Auferstanden aus Ruinen
Und der Zukunft zugewandt
Lass uns dir zum Guten dienen
Deutschland einig Vaterland.

These are the first four lines of a national anthem, penned in 1949 by the German writer Johannes R. Becher, an expressionist before this poem and a minister of censorship after.

Risen out from the ruins
And facing futureward
Let us serve your good
Germany, united land

I learned this first verse in elementary school. Even its clever melody I could  sing. A few years later, the apparatchiks, who failed to govern the people of the country of superlatives – the tiniest, the huffiest, and the greatest German Democratic Republic of this world – banned their state’s anthem. Only the words. The music played often at olympic games or when the flag was raised or when other old men in grey suits or fantasy uniform came to visit. That’s what they called news on TV until 1989. While many were not listening, they erased notices from the news, the hymns from handbooks, and buildings from boulevards. Why? Maybe, they could not forgive the failures of their past. Maybe, they wanted children to reside in their ruins. Maybe. But it was not the line with the ruins, which made them obliterate the words. They did not want to be united. With nobody. 

And yes, the prompt for this little writing exercise was Ruins. And you will find other such exercises under Just texts.

Nighty Night (3)

Herr Fuchs und Frau Elster

Sandmännchen says hello,

Sit back or lie down slowly. Make yourself comfortable. Relax your forehead. The little muscles between your eyebrows. Read slowly. There is time. I have only just arrived. Here. On planet Malinaru. The air is good. They have palm trees here, too. Let’s sit down with the children in the date orchard. Now listen to the song the children are singing.

There is still time for a bedtime story. The children are listening to you read.

Mr. Fox is taking his sweaters and scarfs and his pyjamas out of the dryer. Crossed beetle and crossed beak, he mutters, looking at his pyjama pants. Somebody glued shut the leg of the pants. Darned. That’s when the door to his burrow swings wide open, the bells are ringing loudly. But not as loud as Ms. Magpie. Good evening, Mr. Fox. You won’t believe what just happened to me. No, I won’t, was what Ms. Magpie did not hear. Mr. Fox looked angrily from his pyjamas to Ms. Magpie. You won’t believe it. I saw Mrs. Hedgehog and she wore the same pearls I have. Here. How can she do that, wearing my pearls? Ach, said Mr. Fox. You have yours around your neck. And they suit you very nicely, if I may say so. Oh, Mr. Fox, you are a gentleman. I am indeed, said Mr. Fox more to himself. You could not tell me who glued my pyjama leg shut, could you? Oh, it wasn’t me. I have only just walked in. Let me see. That is not glue, said Ms. Magpie, picking at the leg. It is dried soap, you put too much in the washer. Och, crossed beetle and crossed beak, said Mr. Fox – a little bit too loud for Ms. Magpie, so she said: I can put them in my laundry load tomorrow. She yawned. Mr. Fox always had to smile when a yawn came out of her beak. Thank you. Yes, it is time to go to bed. Good bye and good night, Ms. Magpie. Good night Mr. Fox. And the bells on the burrow door were ringing again.

Now, it is time. Close your eyes, or leave them open. I am spreading my sleepy sand in everybody’s eyes. You can wash it out in the morning.

Om shanti om. Om shanti om. Have a peaceful night.

Ich wünsch’ euch eine gute Nacht.

mean the name

Woodcut by Peter Flötner
mean the name
there are many of us
grandpa said again
we were left behind 
in east-villages in wars we 
looked after women he laughed
sheriff Schulze
at three you were thus 
cute mother corrected
me after cutting in 
her fairytales the family
got a gift of god grandma
meant you Mathias

I wrote the first draft of this text in a workshop on fairytale poems with Leonora Siminovis organized by Hugo House in February 2022. It changed quite a bit since, but I am still riffing on my last name, which is very common in parts of Germany.