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  • Robert L. Giron

Issue 4 - Donald Berger


2006 Pushcart Prize

Written While Walking

It used to be that people

Were enough—you could show them

Something, a piece of marble

Lifted from a can of suds,

And they still might

Say something to you

That would stick

And you’d be glad.

In a beautiful room

My feeling runs

And I remember the day I didn’t

Have to be as liquid

As you were good,

Or half as brave.

But now the bee is in the other

Bonnet. People die

Living for what they don’t do,

Trees that seem to trip over themselves

In an effort to say they’re occupied.

It’s true, isn’t it, the numbness

In my ring finger hasn’t spread

To my arm in fifteen years, but the breathing

I’ve learned is only good for as long as you can remember it.

I lie on the couch

In the afternoons, thinking of the parts

Of days when I could dial

And a real person would answer.

Do you remember that time

I called and invited you to have something to eat

And we both agreed how busy we both are, or were?

I’m not even sure that it still stands.

I see you speed past my house

On foot or in the car

We talked about, that you said you might have to save up and buy.

Still our minds like to take us places

Where we don’t live.

Copyright © 2006 by Donald Berger.

House of Fun

When what I think speaks to what I will say,

And the lives of a question splatter over the sight of things,

The news of light of song are in line for once, and the voice

Doubles back for the sighing, its notes rich as a birth.

When what lacks finds nothing in sung prayers that are heard,

A large and active wait sits hard in turning toward its intention,

And how you seem goes off into space, emotion draws no screen over the words,

What comes is a fair amount closer to absence,

The shock of not ever minding, loving to rest again.

So if the people around you don’t become these symbols for darkening change

And you can float for a time, listless and wet with the pitch

Of whoever is calling, time can lie down with you then,

And laughter work on you, throwing your head up.

Copyright © 2006 by Donald Berger.


I hear a lot of people talk about anxiety—it’s the prince

Of Fridays calling. Amid stress marks,

I rarely listen, that’s why Johann Gutenberg

Was torn so much. In a portrait,

His eyes are strangely shoved off to one side,

Like he’s just read something off a cue-card,

And the right hand margin’s forced his pupils to rest.

The smearcase is all, the cottage cheese is finished.

When I first heard you speak, the same thing, song

A lion might try on his trainer, or the trainer his chair.

Nevermind. If it’s going to be prayer, one-on-one,

An especially forceful or effective combination

Of two things, let the first be what people want

And the second whatever else, a creel, some figurehead,

A pot-belly stove. The neck, or whatever it’s called,

Has to be as long as possible, while never stretching,

The hand as in arranging letters, the mouth an opening

Through which an animal takes its food, for sure,

But also the source of sounds. Someone can say

Anything, anytime. For the same reason a horse

Throws its rider a separate creature hangs a scroll.

It isn’t sorrowful. Neptune’s Great Dark Spot

Doesn’t change color over it, while allowing itself

To be photographed. Days of the week snap

Thoughts in half during the night. If it were

Healthier to snorkel through situations where

Only the tallest person spoke, his sister shouldn’t have to

Be the one who wept at the words. What do you think

You are doing while you are sitting when you don’t

Have to be? The question rises, trying not to

Water this poem down. The heart that might

Feel itself skip on occasion still wrestles with

Blood every instant. Heart’s ease is also a hybrid

Plant derived from crossing certain species

Of the Viola. An emblem for love, say, a ferris

Wheel or a propeller might not be a decoy.

I’m saying the air is always rough but never

Distorts your sound enough to make the neighborhood

Head to the cellar. You should keep writing things

Down, and hide them, then bring them out again.

When you first sit if the pen finds your hand, pull

The paper toward you and shift it slightly, pretending

Nothing. If the time passes, or doesn’t, it’ll set

In the teeth either way. Pears will still ripen,

The door still swing, or slide.

Copyright © 2006 by Donald Berger.


Donald Berger was recently named the first Poet Laureate of Takoma Park, Maryland; he studied at the Universities of Massachusetts and Washington. He has taught language, literature and writing for 28 years, most recently at the University of Maryland and Montgomery College in Maryland. He has published one book of poems, Quality Hill (Lost Roads Publishers), and a chapbook, The Cream-Filled Muse (Fledermaus Press). His poems and prose have appeared in many publications including The New Republic, Conjunctions, Slate, Colorado Review, TriQuarterly, and The Iowa Review.

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