Saint Louis, Missouri

30 September 2006

Five Poems

[New World Coming To]
[The Manifest Weight of the Entire Evidence]
[This Is Myth]
[You Can Be Gay But You Can't Be a Dyke]

Poet's Bio


[New World Coming To]

 ‘And I saw, as it were,
       a sea of glass mingled with fire’
                    --Nina Simone (Revelation 15:2)

Across the field
          swarms                 scattered
                                                    fur the shades
of skin, whole populations just beneath

    the surface. Gingko, oak, unanimous
                  heads of sunflowers bobbing on command.

                            What more gleam than
                            that of collusion,
                            the sudden continuous blending?

Refraction meets reflection, reflection meets
                   itself. Ever the rising, ever the tearing
     about. Bits of bread, a metal upturned
                       rake, an old shoe, sole gone brittle, chassis furred
           with mold & rust, variations on olive
& burning August bloom.

                            The coupling, incessant as heat,
                            & rising.

If ever a sole horse
                  in a seemly abandoned field,
          rise to it                 smooth its coat
                           the back of your neck

   rough it (up). Animal eponymous to release,
                   constraint its merry antipode.
                                                The roots have taken
hold. Feed bodies to the grass.
                                 Soil’s unending grip.



[The Manifest Weight Of The Entire Evidence]

To the open, discerning eye,
            even a raspberry, hardened, red, tiny white
   coat of fur, dropped in a steaming bowl of oatmeal
                  blooms. Each cell, its necessary swelling nearly
erotic. The slow way still becomes
                        an implication & beyond that a point
            of reference, a point ornate under the sheath,
      a turning point, a point finely made.

              He hit the rabbit & never looked back.

What of the rains down in Africa, their sure cool bath.
                  What of dirge, suture tug, estimated damage,
      burns of the 1st through 3rd degrees.
                            What of it, evenings better spent in bed,
            asleep. What of it, the weight, the waiting.
It is understood a field razed & bare, fallow,
                  scraped of all possibility, only speaks
                           metaphor with a mouth we fashioned it for.
          And vines, snug, flawless in their articulate,
their intended circumnavigation,
      adorn a house merely to pull it one day

   We slept swiftly, carried slips of paper with the word gun scrawled there.
                        Ate what was given us. Ate what was given.

                 All day & night, day & night, & day, river mud
pushes over gravel & sunken chassis, over down
          & decay, the few helpless bodies really
                              numerous, really meant to empty their pockets
    of weights. Too little too late, a classic example.
           Understand you may never understand. Never.
                        The detritus nearly alive with flow, chronically swollen,
carrying discarded glass bottles, diapers, love notes.
         The river, body of murk, silent no-break messenger,
     desire gone flung, tain forever trembling.

                     In some countries, it is illegal to stray, to ache,
              to speak of the aching. To watch the eyes watching you.

Days we don’t know what to do,
                   we pump air in your tires & watch them
   deflate. It is summer & I can’t manage
               to bring the ripe pear in my fist to my lips.
                              Something about forgiveness, the hedgerow
          gone stubble, & all this heady teeming,
the lights snapped casually off.
                 Taste the grain, see lumber & saffron in waves. See bees
  at their of-course task, charmed to the stamen,
     frantic for that same sweet something,
                   pupils forever eclipsed. What of it, your eyes
on the back of my neck, the canoe in the shed,
       watershed quickly down.




Oh river of dirty memories
Oh river hulled & gutted clean
Oh river wait
Oh river weighted down to the muddy bottom
Oh river just one more ride on your current
Oh river why does wood float & metal sink
Oh river your bridges hold me up
Oh river aren’t you goddamn tired
Oh river twist & writhe
Oh river curvature
Oh river swell
Oh river of cracked Formica
Oh river of chassis family picnics
Oh river this is never enough
Oh river fill me spill hard over the lip
Oh river come sweetly crashing down
Oh river swallow the desperate ones whole
Oh river murder your fishes kindly
Oh river what sinks does not disappear
Oh river my hands never clean
Oh river neither do yours
Oh river a naked man bathing on your shore
Oh river would that his hands stained red
Oh river would that he sank just a little bit
Oh river my lover sleeps more than required
Oh river she bathes in Opium
Oh river would that she washed clean
Oh river keep her good & sullied
Oh river I’ve got a knife
Oh river do I ever pack heat
Oh river you are a runner
Oh river let me crawl into your veins
Oh river let me pierce your skin & _________
Oh river the weather hurts this time of year
Oh river sirens an ostinato
Oh river would that this town were on fire
Oh river ash so terribly soft
Oh river swell for me
Oh river rise & fall gallantly at my side
Oh river nobody reads poetry
Oh river save poets
Oh river in you deposition
Oh river in you more than S.O.S. & dreams
Oh river prophecy in disguise
Oh river suture & tug
Oh river hit
Oh river you took me home & sent me away
Oh river a kingdom in your threads
Oh river spread your delta skirts
Oh river skein alighting
Oh river there is no other way
Oh river a theory for every empty bottle
Oh river move East to West for me
Oh river flow mapless fingers against the mud
Oh river clever lover betwixt banks
Oh river barge meets bed
Oh river why do people float
Oh river of teeth & jetsam
Oh river my brim ever down
Oh river Hugolien most days
Oh river the kitchen sink



[This Is Myth]

When the castle walls begin to crumble,
                        Now the fistful of stuff from the well (remember?)

keep watch over the cattle’s ears & reach down
                        bring it to your lips & eat of it. What will happen next

into the well. What you find will feel & smell like the insides
                        can only be alluded to by saying the words vortex, ashen,      

of a pumpkin, but do not be afraid, it’s only
                        memento mori aloud, as if in chant, eyes shut, dirt or blood,

a pungent & sundry mass of love, entangled
                        whichever is nearest, smeared across your cheeks. This is where

with unspoken words & the darker sides of ourselves
                        the Norther & the Westerly collide, & all that was certain

we only tell the owl in the barn after mother & father have gone
                        becomes brittle & still in your hands. But that’s because

to bed. It’s likely your brother will begin pulling out his hair
                        what is coming must be prepared for. If, as they’ll say when

while shouting obscenities to the crows in the field.
                        the Romantics bloom & take effect, a map or bowl or sudden

Expect soup to turn to bats in flight & potatoes to crumble
                        fracture of light represents a thing larger than itself,

into dust. But pay attention, this dust can be used
                        that the individual is not akin to but is divine, rouse the townsfolk

to further the progress you’ve already been making.
                        from their beds & greet the night always with torn clothes

Yes, their teeth will resemble small blades,
                        & something the shape of incantation. These are fragments

& their hearts will burn deep orange, but trust me.
                        of a holy book never published. Rain in a fallow field.



[You Can Be Gay But You Can’t Be A Dyke]

Me first, my card comes up
like blood into a shirt.
Jack of Hearts,
Jill of Apple With A Worm Inside.

There will always be those
who would rather stay untouched.

In the beginning, when the sky
opened up, words formed
curled in the mouths of other words.
It was the same with people.

And the rain, it beat ever down.

You have to know
there are people that want to hurt you.

This is the damage we inherit,
the scars that come to us
like orphans, the bad hand in low light,
harked by sharks.

It all grows finally & terribly clear
in the dying but glorious light.

It’s no accident that X comes after I.

Now it’s your turn. Roll the die
or don’t.



Erin Bertram is a graduate fellow in the MFA program at Washington University in St. Louis. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bloom, Columbia Poetry Review, TYPO, and Word For/Word, and in Combatives with Sarah Lilius. She freelances for The Vital Voice. Her chapbook Alluvium is forthcoming from dancing girl press (2007).