Frederick Pollack


After the uprising of June '53, Brecht
is summoned by the Central Committee
to discuss his poem containing the lines:
"Perhaps the Government
should dissolve the people and elect another."
In the dawn mist, his car
moves slowly over
the impress of tanks on new pavement,
stones that lie where they fell
after being thrown, and
through checkpoints. His driver
is the same one he watches
("impatiently, though I don't like where I've been
or where I'm going")
changing a tire
in another poem.

He has chosen to wear a boilersuit
of Spanish Republic vintage.
Has also, however, showered. He knows the parameters—
was "useful," despite divagations
(shavings from the great adze).
The energy, the fact of the workers
on 17 June was undeniable
though their thinking was, of course,
fascist. As the car
leaves the city, he gazes across fields
at women pushing plows.
Here and there, beside the road, a man is digging.
(Brecht looks into faces, trying to discern
pasts. He considers
the quality of that look.
In its sternness, it is unlike, yet not wholly unlike
love.)—They own nothing,
but are not themselves owned.
When the new tractor or combine
arrives, it will be, in a large true sense,
theirs. Brecht has no doubts about this meeting.
He'll be allowed to keep his theater and continue his work.

But when the car arrives at the ministry complex
he is ushered to a room
where a young man sits,
not the lined, compromised faces
he knows. This face is
smooth, open, grinning as if
it has never known the Hitler Youth or hunger
or pimped a sister. The suit
is not the usual virtuous shapeless
felt, but of a cut
Brecht can only associate
with the fashions of London and Milan
arising from the ruins; but so much more,
so naturally worn, under the strange
mild lights. And the man asks,
"Why shouldn't a government elect another people?
Isn't that what we do each day on the other side?"



After the June 1953 uprising, Brecht actually wrote the lines about "dissolving the people." The GDR government called him on the carpet for them, but, as he predicts in this poem, he got away with it. "Arising from the Ruins" was the GDR anthem