BERLIN 1988 by Tanja Hester

After Natasha Trethewey


I am nine in the picture, standing

in front of the Berlin Wall as though

it’s just another tourist trap


and not an actual trap

holding back actual people

at that actual moment.


Someone said say cheese, and I did as I was told

though I did not feel like smiling

because I had just peered over the Wall


for the first time and understood what it meant

be to on one side or the other,

on teams no one chose.


It was gray over there, on the other side.

It was gray on our side, too.

That part’s easy to forget.


A gray city split by a long gray wall,

at least for one more year.

Then they pulled it out, slice by slice,


and everyone who never saw it forgot it ever stood

and embraced the warm lie

that freedom is inevitable.


Tanja Hester is the author of Wallet Activism, winner of the 2022 social justice Nautilus Award. Her work appears in Washington Post, Bloomberg, and MarketWatch. She lives near Lake Tahoe, CA.

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