Meredith Bergmann – Four Poems
Waking before the rest, I left the tent.
I’d underdressed for dawn, despite our motto.
A Scout must “Be Prepared”, and it was chilly,
as we’d camped in a meadow in New Jersey
within the school year, weeks away from summer.
The still, cold, dampness made the river steam.
That steam came wisping up in curves that formed
mysteriously, well above the water.
It moved in constantly dissolving queries,
floating in place. The river slid beneath.
This must have been a visionary moment,
but I was unprepared for how it felt
profoundly solitary. No one rose
to share a sight I could not then describe.
I shivered more from bone-deep loneliness.
Then somehow I went back to sleep, I guess.
Of all the sunsets, sudden rays and rainbows
a loyal, brave, clean, reverent young girl
would fiercely promise that she would remember,
here’s what remains: that morning mist, that river.
Falling Asleep at Nine
Most nights my skin would crawl, but when I flung
the covers back, I could see nothing there;
and when, after an hour, I had begun
to drift, I’d feel the buoyancy of air,
not water. Facedown, weightlessly, I hung
above a bed of gleaming pebbles where
translucent cabochons, alight among
the clouded quartzes, winked at me like rare
gems. Onyx, amber, serpentine, they spun
away beneath my glide. I lay aware,
yet quieted. I recognized my run,
returning every evening as to prayer.
Like trout suspended in the pebbled stream,
I hid from my own thoughts, and turned to dream.
A bird, unseen, heard singing in the bush
is worth the two (or is it one bird?) flying–
that twinned bird always crossing in a rush
to catch itself, while I continue trying
to match it to its double. I cannot see
birds fly, these days, with any clarity.
My eyes are at strange odds, and one is wrong.
I think I see dark feathers floating down,
or something like a far, amorphous flock
come skeining through the sky. The swirls of brown
particulate inside my eyeball mock
real vision. But the doubled birds are worse.
And yet, to stand and listen is no curse,
to learn them, through the baffling bush, by song.
That lovely song at twilight,
the end of afternoon,
you once identified for me
as a robin’s evening tune.
Within your tangled garden,
your treasured, mossy tree,
he sang of love, you fancied;
but not for you and me.
Old friend, I heard him singing
at dusk again today,
and thought of you and of your wife
and how we fade away
and leave our songs for others
to sing in falling light
or listen, struck with wonder,
when we have passed to night.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty occurs in sudden relationships: daylight from two windows falling differently on two sides of a face at once, an adjective from childish things cropping up in a phrase that would otherwise be too full of mourning, an arm in clay with a bent elbow I tilt or extend just enough to finally embrace its atmosphere. Beauty leaps out at me. Sometimes it is wrong in the right way, lighting watchfires along the limits of my imagination. I experience beauty as a gift.
Meredith Bergmann is a sculptor. Her public monuments can be seen in Boston and New York, and she is currently creating the Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument for Central Park, NYC. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Barrow Street, Hudson Review, Light, The New Criterion, and in the anthology Hot Sonnets. She was poetry editor of American Arts Quarterly from 2006-2017. Her chapbook A Special Education was published in 2014 by EXOT Books. More at: http://www.meredithbergmann.com