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Greg Berlin Aug 2019
It is an image of a man.
Behind him, a shadow stretched long and thick—
like tar. Like shoulder blades. Like a feeling you could lay in.
The shadow is a well, a pit, a grave.
The shadow is a hole the artist forgot to fill.
The image is a sadness, dark and shoulder-width. 

The image is a child at the beach,
a toy plastic shovel in his hand.
The image is his brown cap with the strap and
the gold embossed letters “Lowry Park Zoo,”
the sand from the shovel flying forever
backwards without a glance—
tiny diamonds caught by the wind and small hands,
flowering downward into great mountains. 

The image is a child in a hole shoulder-width,
sand in a landslide behind him,
resting for only a moment before cascading back
into the shadow again. 

The image is a false progress.
The child is an old man, the beach a graveyard.
Watch the shovel. Watch the sand as diamonds as dirt as time.
Watch the wind. Watch the crooked hands.
Watch it trickle down again, again. The child is an old man. 
The sand is a hole. The shadow is a sadness.
Do they lay in it?

The image is a regression.
In off-pitch impressions I wonder the comforts of the grave—
satin in the coffin. The feeling when there is none.
Do they lay in it?

The image is a man. 
The image is a shoulder-width sadness. 
The image is a boy and an old man laying in the same shadow. 
The image is a hole I forgot to fill.
Greg Berlin Apr 2019
Thin tendrils of splintered glass.
An empty mirror reflecting
an empty sky of asphalt and
pavement and what once
was smoke but is now
only air again.

Thin fingers of shattered glass.
An empty mirror reflecting
an empty sky of sawdust and
strangeness and what once
was sorrow but is now
only me again.
Greg Berlin Feb 2019
A misting veil,
two incandescent lights
in parallel beams
reflect individual droplets—
a stream of not-quite-rain.

Among the morning shroud
live a host of furtive sounds:
gravel steps, inaudible susurrus,
a turning, silenced heartbeat.
Greg Berlin Oct 2018
Paint ourselves a picture:
cold, white winds up against
winter coats and puffs of breath
in dotted lines leaving cursive lips.
Two pink hands held without
gloves, fingers twisted together
despite the cold.

Oils and pastels that blend bright
blue smiles and sharp white-teeth
fences, shaping toward the gilded
hues of a forever sunset that is
never quite ready to go yet.

Colors huddle in thick pools
of a future sketched out in long
ochre strokes on canvas—
a million shades of purple and
orange tell a life that
skipped its ‘if’ and moved
headlong into ‘when.’

A million colors, a million shades.
A sunset, an oak tree turned to autumn,
a crayon drawing on a refrigerator:
two big ones and three little ones,
a slanted red pentagon house,
a yellow scribble of fur.

Paint ourselves a picture: jagged dark lines. Sleepless ink that sits and thinks and can’t quite seem to get through to itself. Dreamless ink that runs down pages in opaque streams and gets nowhere. Thick, blackened tar that covers everything with shadows, covers everything with long stretches of black, a stain:
Hands held in the cold,
Red houses on a hill.
Greg Berlin Aug 2018
I saw you on the plane.
The small crook of your neck turned
outward and resting along the
shoulder-line of another man.
How many lives will it take to shake
your phantoms from my spine?

We made eye contact disembarking and,
awash with turbulent shadows of
an old unyielding guilt, I said nothing.
There is a regret that exists,
deeper and more exacting within the shells
of lives we shake off and carry behind us—
tin cans attached to the wedding car
we will never drive.
Greg Berlin Aug 2018
She walked in small steps—
always behind when you walked with her
as if a big deal to be moving at all.
As if she’d never gotten the motion
down quite right.
She’d been in Lexington
longer than she’d tell.
Had gotten to know someone
she never met.
Had taken a long black strike through
the page.

“A couple years,” she told you;
her feet shuffled up and narrow
in nervous white slips.
You’d be in the park or
sometimes out by the horses
waiting for her by the fence,
unconcerned. She was always
wanting to be out by the horses,
or in the park. She’d never go
back to your apartment, not right away.

“A couple years,” she would tell you,
“just long enough to hate it here.”
The type of thing people
say about a place to joke around,
but her lips never curled when she
was done joking it.
Some eyes don’t ever open up,
you would think.
You would think you knew
everything there is to know.
Prided yourself on it.

“Oh boy, she’s got some crazy in her,”
You would tell the guys, “Just enough to
swing around and have some fun.”
All the while she’s walking behind you,
those small staccato steps.
White shoes and her navy long coat
tucked tight around
her elbows in right angles.
“Only been in Kentucky a couple years,”
you would carry on, “Hadn’t even been
over on campus until a few months ago.”
All the while she’s walking behind you,
head down, eyes low and closed up
barn doors at midnight.
Maybe you’d take her to the park
around sunset, spinning her around
in the light just to coax a smile
up to the surface. Or to the horses that
always seemed to like her more than
they liked you.

And always her walking
just those few steps behind you—
even now.
Greg Berlin Jan 2018
Florida,
when it was known to me,
was a long land of strip malls and palm trees.
A long land of asphalt roadways and people
waiting on something
they pretended was not death.
The cast-aways of a culture that could not
strap their useless to a tree and leave them.

You could hear them in the grocery stores,
the thin lines of sweat beaded together
to crouch in the wrinkles of their flesh.
You could watch them in traffic,
sifting to the side like *******,
collecting itself and slowing down to naught.

It was not a happy place.
the sun reflecting in painted posters
and painted smiles, convincing those
who were not there.
Cold drove them down en masse,
large four-lane-highway flocks of them,
with winter adverts that lingered on
snowed-in, New England cable televisions,
telling of a thing that did not exist.

Florida,
when it was known to me,
was a land of dark, high-waisted palms
lining roads thick with *******,
asphalt glowing in its heat-induced mirage.
everything seeming off, distant,
everything somewhere else.

You could walk along the pavement,
feeling your feet echo upward from your
shoe-soles, watching the white-haired movement
of traffic, and almost remember
everything the world had ever thrown away.
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