Things to do in Amsterdam... before you die.
We went to Amsterdam at Midterm, the girl and I, wanting to get away but not too far away,
wanting to loose ourselves among strangers, though not too strange, the Dutch, and (handily) english speaking.
"You know my friends? the girls? ah, they were telling me, like, that I should buy you a sneaky Space Cake? for the, I mean, craic?"
the dear girl smiles... looks at me quizzically.
"Huh? Buy me a huh? Oh... right! and catch me on camera, eh? kinda spaced? Eh? put it up on You Tube, eh?"
"Hmm, well... you can tell your friends, my darling, that if I'm having Space Cakes or weed in any other shape or form I'll get it for myself, in Amsterdam? No You Tube clips, no sneaky snapchat shots, no dizzy laughs..... except, perhaps, by me...?"
Her beautiful eyebrows lift, disturbing the perfect lines she'd drawn in her bedroom, communing with the mirror at the crack of dawn, her half packed, unzipped suitcase gaping on the floor, her passport 'somewhere' 'probably' 'in the drawer'?
"you wouldn't though...actually...wouldn't...ohmygod... "
"Like maybe. Possibly. Depends. In Amsterdam...."
We did the things you do in Amsterdam. Oh yeah. We walked the streets, we pilgrim tourists, charmed, by elegant gabled houses, individual, solid, other,
stopped, to eat at vegan, chinese, danish, eateries, better than Dublin, better than home, we swore, sauntered, over arching bridges lost,
and gloriously rudderless over water cleanly flowing in stone canals,
sitting dreamy at last with aching feet by water.
The mild grey weather folding us in. . .happy.
We saw no desperate drinkers there, no wild eyed down and outs, no huddled shapes under sleeping bags in doorways, thrownaway, homeless, in Amsterdam, not one. The streets were easy, clean and thronged with people going somewhere watered, fed.
The Men look out, the Women in....
In the Rijksmuseum I let the girl off to find her pictures, see her way.
I found her by the Night Watch, standing with all the dwarfed observers, absorbed.
Drawn in so deep she didn't see me,
caught in Rembrandt's light and dark; locating each man in the frame, she told me after,
the place and shape and face,
of every man who fought to catch her eye.
Afterwards she found the great Dolls house,
stood, head to one side smiling, lost.
I saw the other pictures too. The women. Women, waiting, watching, writing letters. Thinking. A woman warms her hands, absorbed. She wears Pearl Earrings, solemn.
Women in the windows waiting. In the red light district women wait for johns
to buy, to stare.
Out on the streets you have another brush with sudden death by bicycle,
adrift on the bicycle lane, unable to distinguish the walking path.
Saved by skill of cyclists,
dazzled by the silver streams of pretty boys with man buns,
the sturdy middle aged, the children perched up high in baskets,
Hours fly, days disappear, in Amsterdam. We go to Anne Frank's house on that last day.
I was there, I, in a snailing line of silent people moving through the dim and empty annexe, the yellowed light,
staring, at Ann Frank's pictures on the wall of 1940's movie stars, and snapshots of her people as they lived,
wall markings of the growing young who lived there between July 1943 and August 1944, (stretching like angel weed in the darkness)
Ann, Margot, Peter grow taller, nurtured, somehow, anyhow, in the claustrophobic space, waiting for the end of war.
Pictures there of the lived-in annexe rooms before the Nazis came and took the furniture,
the people..... they took Anne Frank, her passionate living voice that called all day long in the secret rooms,
tossed down the death camp's filthy maw.
Released into the bare and sterile space of the museum, we watched ancient crackling film of lamb-like humanity, men, women and children wait for the train to Auschwitz and such places,
grainy pictures of clothes collapsed on bones,
poor murdered fragments of the Jewish people.
The scattered pages of a young girl's diary waiting in an empty room,
falling slow from stolen furniture, settling on bare trampled floors.
The legacy of a writer. Undeniable. Accounting.
Afterwards we talked about the future, the girl and I,
walking through Museum Square, past the pretty houses, over the tidy humming water serene in the canals,
the Christmas lights twinkling in still fading glory of Autumn leaves, already... already...
Drinking coffee, talking, mind tugged, a little absent, a little still in Ann Frank's House.
(You bought the book to read again, last read in adolescence when you were the fiery writing girl)
And now, this eve in Amsterdam, you are all of them,
All. You are Margot, Anne and Peter, Otto, Edith, Hermann, Petri, Albert.
You sit in the house in Prinsengracht, on the Merwedeplein Square and wear the yellow star of David, waiting.
For the war to end and your life, your precious, precious life, to start.
In Amersterdam the women wait, they wait
for johns complaining after on internet rating sites.
You weren't warm or loving for the money,
there were cracks high up there on your ceiling.
(and the act, the sex itself, was only average)
In Amersterdam, they stand,
in windows, rooms, they warm their hands, they do not speak, they think, they read, they write, they wait.
They wait (for you)