Kristin Berger is a poet and essayist living with her husband and two young children in Portland, Oregon. Her chapbook of poems, For the Willing (Finishing Line Press, 2008), is a nominee for the 2009 Oregon Book Award. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in CALYX, Edible Portland, mamazine, New Letters, and The Pedestal Magazine, among other publications. You can read more on Kristin’s blog or come hear her read October 19, at Beyond Vernacular, a Portland poetry series.
You can see the spot now
though the body is gone
where the wren dusted her belly,
coating tail feathers, tips of wings,
with soft soot under the old plum.
She pivoted and cupped herself,
nearly rolling over like a horse
glad for the grass,
a little joyful winging,
then darted with beak and brow-streak
to the safety of wild grape
coveting the crowded fence.
You will watch over the small bowl
her body tamped, all day,
as long as you can tell it apart
from other dry brown bowls,
the places other little brown birds
have carved out for themselves
with strong feather-work,
the ones you will never see.
for Cindy and Emily
You choose them for their solidity and shape,
their ability to stain the heart from under the produce light.
Their edible greens, too, the red-veined and cooled trails
the morning sun once stalked in the furrowed fields.
You carry them home with other necessities wrapped
in plastic and brown butcher paper, flowers
for yourself in an extravagant fuchsia funnel,
reach for them first out of all the other chores,
charm them to settle together
like sleeping children into one bed,
sandy cheeks ruddy with dreams,
ignite the fumarole to flame and will
those roots to tremor and roil, your face
the moon rising above earth-steam
filling the kitchen, governing the boiling hour.
and when they finally give up their skins and slip
between your fingers, glassy and calm,
you follow their growth rings, a striated map,
with a whetted knife, releasing cross-sections to the jar
and pour vinegar like a salve to preserve their luster.
The rubied water swirls down the drain.
Wipe your hands over and over against your apron
but the beet stain will outlast the rage cooked
out of the pot, vented to the afternoon shafting
through the leaded window. The sun turns
towards a new field of seedlings.
The next crop surfaces, leaves sluicing light
to our buried, molten hearts.
William Stafford Says
I have been advised to follow
the thread through my life,
the weatherings of the moon,
to not let go –
it pulls me to follow
the course of each day strung
along a necklace of incomprehension,
each imperfect gem against the other,
their sheen loosening.
It tethers the child at the window,
head sweat-curled from sleep –
to glasses at rest
upon an opened book –
to the iron skillet wiped clean with oil,
blue flame snuffed for the night.
I have been advised to watch the full moon
at the equinox, ahead of the weather,
for migrating flocks to pierce its pearly face.
Following their wing-wake,
thread in hand,
I am ready.
on the nightstand…
- About Grace, by Anthony Doerr. Lovely fiction writer, 100 ways to write about water and memory.
- To Build a Ship, by Don Berry. Historical fiction, 1850’s Oregon coast.
- Yellow Glove, by Naomi Shihab Nye. Always keep her close by.
- The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, by Carol W. Costenbader. Too much fruit, too little time!
- Caillou: Let’s Go to the Park, Emergency Vehicles, Winnie-the-Pooh, and 20 other baby board books.
- hearing my son (19 months) say my name for the first time, over and over, like a milk-mantra
- hearing my daughter (5 years) describe her first backpacking trip with her Papa
- my new 15 c. ft. chest freezer
- local peaches
- Johnny Cash
- a hand-written letter from my best friend
what inspires you about the fall?
Everything. The slant of sun, shift of wind, leaves pretending to be butterflies. All the food, woodsmoke, the urge to wear scarves, bake bread, sharpen pencils. Head back inside. I’m melancholic and bookish, so autumn fills me with hope rather than despair. This autumn will be my son’s first on two legs, which will be a pleasure to witness.
what are three constants in your day?
- my children (and coffee, chocolate, and red wine!)