The Los Angeles branch of Lange Tafel – literally translated, German for “long table,” recently had its second annual event on Oct. 5 in downtown L.A.’s Art District. The event is an oral history festival in which students are asked to interview c Meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, this event effectively brings two sister cities– Los Angeles and Berlin– together in a blend of cultures, unified by one common theme: immigration.
Students are asked to interview community members about their stories regarding immigration, then create pieces based on those stories and display it at a “long table” in a major city center.
826 LA was one of the multiple schools and academies invited; I, having been engaged with many of 826 LA’s programs, was able to participate in this wonderful event. Inspired by the stories told by the two community members I interviewed, I decided to create a poem revolving around this common theme of immigration – or more specifically, the borders that often restrict such immigrants:
The wall stands. I choose not to elaborate, for there is too much unspoken that may be spoken only in the absence of speech.
Step forward. Mark what you see well, for the flickering specter you see may not be seen by another’s eyes, similar though it may be, anchored by Fear, that tempting devil.
One pushes against the wall, the border that flickers between tangible and intangible, visible and invisible, and steps through.
But this one is yet trapped, for the wall still stands. Yet another layer, a border to which this one was yet blinded to, unseeing in the face of the constant shifting obstacles that stand.
Anchored by Fear, enclosed by the predictably mercurial Nature of men, trapping those who would do and those who would not, one permanent, one temporary.
Bewildered by Fear, bemused by this nature of humans, confounded by this seemingly endless string of multilayered domains, this one grows tired, and seeing a narrow path, untrodden by many, eliminates these obstacles.
How? How, indeed. It matters not, for this hammer held up, this sword that was not meant to be peace yet brings it to us men, takes many forms. A blank canvas, overfilling with a dark, lovely sea of words, shining with the little swinging lamp of knowledge, taking many forms, indeed.
The hammer is swung, and the wall is fallen. And so it goes, never to take the heavy mantle of existence again.
This work was based on an interview with both the poet Gerda Govine Ituarte, who came from the Virgin Islands and founded the art center “La Casa del Tunel” with her husband, and the writer Angela Thompson, who fled East Germany for West Germany at the height of the Soviet Union and came to the U.S. in search of a higher education. Both women shared deeply profound stories and reflections that illustrated a greater connection to the walls and borders they had overcome throughout their lives in search of freedom. The many experiences they had shared heavily influenced this piece and the process gone through in its creation.