Above: Cathedral of Cologne
Photo by Eugeniya Belova on Unsplash
Cologne is a city of layers. A layer of black earth. A layer of amber necklaces from mammoth hunters. A layer of rubied eagles. A layer of busts of Roman men who thought they ruled all the land that mattered. A layer of slick slate. A layer of low wood and stone houses in Medieval, Victorian, and modern varieties. A layer of rain air and fried potato steam. A layer of vaulting stone, and the dim light of a thousand prayers. A layer of blue sky. A layer of drifting realities.
I’ve lived out of a suitcase for so long I’ve compressed my identity into tokens of otherworlds. I need to ground myself somehow. How much for a set of terra sigillata? How much for ve postcards of the river Rhine? How much for a bite of the past? I gobble white sh with dried fruits and chunks of spice, enough to cough up a lung. These Romans had odd taste, but at least we all love wine.
Five euros from the history museum of Cologne and I have a new friend. The tiny ceramic hippo smiles at me. He’s washed in shallow sea light. His smooth back and little feet are covered in splashes of crimson, gold, and silver, like illuminated ink. He’s my pocket-sized luck--a mimic of a powerful artifact resurrected from beneath Egyptian dunes.
I put him in my backpack to catch the train and shift to a new reality.
Above: Johanna Burr is an MFA graduate student specializing in creative writing at Iowa State University. She also works as a part-time professor teaching English Composition. Her poems and essays can be found in the OWL (Ohio Wesleyan Literary Journal).