for Heiner Muller


In Kaisertown, in America-
Alas, on my theater of the streets
filled with gun holes, pot holes and shards
Everyone just speeds their cars right through it...
I'm afraid the September Campaign continues
round my footsteps in the snow-
Launch your monologues from the darkness
like the Allied troops never did
Throw up through the theater district
the best to be or not to be you ever did,
Before the hams march in and everything
will be obsolete


I was Hamlet on lithium, with ruins of Kaisertown
behind me, brimming with despair and vodka
I was Ophelia on methadone, drowning in it
by the gasoline terminals of the night
Ripping bags of heroin
with my tight boots and zipper
I was Horatio with crack pipes in hand,
visiting my dear friend in Brooklyn
as dead philosophers threw books at him-

The buzzer rings: This is hardly a concentration camp
Make room for theater! Make room for theater...


Members of the audience are the first to question,
We have never seen Hamletmachine, have you?
Is that because we have never made love
to our mothers? or that we did not kill our fathers?
Speeding BMWs on the 1-90 just mow them down
like the Russian and the German tanks-
Forgive time immemorial, says Hamletmachine
Get drunk in the same lonely men's bars
And I will show you an empire of tranquility
granted to you by Hamletmachine

Was it a rock band invented fifty years ago?
Was it a crime in post-war Berlin?

O horrible, horrible, O how most horrible!
The actors are madmen, the madmen my actors-
We circle the spokes of Hamletmachine
spinning your lines on your wheels
We live in the engines of Hamletmachine
awaiting the troops to come home
We live in the dreams of Hamletmachine
covering the blankets on your dead father

I am told to roll old bones of television
and smoke them like cigars
like every poet of Kaisertown
I wipe the blood from my eyes and I dream
that someday I will see Hamletmachine-
The rivers break, the oceans break, Hamlet breaks
And we shall all break with skulls
that quake from soap skin and lime


I still wonder what kind of machine it is-
Does it slice and dice the English language
like your television ads?
Does it make impressions of incest or murder
on your American Express card
for your front row seats?
Does it compliment my self-doubt
while shaming your consumer abundance?
Hamletmachine was a witness at Brandenburg gate
for blue jeans, coca cola and cool T-shirts-

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seems to me all the uses of this world...

My life has been but a Hamletmachine
filled with grime at the wheels
filled with an engine of stars-
For we live by the rent of stars


I was a virus manufactured fifty years from now
I was a flash in the pan on the Ed Sullivan Show

O something is perfect in the state of Denmark
The elephants at Carlsburg gate
they guard the communism and the beer for everyone-
Surely Hamletmachine has landed
Surely it has landed here once more
I go around and around the merry-go-round
with my mother at Tivoli Gardens
She made sure Hamletmachine had a view
of the North Sea as we spun around together, forever-

We scrubbed away all day at mountains of shit
left by Hitlermachine down Montparnasse
A million buckets of bleach were ordered in the cafes
A million prayers were answered by existentialists
This was only part of the ritual
The bloodiest part of the ritual-

The buzzer rings: This is hardly the Iranian War
This is theater! Now this is theater...


In. Kaisertown, in America-
Alas, on my theater of the streets
filled with gun holes, pot holes and shards
Softly she washes the stones and puts them in a jar
I was on the rooftop
scraping off the moss with my leather boots
Readying the house for Hamletmachine to land
straight into the heart of the moonlight-
The grass seems longer than it did before
the days seem longer than they did before
Surely Hamletmachine has landed
Surely it has landed here once more

return to list of all poems

Richard Burton as Hamlet