by Bryce Berkowitz
I thought about ending it, and shame followed that—
I’d like to say age helped, but that would be a disservice
to the rust-hued maple, rain tapping the yard.
It took so many years; and boy they came:
red apples, small griefs.
A pumpkin’s shadow crosses the cedar wood chest.
Downtown Chicago, through this tilted rock’s glass.
I’m thinking about Marsha—that’s my mother.
On a quiet bench, emptied of thought, the sky a wash;
bright pink leaves, torn cloud vapors.
Lake Michigan checkered with boxes of buttery light.
Tonight’s confetti fuzzy on the dark, greasy water.
Maybe this is San Francisco and the life we could’ve had,
the one I still dream of
or maybe it’s a rope hanging from a tree in the front yard.
I’m done with what could’ve been. Something chipped inside,
long ago; another spoiled piece of fruit, yet here I am. A young man
wishing I still pressed piano keys. Look at the white peonies.
I suppose this is another kind of song. I meant the falling leaves
or when I hear your name, but not from my mouth.
Although I wrote this just to say it. Here comes the wind.
“We’re Not There Yet”
by Bryce Berkowitz
Deep in the blue-green hills,
beyond the butterfly bush, hours from the heartland,
worn-down by the brocades of homesickness—a ladybug
walks along the slender leaf of an aloe plant.
Looking back now, I can see how naïve I was
in my own solitude, ankle-deep in a copper river,
among rocks rusty from chemical runoff, believing
wind through cheat grass couldn’t be a blight-blown beauty.
I’ve tried to make West Virginia home:
the crunched-up shacks that pock the avenues,
the narrow roads that vault down hillsides like ceramic crazing;
all of it a reluctant truism, a storm that ends too soon.
But this morning, my little brother became a father.
We’re only two states away, but years apart from how close we used to be.
You’ll have to plant a little bamboo forest in your backyard
to relive the fort days—shooting a bb through the neighbor’s window.
It wasn’t until recently, in a bakery parking lot,
when a frail girl picked a pink flower from a Mimosa tree
and handed it to me, that I realized
I’m in a place of suffering.
Bryce Berkowitz is the author of Bermuda Ferris Wheel, winner of the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award (forthcoming 2020). His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets, New Poetry from the Midwest, The Sewanee Review, Ninth Letter, Nashville Review, Zone 3, the minnesota review, and other publications. He teaches at Butler University.