FOUR poems - jeffery berg

Jeffery Berg grew up in Six Mile, South Carolina and Lynchburg, Virginia. He received an MFA from NYU. His poems have appeared in glitterMOB, the Leveler, Court Green, Rove, Map Literary, Assaracus and Harpur Palate, and No, Dear. He has written reviews for The Poetry Project Newsletter and Lambda Literary. A Virginia Center of the Creative Arts fellow, Jeffery lives between Brooklyn and Queens and blogs at jdbrecords.  


Strange was the

dream out of


dry on the rocks


a torso of plaster

in gray booty shorts


a red-lit bar

of wrap-around booths


an Armani trench the

color of



blue highway ride

to a birchwood house


a room of white

carpet and pink heat



untie my trench

take away my purse


cacti and us

behind glass-ribbed walls


you call me faggot

retarded unable to

champagne pop


upside down you hang

me and then I ask


How much farther are we to go?



From my apartment, now bare in Brooklyn, once full of

music, trash-picked furniture and sloppy sex,

I   box   up   books   to   send   to   my grandmother.

It’s mid-afternoon,   rainy out,   my   laptop   open   to Psycho


Marion Crane’s last drive: fingers on the dimpled wheel,

wipers with the strings like the knife-slashings that will do her in. Her

Ford, bought in the sun on a lot at Luxhall in Bakersfield,

that will end up pulled out of a swamp behind Bates Motel.


My   mom   believes   my   grandmother   started   going downhill when

my uncle took her car away.  Then she was isolated,  a shut-in,  

a monthly Martha Stewart  Living in the mailbox

close friends elderly and dying, downspouts stolen, a strange man


knocking  atthe back door early in the morning.

A house can trap you, windows staring as you walk up to it,

as you enter, unprepared for the knife-wield of a bun-wigged night-gowned man. I click

on pics of shirtless men, all pouty and spray-tanned.


Where will they end up? Against their will? I want to go

willfully to a room that looks like Hopper’s “Sun in an Empty Room.” In

1997, on a trip to L.A., from the back of my friend’s minivan,

I wanted   to   remember   everything   outside—to   take   it   all   in   with   a camcorder—


I don’t know where the tape ended up, or how I could play it, or if

I did, how I could watch it—a choppy, migraine-inducer.

In a neon green T shirt and black Adidas shorts, I sat in the sun

in a trolley as it rounded the corner and I recorded the Bates house


on the Universal lot. A sense of promise then that now feels

eroded. Later tonight when I talk to my grandmother,

she says thank you for sending more books, that she loved the last ones,

especially   the   one   about   the   Jew   who   escaped   the   Kishinev pogrom.


She   says,   although   what’s   the   point anymore,

I mean, really, of getting involved with all of these stories?

After hanging up, I picture the bitter night in Lemont, the trees bare, the

little gazebo out her window that no one sits in.


I make myself larger. I make myself small.

My pleasure points shift. Militant, then

soft. No surprise my first dress-up was Alice.

A flour-sack towel fashioned like a pinafore.

A desire for black ankle-strap shoes that lingers

more quietly thirty-odd years later in the Wal-Mart

aisle. In most imaginations—her dress blue. Something

irksome about imagination exclamation point, the Mary Jane

nonsense and the optics—piping tea kettles, gaudy,

big-hatted fashion—now slightly Hot Topic. The title of the song

“Don’t Come Around Here No More,” from what Stevie Nicks

in Victorian dress-up at 5 AM said to the songwriter.

Something eerie about seeing Alice morphing into

a life-sized frosted sheetcake, uneasily I watched

beneath the den table. It’s all me in the spin—Alice,

an easy, well-trodded analogy to the logic of dreams.

An easy one to fashion into the logic of poetry. “There is magic

all around you, if I do say so myself,” Stevie sings—done-up

in platinum curls and red lipstick, windfan-blown satin

in “Rooms on Fire.” Someone’s divorce anthem: I picture

a coke-fueled woman blasting it and singing it

in a black car, driving through mountains at dusk—the sky

pink like Alice’s cheeks where my beard grows, pink

like the flamingo erect as a croquet mallet. Carroll uneasy

around growing adults. Somewhere in the back

of my mind I was free in the swirl of synth pedals and the snow

of dogwood petals—I make myself larger, I make myself small,

there is the dream life and the life that I know.


Walking a different route, I listen to

“He blew his mind out in a

car.” At the intersection, a

motorcycle cuts through the

morning quiet,


almost hits me. I stand, shaken as

it blazes the empty street

in the bluish fog. At work,

the computer offers invoices, friends


I sometimes see, news

of flood victims, sunlit black

cars bubbling out of dark

water, a gif

of Grimace, purple and smiling,



written in glitter beside him.

I think of tagging this to a


I’ll never love. Walking back home,


the sky goes pink. Red lights

of police cars, a huddle

staring into the street.

Among them

a sitcom star with an iced coffee,


a girlfriend under his shoulder.

Some of the huddle begins to

turn, to take pictures with their

phones of him instead of what


in the middle of the road they

were capturing before: black

metallic bits, a motorcycle

smashed—laying on its side, some blood


on the road, a footless

Timberland boot.