We hitched out of Aarhus that summer
To see Firewater play Berlin;
Rumbled south with crazy lorry drivers
Towards the border.
At night we slept on a grass bank
At a service station,
Ate bread and cheese,
Drank whisky and looked at the stars;
Drank large amounts of a bottle of a fine single malt,
(Bought with the thirty pounds my aunt gave me
When she dropped me at Stansted
Because she was worried about me sleeping rough);
Drank until a mellow peace
Glowed warm in our veins and our heads spun,
Words slurred, outlines blurred,
And we became one with the stars,
The sound of the road fading into the darkness.
We drove through Germany with a Polish guy with a thick moustache
Who called me ‘Uncle Sam’ and found that funny,
Kept turning around to see the effect of his joke
And taking his old, blue eyes off the road.
He dropped us at a junction on the autobahn.
We cowered behind crash barriers
Until the police came,
Gave us a lift.
In East Berlin,
We stayed in a former squat, now legalised:
Rambling old building, with a flat roof full of weed plants,
Walls covered with graffiti.
Christophe, in a black shirt and red tie,
With no front teeth and a neverending bong,
Took us around the city,
Telling us the ages of all the buildings:
“Zis one vas built in the Second Vorld Var”.
We saw a punk with a perfect Mohican, posing for a photo by a pillar of the Reichstag.
A punk band warmed up for Firewater,
Ended their set naked and rolling around on a beer-soaked stage,
Walked off sheepishly with towels round their waist,
Apologised when they smashed a bottle.
The next day,
We were on the road again, heading for Poland.
Me with too many books,
Clothes with holes.
Picked up by the police again,
They dropped us politely at the border.
“Do you have many murders round here?” I asked.
I posed for a photo
On Karl Marx Strasse;
20 years old.
“What do you do?” asked the police in the car,
“I’m a poet-thug,” I said.
Sam Berkson, September 2011