Donald Berger

Dear Eastern: Don Berger

Dear Eastern

For your colossal song (written) of late
right when you were taking Newton by the throat,
now what of a time this is
wot change’s such, where you’re forever welcome—
and this a sublime escape, from realest dangers.

My sister and mother in Peabody,
whose orchard where I heard a woman
or guy call out to another guy,
“I see scarecrows in your future, James!
They still have corn on them!”

Then on the way to Los Angeles three days after
Boston first I saw your book on sale
facing out at Thurgood Marshall
Aeroport that’s a true story,
like I’d turned on a belt-high fastball and sent it into the fountains.

Trying to think “Live Laugh Love,”
I kept halving distance, like Zeno, between the present and that time
when I’d hug Peter goodbye.
Weak strong weak strong, my psyche took to LA,
all the huge zones
and alleys of eucalyptus
redwood strange pines on the sweeping campus, democratically
elegant, Spanish in its publicity, gorgeous on its own terms,
and then the “village” of Westwood, late fifties early sixties southern Cal version
of Main Street bumped up in density just a couple of
notches, brought full toward and into
its beauty and verve by the constant sun. Like a security guard

checking his I-phone, like unfrustrated cheese,
I went forward in a different way and
moved Peter in. At one point, at lunch,
there was ice in the urinal–what’s with that?
An angel, unlost, fixed my glasses:
“You’re a savior.” “Well nobody’s ever called me
that before.” On the menu was something like organized field greens. A
magnetic levitation line on a cushion of air shorn of its far left,
thinking that the diamonds on one woman’s finger spelled something,
that each of them was a letter, time took me.
Then the next day after Santa Monica Pier,
where everything was like beauty’s beauty, fate
was pushing me further around toward what was going to happen,
and my voice quavered (that’s the word I’ve been using)
when I was leaving Peter’s room
after the goodbye
and as I turned the corner into the hallway
I started in on the sobbing right through into the elevator
and that–a huge relief kind of intense
like the hot center of every movie.
Now I’m back, rebounding, talking with you, tall one, Olympic friend.

Yesterday I went to a show to see Jack and his friends’ work
at the Phillips Collection, where he’s an assistant,
then lunched with Natalie then on to Terence Winch’s breakfast
nook at dusk, all that after taking Cindy to Dulles. It’s real here—
I find myself almost
praying for sun. Last night late at the sub shop,
they instructed me on the eclipse,
which I’d heard nothing of, the Super moon and the harvest moon
and all that shit happening at once, Eli, and the Pope, Jesus,
the meekness of his voice through the English
in the House to Congress shook me,
changed my own way of talking, speaking.

So here it all is, in front of you.
O, and a jet almost hit Peter and me in Newark. O, and a
guy said in a bar, “And one girl asked me so what is your five-year plan,
she texted me,
and I said shit girl I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow!”

Donald Berger was born in Queens and grew up in NY and MA, attended the University of Massachusetts and the University of Washington, and lived four years in Germany, where he was a Fulbright Fellow. Berger has taught writing and literature at the University of Maryland and Montgomery College, and currently teaches at Johns Hopkins University. Quality Hill, a collection of poems, was published by Lost Roads Publishers (1993), and in March 2014 a bilingual collection, The Long Time, will appear from Wallstein Verlag in Goettingen, Germany. His poems and prose have also appeared in The New Republic, Tri-Quarterly, The Iowa Review, Conjunctions, and Slate.