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Best Famous David Berman Poems

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by David Berman |

The Charm Of 5:30

 It's too nice a day to read a novel set in England.
We're within inches of the perfect distance from the sun, the sky is blueberries and cream, and the wind is as warm as air from a tire.
Even the headstones in the graveyard Seem to stand up and say "Hello! My name is.
.
.
" It's enough to be sitting here on my porch, thinking about Kermit Roosevelt, following the course of an ant, or walking out into the yard with a cordless phone to find out she is going to be there tonight On a day like today, what looks like bad news in the distance turns out to be something on my contact, carports and white courtesy phones are spontaneously reappreciated and random "okay"s ring through the backyards.
This morning I discovered the red tints in cola when I held a glass of it up to the light and found an expensive flashlight in the pocket of a winter coat I was packing away for summer.
It all reminds me of that moment when you take off your sunglasses after a long drive and realize it's earlier and lighter out than you had accounted for.
You know what I'm talking about, and that's the kind of fellowship that's taking place in town, out in the public spaces.
You won't overhear anyone using the words "dramaturgy" or "state inspection today.
We're too busy getting along.
It occurs to me that the laws are in the regions and the regions are in the laws, and it feels good to say this, something that I'm almost sure is true, outside under the sun.
Then to say it again, around friends, in the resonant voice of a nineteenth-century senator, just for a lark.
There's a shy looking fellow on the courthouse steps, holding up a placard that says "But, I kinda liked Reagan.
" His head turns slowly as a beautiful girl walks by, holding a refrigerated bottle up against her flushed cheek.
She smiles at me and I allow myself to imagine her walking into town to buy lotion at a brick pharmacy.
When she gets home she'll apply it with great lingering care before moving into her parlor to play 78 records and drink gin-and-tonics beside her homemade altar to James Madison.
In a town of this size, it's certainly possible that I'll be invited over one night.
In fact I'll bet you something.
Somewhere in the future I am remembering today.
I'll bet you I'm remembering how I walked into the park at five thirty, my favorite time of day, and how I found two cold pitchers of just poured beer, sitting there on the bench.
I am remembering how my friend Chip showed up with a catcher's mask hanging from his belt and how I said great to see you, sit down, have a beer, how are you, and how he turned to me with the sunset reflecting off his contacts and said, wonderful, how are you.


by David Berman |

Self-Portrait At 28

 I know it's a bad title
but I'm giving it to myself as a gift
on a day nearly canceled by sunlight
when the entire hill is approaching
the ideal of Virginia
brochured with goldenrod and loblolly
and I think "at least I have not woken up
with a bloody knife in my hand"
by then having absently wandered
one hundred yards from the house
while still seated in this chair
with my eyes closed.
It is a certain hill the one I imagine when I hear the word "hill" and if the apocalypse turns out to be a world-wide nervous breakdown if our five billion minds collapse at once well I'd call that a surprise ending and this hill would still be beautiful a place I wouldn't mind dying alone or with you.
I am trying to get at something and I want to talk very plainly to you so that we are both comforted by the honesty.
You see there is a window by my desk I stare out when I am stuck though the outdoors has rarely inspired me to write and I don't know why I keep staring at it.
My childhood hasn't made good material either mostly being a mulch of white minutes with a few stand out moments, popping tar bubbles on the driveway in the summer a certain amount of pride at school everytime they called it "our sun" and playing football when the only play was "go out long" are what stand out now.
If squeezed for more information I can remember old clock radios with flipping metal numbers and an entree called Surf and Turf.
As a way of getting in touch with my origins every night I set the alarm clock for the time I was born so that waking up becomes a historical reenactment and the first thing I do is take a reading of the day and try to flow with it like when you're riding a mechanical bull and you strain to learn the pattern quickly so you don't inadverantly resist it.
II two I can't remember being born and no one else can remember it either even the doctor who I met years later at a cocktail party.
It's one of the little disappointments that makes you think about getting away going to Holly Springs or Coral Gables and taking a room on the square with a landlady whose hands are scored by disinfectant, telling the people you meet that you are from Alaska, and listen to what they have to say about Alaska until you have learned much more about Alaska than you ever will about Holly Springs or Coral Gables.
Sometimes I am buying a newspaper in a strange city and think "I am about to learn what it's like to live here.
" Oftentimes there is a news item about the complaints of homeowners who live beside the airport and I realize that I read an article on this subject nearly once a year and always receive the same image.
I am in bed late at night in my house near the airport listening to the jets fly overhead a strange wife sleeping beside me.
In my mind, the bedroom is an amalgamation of various cold medicine commercial sets (there is always a box of tissue on the nightstand).
I know these recurring news articles are clues, flaws in the design though I haven't figured out how to string them together yet, but I've begun to notice that the same people are dying over and over again, for instance Minnie Pearl who died this year for the fourth time in four years.
III three Today is the first day of Lent and once again I'm not really sure what it is.
How many more years will I let pass before I take the trouble to ask someone? It reminds of this morning when you were getting ready for work.
I was sitting by the space heater numbly watching you dress and when you asked why I never wear a robe I had so many good reasons I didn't know where to begin.
If you were cool in high school you didn't ask too many questions.
You could tell who'd been to last night's big metal concert by the new t-shirts in the hallway.
You didn't have to ask and that's what cool was: the ability to deduct to know without asking.
And the pressure to simulate coolness means not asking when you don't know, which is why kids grow ever more stupid.
A yearbook's endpages, filled with promises to stay in touch, stand as proof of the uselessness of a teenager's promise.
Not like I'm dying for a letter from the class stoner ten years on but.
.
.
Do you remember the way the girls would call out "love you!" conveniently leaving out the "I" as if they didn't want to commit to their own declarations.
I agree that the "I" is a pretty heavy concept and hope you won't get uncomfortable if I should go into some deeper stuff here.
IV four There are things I've given up on like recording funny answering machine messages.
It's part of growing older and the human race as a group has matured along the same lines.
It seems our comedy dates the quickest.
If you laugh out loud at Shakespeare's jokes I hope you won't be insulted if I say you're trying too hard.
Even sketches from the original Saturday Night Live seem slow-witted and obvious now.
It's just that our advances are irrepressible.
Nowadays little kids can't even set up lemonade stands.
It makes people too self-conscious about the past, though try explaining that to a kid.
I'm not saying it should be this way.
All this new technology will eventually give us new feelings that will never completely displace the old ones leaving everyone feeling quite nervous and split in two.
We will travel to Mars even as folks on Earth are still ripping open potato chip bags with their teeth.
Why? I don't have the time or intelligence to make all the connections like my friend Gordon (this is a true story) who grew up in Braintree Massachusetts and had never pictured a brain snagged in a tree until I brought it up.
He'd never broken the name down to its parts.
By then it was too late.
He had moved to Coral Gables.
V five The hill out my window is still looking beautiful suffused in a kind of gold national park light and it seems to say, I'm sorry the world could not possibly use another poem about Orpheus but I'm available if you're not working on a self-portrait or anything.
I'm watching my dog have nightmares, twitching and whining on the office floor and I try to imagine what beast has cornered him in the meadow where his dreams are set.
I'm just letting the day be what it is: a place for a large number of things to gather and interact -- not even a place but an occasion a reality for real things.
Friends warned me not to get too psychedelic or religious with this piece: "They won't accept it if it's too psychedelic or religious," but these are valid topics and I'm the one with the dog twitching on the floor possibly dreaming of me that part of me that would beat a dog for no good reason no reason that a dog could see.
I am trying to get at something so simple that I have to talk plainly so the words don't disfigure it and if it turns out that what I say is untrue then at least let it be harmless like a leaky boat in the reeds that is bothering no one.
VI six I can't trust the accuracy of my own memories, many of them having blended with sentimental telephone and margarine commercials plainly ruined by Madison Avenue though no one seems to call the advertising world "Madison Avenue" anymore.
Have they moved? Let's get an update on this.
But first I have some business to take care of.
I walked out to the hill behind our house which looks positively Alaskan today and it would be easier to explain this if I had a picture to show you but I was with our young dog and he was running through the tall grass like running through the tall grass is all of life together until a bird calls or he finds a beer can and that thing fills all the space in his head.
You see, his mind can only hold one thought at a time and when he finally hears me call his name he looks up and cocks his head and for a single moment my voice is everything: Self-portrait at 28.


by David Berman |

Imagining Defeat

 She woke me up at dawn,
her suitcase like a little brown dog at her heels.
I sat up and looked out the window at the snow falling in the stand of blackjack trees.
A bus ticket in her hand.
Then she brought something black up to her mouth, a plum I thought, but it was an asthma inhaler.
I reached under the bed for my menthols and she asked if I ever thought of cancer.
Yes, I said, but always as a tree way up ahead in the distance where it doesn't matter And I suppose a dead soul must look back at that tree, so far behind his wagon where it also doesn't matter.
except as a memory of rest or water.
Though to believe any of that, I thought, you have to accept the premise that she woke me up at all.


by David Berman |

Governors On Sominex

 It had been four days of no weather
as if nature had conceded its genius to the indoors.
They'd closed down the Bureau of Sad Endings and my wife sat on the couch and read the paper out loud.
The evening edition carried the magic death of a child backlit by a construction site sunrise on its front page.
I kept my back to her and fingered the items on the mantle.
Souvenirs only reminded you of buying them.
* * * The moon hung solid over the boarded-up Hobby Shop.
P.
K.
was in the precinct house, using his one phone call to dedicate a song to Tammy, for she was the light by which he traveled into this and that And out in the city, out in the wide readership, his younger brother was kicking an ice bucket in the woods behind the Marriott, his younger brother who was missing that part of the brain that allows you to make out with your pillow.
Poor kid.
It was the light in things that made them last.
* * * Tammy called her caseworker from a closed gas station to relay ideas unaligned with the world we loved.
The tall grass bent in the wind like tachometer needles and he told her to hang in there, slowly repeating the number of the Job Info Line.
She hung up and glared at the Killbuck Sweet Shoppe.
The words that had been running through her head, "employees must wash hands before returning to work," kept repeating and the sky looked dead.
* * * Hedges formed the long limousine a Tampa sky could die behind.
A sailor stood on the wharf with a clipper ship reflected on the skin of the bell pepper he held.
He'd had mouthwash at the inn and could still feel the ice blue carbon pinwheels spinning in his mouth.
There were no new ways to understand the world, only new days to set our understandings against.
Through the lanes came virgins in tennis shoes, their hair shining like videotape, singing us into a kind of sleep we hadn't tried yet.
Each page was a new chance to understand the last.
And somehow the sea was always there to make you feel stupid.


by David Berman |

Snow

 Walking through a field with my little brother Seth

I pointed to a place where kids had made angels in the snow.
For some reason, I told him that a troop of angels had been shot and dissolved when they hit the ground.
He asked who had shot them and I said a farmer.
Then we were on the roof of the lake.
The ice looked like a photograph of water.
Why he asked.
Why did he shoot them.
I didn't know where I was going with this.
They were on his property, I said.
When it's snowing, the outdoors seem like a room.
Today I traded hellos with my neighbor.
Our voices hung close in the new acoustics.
A room with the walls blasted to shreds and falling.
We returned to our shoveling, working side by side in silence.
But why were they on his property, he asked.


by David Berman |

The Moon

 A web of sewer, pipe, and wire connects each house to the others.
In 206 a dog sleeps by the stove where a small gas leak causes him to have visions; visions that are rooted in nothing but gas.
Next door, a man who has decided to buy a car part by part excitedly unpacks a wheel and an ashtray.
He arranges them every which way.
It’s really beginning to take shape.
Out the garage window he sees a group of ugly children enter the forest.
Their mouths look like coin slots.
A neighbor plays keyboards in a local cover band.
Preparing for an engagement at the high school prom, they pack their equipment in silence.
Last night they played the Police Academy Ball and all the officers slow-danced with target range silhouettes.
This year the theme for the prom is the Tetragrammaton.
A yellow Corsair sails through the disco parking lot and swaying palms presage the lot of young libertines.
Inside the car a young lady wears a corsage of bullet-sized rodents.
Her date, the handsome cornerback, stretches his talons over the molded steering wheel.
They park and walk into the lush starlit gardens behind the disco just as the band is striking up.
Their keen eyes and ears twitch.
The other couples look beautiful tonight.
They stroll around listening to the brilliant conversation.
The passionate speeches.
Clouds drift across the silverware.
There is red larkspur, blue gum, and ivy.
A boy kneels before his date.
And the moon, I forgot to mention the moon.