David Berman |
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
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.
David Berman |
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.
David Berman |
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.
More great poems below...
David Berman |
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
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.
David Berman |
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.
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.
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.