GermanyPoemsZoё Matt-Williams

Checkerboard Kitchen Tiles

Zoё Matt-Williams

Berlin, Germany


I grew up in a hallway that scratched my feet
but went on and on forever,
and a kitchen filled with warm light and Rothko prints
and checkerboard tiles
and fruit flies.

I grew up with the waiter at Primo down the street
who shared a birthday with my brother;
under yellow monkey bars the size of palm trees;
between the painted walls of the falafel place on the corner;
inside supermarket cardboard boxes.

I went back last month to sit across the street and wonder
whether the family inside now
has changed the tiles on the kitchen floor,
and what it would be like
to never see this street again.

And never find out that
Max hasn’t worked here in years because
the restaurant was bought and remodelled;
that Habibi’s new owner didn’t like the
illustrations on the walls and painted over them
in a mute dark green;
and that the monkey bars that I thought framed the sky
barely touch my chin.

And to long forever for a handstand
on a checkerboard kitchen floor.


Zoё Matt-Williams (18)

grew up bilingually in Berlin with a German mother and American father. She rarely gets the chance to visit her US family. Zoё attended the international John F. Kennedy School in Berlin and now studies English literature at the University of Cambridge.