North Korea, Poetry
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Parallel 38/Part II


Parallel 38/Part II

For three Christmases I had a German lover

We spent
Summers sitting on the balcony grilling Bratwurst
Christmases eating deviled eggs and saying, Mahlzeit
New Year’s Eve shooting firecrackers into the sky and screaming and kissing

He told me
Did you know
It took twenty years
For us West Germans and East Germans
To marry amongst ourselves
In the same numbers
As we married foreigners

We’ve been told our whole life, look at this country across the world
Remnants of the Cold War, testaments to ideological warfare
Your twin

We know how it feels
When people walk all over us with their dirty boots and say
Thank us, beg us, revere us
For pitting your people against your neighbours
Because they’re wrong in the head
And implant a seed of doubt for the coming three generations

They tell us
If the Germans can do it, you can
You hardworking Koreans who rebuilt your country
The only OECD foreign aid receiver turned donor, at the turn of the millennia

But they sweep under the rug

The part where an East German family with nine children
Turn up at an Embassy in India and say
None of us have passports, because we ran away when we were still called DDR
And we became farmers, in love with this hot, arid land
But now we heard our grandmother has died
And we don’t know what to do

Children who speak better Bengali and Tamil than German
Who don’t know anything about their own country
And most importantly, who don’t want to
Face the pain their parents had to
Uprooting their whole lives
Because nothing compares
To your own people
Judging you and
Your roots

The part where my lover doesn’t know where his family comes from
Because his grandmother left on the last ship from Königsberg in April 1943
Before the ten-thousand-pound bomb wiped it clean
The family registrar at the Church
The city hall records
And she asked to be buried in a nameless mass grave
Because her homeland had been not only destroyed but rebuilt
Where she could not go without a stamp in her passport

And I cried my eyes dry at the funeral
For a woman who never knew me
Who didn’t recognize my lover
Because it made me think
Of all the division
My family had
To endure

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