Standing with the Fräulein

by Rob Couteau

Published in:
Colere: A Journal of Cultural Exploration, spring 2009
(IA: Cedar Rapids)

Standing with the Fräulein

Standing with the Fräulein
at the East German border,
golden fields of wheat
under clear
     cerulean skies.

A jeep roars
over a nearby hill.
Two blond soldiers leap out,
raise oversized binoculars,
stare at us.
I wonder how
they perceive
her quiet radiance.
She lifts a hand
and waves,
but they do not
return her greeting.
Fräulein is sad.
Like our relationship
her nation
     is torn asunder.

We circle round a hill,
disappearing from view.
After a while
they assume we’ve left
and the jeep
roars away.

Wild poppies
at our feet:
blood red,
“The air’s unusually
clean here,”
she says.
“For poppies to grow,
it must be.”
Then we hear bleating
and decide to investigate.
Wan­dering through clusters
of tall weeds,
we spot a herd
of woolly sheep.
They roam
     the other side
          of the border,
their cries
     carried by the wind.

The boundary is marked
by barbed wire
and cement poles.
In the distance,
gaunt watchtowers
     rise up
like gates of hell,
following a strict line
to the horizon.
Instead of weeds
the grass
is carefully cut.
Each blade
appears to be
of equal length,
the well-kept lawn
of an American suburb.

By now the sheep
have surrounded the soldiers.
Their backs are turned,
     their legs dangle
from the jeep.
They relax,
blow cigarette smoke
as we spy on them.

A guard in a tower
       spots us;
a radio crackles,
orders are barked,
the boys spring
     like puppets.
Spinning round,
they make a mad dash
for the binoculars.

But Fräulein is naked now;
their hands tremble
as they focus
     upon her.

That was July.
By November,
the border was dis­solved,
her nation reunited.
But we
     were history.


This poem is featured in:

Collected Couteau. Poems, Letters, Essays, Interviews
and Reviews by Rob Couteau. (Third, Revised Edition)



 fine art

Updated: 13 June 2011 | All text Copyright © 2011 | Rob Couteau | key words: poems by expatriates poetry about the Berlin Wall Germany