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00:00 / 01:35

We’re bicycling through the Tiergarten
on a summer morning in Berlin,
my wife and I, our son in his bike seat,
and it really is a lovely day, except
someone has spray painted in red,
dripping cursive on the marble pedestals
of the statues of the great poets
and composers scattered around the park, 
Juden Raus, Jews Out, and my first thought 
is, hey, my German is getting better, 
I figured that out right away, 
even though the handwriting is poor,
but of course the author was working
in the dark, and under a certain pressure, 
so really, you can’t blame him, and besides,
the quality of the handwriting isn’t
the point here, nor is my progress
in German, which in most respects
has been disappointing. The point
is that we have a bottle of wine
and some ham and cheese sandwiches
and we’re going to make the best of it,
we’re going to spread the blanket
and have a picnic here in the not entirely
new Germany, that bad last century
still bleeding into this one, blood
still soaking the feet of the poets,
while our little boy, new to history,
runs laughing under a blazing sun 
through the green illiterate meadows.

Rattle 2023 Readers’ Choice Contest Winner

Slim Aarons: Chancellery Graffiti

“One day last summer my five-year-old son walked in from the backyard and dropped a pill bug on the dining room table where I was eating my scrambled eggs. ‘Pill bugs are the dinosaurs of the backyard,’ he told me gravely. And I thanked him, because now I had an idea for a new poem. As anyone who has kids knows, they are born poets. The trick is to help them hold onto it as the distractions of adulthood loom.”

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