2019 Laureates’ Choice - Group One
I will be the utmost scholar of your collar bone,
the enlightened hollow beneath your chin
pulsing with the weight of my kiss, my moan,
lipstick-ink slipping into paper skin—
With open hands on chest our palms will swallow
bitter nipples like pink wine sips,
mountains of your muscle raised to sing Hallow
Be thy Flexing Man Cheeks, Bending Feminine Hips—
We can find the arch of the ark that makes you man
mirrored in the lower liftings of my spine,
the way our fingers bend to grab
just one more pinch from our hand of time—
The early morning bruises on your neck-knees-shin:
My devout testimony of our citrus sin.
There is a tide, when dying suns unwind
crowns of plasma. The loading robots tread
precisely, stowing the art of our soon-dead
world. In rising static, we'll fly blind
into unknown universes. The best was not
to be. The Earth is lost; our mother’s bones
will burn to drifting atoms. We’re all alone.
No going back for whatever we forgot—
past histories, gone stones—let them pass,
along with flowerfalls of forgotten springs.
Inchoate, formless, as we were at the start,
the ghosts of evolution—stars, cells, grass—
half-live in the entropic half-rememberings
at the furious, molten core of each ship’s heart.
bout-rimé from “Old Houses” by Lizette Woodworth Reese
F. J. Bergmann
Life, as it Seems
Let’s laugh as if we’ve had too much to drink,
and hide beneath the stairs when we are old.
I’ll buy myself a pen that’s full of ink
and empty it before my words get cold.
Let’s laugh at what I’ve written in the sun
and hide our laughter in our winter shoes.
I’ll buy you something useless, something fun,
and emptiness will settle what we choose.
Let’s laugh before we find we have to cry
and hide our sorrows in a shallow grave.
I’ll buy a song, a little song, and I
and empty words will find a soul to save.
And you will hide my laughter with your kiss;
and I will buy you empty tins of bliss.
Watching the News with My Father
My father died in 1994.
I hate that I can’t call him anymore.
His sharp take on the news is gone for good,
Though I don’t have the slightest doubt he would
Be spinning now in his proverbial grave,
To see our current head of state behave
Like a choleric toddler, day and night.
“Lorraine,” he’d say, “the man can’t read or write.
And Jesus, these displays of friendliness
To thugs who use nerve agents on the press.”
I dreamed my dad was sitting next to me.
A twenty-sixteen tape was on TV.
He watched the chyron with a baleful eye,
Wincing at “P asterisk S S Y.”
Imagine if the universe were closed;
what rules of time and space would be imposed?
The cosmic clock, stretched taut, begins to stop
and entropy gets shifted to reverse,
while Death despairs to lose a ripened crop
as corpses move from fest’ring grave to hearse.
Red giants, plump as cherubs’ cheeks, slim down;
their iron hearts grown light, while on our Earth
the city is demoted to a town,
till villages and hamlets dot its girth.
The universe contracts some more and we
no longer de-gestate inside of wombs;
the basest life forms re-infest the sea
and suddenly another Big Bang looms.