble became part of so many words.
I remember a few Trümmermäner,
and long lines of Trümmerkinder.


As a young woman not yet twenty,
I walked where my aunt had walked at that age,
clearing the nave of the Frauenkirche.
I spoke to an old couple nearby,
who said, "we don't talk about it."

We stood in silence.  I could see the sky
through the windows of the two church walls,
sandstone forms, far from each other,
one worn column wearing its holes
like a place where the heart had been.

Poetry, Dec. 1999