posted in: Luv, Travel 17
From inside the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial. Photo: Me.
From inside the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial. Photo: Me.


I have returned after being in another country — and I don’t just mean Germany. My heart’s been in a strange land.

When you have had the kind of week I’ve had — was there ever a “kind” of week as this? — attempting to write it all down in any coherent way feels impossible. How can all the thoughts, emotions, panics, moments of hope, and moments of despair that occurred during my brief (but long), trans-Atlantic (trans-planetary?) trip be corralled into letters and sentences?

James Joyce wrote the strange and beautiful and at often inscrutable Ulysses out of a desire to capture in language what our thought process actually looks like. His assertion was that we don’t think in complete, organized, crafted sentences and paragraphs; it’s thought soup up there. Therefore, in Ulysses, you get sentences that look really strange but also closer, somehow, to how words and thoughts ceaselessly roll and zip and rumble around in our heads. You get sentences like:

“Our souls, shame-wounded by our sins, cling to us yet more, a woman to her lover clinging, the more the more.”


“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

and this, oh, this:

“Love loves to love love.”

Truth: I have a copy of Ulysses I’ve never read. But it has officially come down off the shelf because I feel sad and empty about love and when you feel sad and empty about love, you don’t need medical attention; you need poetry. You need a great novel like Ulysses or anything by George Eliot. Art heals parts of us that doctors cannot apprehend. Grief, regret, a broken heart — ask your doctor about these things the next time you have a physical and you will elicit only a strange look. You will not be handed a cure, nor will you be handed a book of poems, though that would be way cool, don’t you think? If your doctor handed you a book of poetry and told you to call her in the morning? We laugh, but this kind of medical care could help a lot of people. It could help me.

Berlin was hard. It was hard because even though Claus and I aren’t together, I think in the back of my mind — truly, I have not been entertaining this thought consciously because I pride myself as having two feet on the ground — I thought we still might be. Or maybe we would be. Could be. But we’re not. Not now. Probably not ever. Sure, sure: Who knows? But after this trip, I feel like I just can’t hang a hope on that. For a lot of reasons. Neither of us are seeing anyone seriously; we talked all about that. It’s not that. We have the most marvelous time together. We love each other dearly. But there are major roadblocks in this relationship — and the Atlantic Ocean ain’t the only one, friends. (It might not even be the biggest one and that’s a very large body of water.)

It’s so sad when reality dumps ice water on a fantasy that kept you warm on bad days. You know?

We visited the Berlin Wall memorial. We toured a Stasi prison in the old GDR. When I say I was in another country, this is partly due to the fact I spent half the week in former communist East Germany and among German WWII memorials. There was a lot of looking at death this past week, a lot of witnessing an entire country’s pain. I didn’t write in my journal. I didn’t write to you. I just had thought soup the whole time; thought soup and heart-sickness.

I’m no James Joyce and even goofing around with his style is something I should probably not even try, that’s how good he was at writing. But the cool thing about writing is that these letters and words and sentences are as much mine to goof around with as they are anyone else’s, so here goes. Maybe these Ulyssean, “thought soup” sentences will do a better job at getting at how I feel today and better describe what Berlin was like than any of the ordered, normal sentences I’ve written so far.


Wet keyboard tears plop splash miss you miss you, oh well, oh well, oh no. 

Snow in Berlin swirling round the crashing yes beard scruffy beautiful man this man who is this man who is this man I love.

Hope hopes, hopefully. 



17 Responses

  1. Martha Bilski
    | Reply

    poetry is a salve. press on mighty wonder

  2. Jeanann Montney
    | Reply

    Thoughtfully stated.

  3. Shermie
    | Reply

    Giant hugs, Kiddo. Life gets very muddy
    But it WILL get better, one way or another.

  4. Wendy
    | Reply

    Dear kind Mar, (Us Chicagoans tend to abbreviate people’s names when we’re fond of someone)
    I so feel for ya. All us PG readers feel like your friends, and reading your it’s thought soup fashion let’s us inside and we cannot help feel for our dear friend.
    And in the wake of your tender visit to Germany, you came to the Woodstock Opera House and gave even more of yourself. Yeah yeah, I know it was work, but it never feels that way to us enjoying your company. I wanted to ask you how you are…but that long line of folks waiting to see you kept me moving.
    Hope you know you have us out here, rooting for you.
    Signed your chocolatey friend from today-

  5. Jane
    | Reply

    Forming tears blur vision in understanding heartbreak. Yet another scar upon the aching heart. These scars are a reminder ……. for a much later time ……… of what we have survived.

  6. Lisa Gainey Floyd
    | Reply

    OK kiddo listen to this old, but wise, woman. I held on to hopes, dreams, infatuation, love, and all that for twelve years after I divorced my first husband. DON’T! Let your heart breath. Let go. If it’s meant to be it will be. I promise. Glad you’re home.

  7. Linda Crandall
    | Reply


    I can feel your pain. Your poetry beautifully expresses your emotions, your, joy, & your love.

    Love reading you.


  8. Milena
    | Reply

    Mary, you did a wonderful job of covering your heart break yesterday at the Woodstock Opera House. You are an amazing person! As my mom says, “Things happen for a reason”. Time will heal. All the best, Milena

  9. Barbara
    | Reply

    I wish there was something I could say to make your heart feel happier. But just saying this Mary, lets you know I care.

  10. Mary M
    | Reply

    My favorite Ulysses is …”to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”. You’re there! HOLD ON! My philosophy is that 90% of the problems that swirl around us are not ours to solve. The solving is someone else’s responsibility. We just have to hold on. HOLD ON, Mary, and wait. In the meantime, keep yourself creatively occupied: take a walk, start a quilt! Jump deeper into grad school. HOLD ON! Hugs to you!

  11. Pam Williams
    | Reply

    Dude. That’s real pain. Like a twisted
    Body lying on the floor crying and
    Gagging and loving that person
    With your whole being. Been there.
    Heart and mind conflicts.
    Its deep and a part of life that just
    Feeling for you. Best regards.
    Pam Williams. Memphis TN

  12. Dawn Carnes
    | Reply

    I hate platitudes. But, when words fail they often help us express what we feel. I am happy you are home safe, nearer to your family and others that love and respect you and are happy to be in your presence. I always find jumping into the routine of daily living helps ease your uncertain feelings. Here’s hoping the sun shines on your face soon and that you enjoy the warmth and beauty of blue skies and the hope that tomorrow brings.

  13. Nadine donovan
    | Reply

    I feel really sad that’ you feel so sad. Love can be so grand and yet hurt so deeply at the same time. I will tell you what I tell my kids when they are upset about something: ” And this too shall pass.” Take one day at a time. Find something to do every day that makes you smile and feel good- food for the soul!

  14. Sarah
    | Reply

    Such wise advise you are getting! I’m guessing that most of your readers have felt a version of your pain — I know I have. I know both my sons have. As for words, something that helped a little was a book entitled “First You Cry”. It’s probably still out there via Amazon. If nothing else, it will show you how much you are not alone. Hugs.

  15. Catherine
    | Reply

    I have no advice Mary but have felt your pain years ago. Do things that make you happy. You have so much to look forward to….One day at a time…….((((((Mary))))))


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