Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
Greg Berlin Jul 7
She put out the cigarette
in the soft part of my leg,
twisting, folding, pressing
ash to puckered skin.
Her eyes never left mine—not for a
moment—no one said a word.
The hairs stood on their ends.
The hands clenched in their fists.
The cigarette ground from
flame into ash into skin
and the endless smoke
curled up around us,
bodies open and waiting
for a feeling that would not come.
Greg Berlin Jun 24
Back then for awhile,
the fire-escapes were
balconies instead of
warning signs.
We would share a couple of
cigarettes so you could shed the
guilt of smoking them alone.
Cars would yell past at timed intervals,
a welcome reminder that there
is always some place else.

We never touched one another.
It would not have been proper—
though whether it would have
been right is now lost to us.
We stood on the balcony.
Staring over moonlit traffic lines,
spaced a breath apart,
wondering where it all went.
Cigarette ash blew off into the air
and we were old enough to feel
nostalgic for the first time.

Back then, for awhile,
the fire-escapes were
balconies instead of
warning signs.
Convenience store lights
glittering on the road and
the landlord ready to kick
you out—for good, this time.
You were getting married and
said the traffic lights were
giving you mixed signals
to stay, then go, then stay again.
Cigarette ash blew off into the air
and we were in love enough to talk
of maybe’s and might-have-been’s.
The streetlight flickered and the
traffic sped off to some place else
and we sat sharing cigarettes,
not quite touching.
Greg Berlin Jun 24
Tall, white birch trees,
tight-rolled cigarettes leave
tobacco stains to drop dotted
lines across the evening pavement.

The raindrops outpace the autumn leaves
in long, cold daggers of not-quite-snow
that rip the bandage off the topsoil and loam,
that beat the earth into its seasonal death.
The weather is cold and the world is dying,
the moth has made its home
beneath the lampshade.
‘It is enough to get by,’ someone shouts
into their unhappiness, ‘It must be enough.’

Another leaf falls, lies flat.

Tall, white birch trees,
pale and blistered fingers
reaching for leaves that fall
away from them again
each year.
Greg Berlin Jun 24
I was on my knees, leaning out
of the window in the rain.
The rainwater flooded around the
drains in pools and the fog spread
the lightning across the night sky
in thick bands of bright smoke.
My hair was wet in my eyes.

The rhythmic sounds of
pattering droplets on the pavement
reminded me of being a child.
I had been in this exact spot,
somewhere else.
I could not decide why.

A streetlight let out an old, yellowed light
and large puddles around the gutters
pushed the light back upward.
Lightning struck, the streets were
Smells of fresh water,
of earth and wet grass.
There is a name for that smell.

The phone buzzed a flood warning.
The clock read 1:37 AM.
The apartment was dark except
for the open window, which was
illuminated by the streetlight
and the occasional broad flashes of
lightning in the sky.
Greg Berlin Apr 17
A parking lot off the coast
of Madeira beach.
A thin trail of smoke trailing off
unfinished into a dew-heavy evening.
A pair of headlights illuminate tall reeds
like thin yellow towers,
toppling in a sudden breeze.
The streetlight flickers,
buzzing in the slender hum
of electric current before surrendering
itself back towards the silence.

An evening as any other evening:
tall dunes of ochre that have been
built and rebuilt by time–
un-eager hands, molding slowly
as the earth careens against itself.
Reeds in silhouette against the pale headlight,
shadows bending in shapes as ink,
laid out along thin canvas.

It is something for memories
to dance as ghosts.
Fall into the sand as young lovers,
laugh and shout, call out
to the ocean into its own
low and distant rumble–
as if it were in on the joke.

The ocean laughs still, in similar tides,
though the ghosts have gone.
There is humor in its breath,
thick and heavy with salt.
The joke is old.
The punchlines thin
with age and poor taste.

An evening settles into itself.
A car pulls off, the gravel gives slightly
beneath the weight.
A streetlight blinks dead
and then awakens again.
Reeds purr and shake
into the ghosts of darkness,
the ocean hums a tune.
Greg Berlin Apr 17
She put out the cigarette in
the soft part of my leg.
Twisting, folding, pressing
ash into puckering skin.
Her eyes never left mine. Not for a moment.
The hairs stood on end.
The hands clenched in fists.
The cigarette flickered from a flame into ash.
Smoke curled around us.
No one said a word.
Greg Berlin Apr 17
I watch the schism shift beneath us,
lengthening shadows in a fading afternoon.
Gaps appear where the mountain
once stood strongest.
The glaciers fail in the never-melt
and fall to the ground as water,
as loss.

All of the world is tilting in
an endless and slight off-kilter tumult.
All of the world is spinning in
an endless pulling apart at the seams.

I watch the schism grow beneath us,
yawning darkness in a once well-lit place.
Handholds become razor-sharp ridge lines.
Features that once welcomed now
yield little but hard stone and
a long climb back down again.
Next page