Issue 4 — 

Donald Berger

Donald Berger

Featured on

2006 Pushcart Prize

Written While Walking

It used to be that people
Were enoughóyou 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 youíd be glad.

In a beautiful room
My feeling runs
And I remember the day I didnít
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 donít do,
Trees that seem to trip over themselves
In an effort to say theyíre occupied.

Itís true, isnít it, the numbness
In my ring finger hasnít spread
To my arm in fifteen years, but the breathing
Iíve 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?
Iím 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 donít 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 donít 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 anxietyóitís the prince
Of Fridays calling. Amid stress marks,
I rarely listen, thatís why Johann Gutenberg
Was torn so much. In a portrait,
His eyes are strangely shoved off to one side,
Like heís just read something off a cue-card,
And the right hand marginís 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 itís 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 itís 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 isnít sorrowful. Neptuneís Great Dark Spot
Doesnít 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 shouldnít have to
Be the one who wept at the words. What do you think
You are doing while you are sitting when you donít
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. Heartís 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.
Iím 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 doesnít, itíll 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.