Strange Animals Over Alexanderplatz
They come every year from the East.
A black cloud swoops around the television tower, or Fernsehturm, at Alexanderplatz, at night.
The beasts’ flight is coordinated, impressively so. They are unified in their fall, as if propelled only by gravity. But then they swoop up, all together and all at once, like some greater hand has lifted a flag. They dramatise the mists around the lit globe of the TV tower, then roost, one perched after another––one thousand of them––on the cranes hovering over the construction of the U5 extension. Later, they will sleep all together, with the best view that exists of Berlin.
They come because they think it’s warm here in winter.
Stupid animals. No one thinks it’s warm in Berlin. Even I don’t, and I’m Canadian.
Are they bats? They at first seem threatening. I never thought rodents were meant to fly, their talent seems supernatural. I imagine a superhero joining them on a futuristic craft above the S-bahn station.
But I’m the ill-informed one. They are not bats, but the most intelligent of birds. They have memory, they can recognise human faces and they mourn their dead. Every year they come to this same place. For Berlin’s fabulous nightlife, of course, dancing in flight around its great disco ball.
Where do they come from?
We have an answer: from Moscow, arriving in November and returning in February. I wonder about their summer lives in the Russian capital, the white nights, perhaps perched on the church towers of the Kremlin and shitting on the oligarchs. Why do they come here? When did they first come? Did Stalin send them? Where did they come to before the TV tower was built in the sixties? Did they consider perching farther West when the wall came down?
I wonder about their long Winterreise over Belorussia and Poland. I imagine a sad poet guiding the crows all the way to Berlin: Krähe, wunderliches Tier / Willst mich nicht verlassen? (‘Crow, strange animal, why won’t you leave me?’)
I emerge from my tram and look up to the animated air. It is spectacular. A presence. It sends shivers through me: they are like the night itself, come alive, and descending on us.