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Jul 30 · 43
Taking Stock
Greg Berlin Jul 30
Where there was once
noisy trips to the beach—to sneak away
with each other in the surf and plant
kisses on the tops of each other's ears
—there is now only silence.

Where there was once
loud lines of poetry brought to life
in the screams of youth—in anger
and in sadness and in love
—there is now only silence.

Where there was once
dance floors and dresses—
the music of a million lovers
clasping hands and setting their
feet in steps against one other
—there is now…

The inventory is unpacked
and counted up from each of those
long hours I have carried since
those pale blue cottages on the beach,
since the barroom poetry readings
and the holiday dances.
The shell no longer sings the ocean.
The sounds that filled the vessel
have all but gone away
from us now.
Jul 30 · 23
A Decade, Unpacking
Greg Berlin Jul 30
Just turned nineteen, we sat
along the bottom of the bunk bed—
holding hands and nothing else
—reading from the big compilation
of Bukowski poems that I kept
folded up and tucked in a pocket
of my backpack as an anchor
through those early years.

The cottage was empty and quiet
except the circling ache of the ceiling fan.
Only blocks from the northern shore,
the others had gone to lay blankets
in the sand—even in a mid-spring chill,
with sweaters on—to drink cheap white wine.

You told me you enjoyed Bukowski
because he gave voice to a self that you
had never known you had.
A self you wanted to explore and understand.
You—with your suburban, two-car
garage upbringing—had never smoked
a cigarette until we met.

In the million hours since that hour
we sat and took turns yelling out
lines of “Bluebird” to get a better feel
for the words as they took shape
in our mouths, there have been more cigarettes.

There have been more drugs that left our
outlines in sweat stains on the mattress.
There have been more broken glasses,
shards in-between our toes, and
mistake tattoos penned in our skin.
There have been more falling-outs and car crashes
and fathers with voiced disapprovals.
There have been more curses and
hospital visits and apology letters
turned to kindling or tucked in drawers
to be left behind.

There have been fewer poems.
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.
Jun 24 · 42
Fire Escape
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 light flickered green and the
traffic sped off to some place else
and we sat sharing cigarettes,
close, but not quite touching.
Jun 24 · 28
Out of Reach
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.
Jun 24 · 18
Petrichor
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.
Apr 17 · 36
In Similar Tides
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.
Apr 17 · 34
Global Warming
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.
Aug 2019 · 288
A Shadow, An Image, A Man
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.
Apr 2019 · 457
A Posthumous Window
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.
Feb 2019 · 192
A Broken Dawn
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 not-quite-heartbeat.
Oct 2018 · 618
Watercolor Lover
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.
Aug 2018 · 482
Chance Encounters
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.
Aug 2018 · 248
An Ending to Remember
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.
Jan 2018 · 307
When it was known to me
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.
Nov 2017 · 378
Funhouse
Greg Berlin Nov 2017
An abandoned amusement park,
the ruins of a funhouse,
mirrors cloudy and thick with soot.
Stare at the various reflections:
warped and distorted
to gross effect, like entryways into
equal and opposite pasts.

Do you remember the way
the smiles used to rise up
from the glass and echo
against the translucent light?
Some distant tinny laughter
brings you into daylight:
a chirping bird, a memory,
a rusted bell shaking
against the fog.
Nov 2017 · 292
Deserted
Greg Berlin Nov 2017
I think I'd like to write something once
that isn't bent and weighed down
with sand.
See where it sits and pours,
over and upward and outward
away from me.
A career of sand.
The grains sit and fill-in
spaces between the keys,
eating up the page
and the words, and the years,
and the tips of callous fingers:
all of it sand.


Textures sift between hands,
a warm roughness beneath
un-blanketed backs.
Turn it over in the picture frame.
A memory that won’t part from
the foreground,
won’t erase itself from the
desert it mires in.

The shower-head of time
refusing to scour the hands,
backs, fingertips, a keyboard
against an empty page.
All of it sand–
lone and level,
far as the eye can see.
Greg Berlin Oct 2016
They flit like pages or old ghosts
through the dark spaces of your mind,
front to back like a laundry lists of good
memories gilded and soured
both-- by time and retrospect.
They come in little images like behind
the big, blue trash cans on the playground
where Marie kissed you
and you ran away.
The leather seats of
her father's car where McKinley
undressed herself that first time,
belt buckle taut against you hip.

All of them like snapshots
blending upward and forward
toward you until the recent,
fresh and inflamed as if the skin
of some rotten, festered wound.
How you see her here,
sitting there across the
edge of the bed
a million miles away.  
She is salvation if only you can grab her,
but you cannot anymore.
See her in dark hair, tied loosely
back behind her.
See her in anger at the turn of her lip,
sweet flesh-- even as the words sour.
See her in reflections of light
softening her eye against the welling tear
she dares to fall.

Torn-out pages of scripture.
Sad beautiful ghosts that,
if not dead, are far
from here--

And what ought love to do
from a thousand miles
but die.
Aug 2016 · 570
Parting Gifts
Greg Berlin Aug 2016
Sometimes you find that it is gone,
and you look
and you think
and you feel
that it is gone.

And, gone from it, you can
breathe again— as if soft hands
pressed tightly to a neck
were relieved— the breath
comes freely and often
but irritated skin rubs
red, inflamed memories
playing out

like diamonds on some
bruised necklace:
hurts less, less, less,
never fades.
Aug 2016 · 443
Tangled Hope
Greg Berlin Aug 2016
All of this is something it shouldn't be:
A scar across the stomach,
a sound heard in a silent place,
us seated here, unlucky / oblivious /
hopeful all the same that perhaps

you and I— how curious, fate!—
might be the solution
each and every one of us is
looking for,

even as another
tear pauses to rest, just ever slightly
for a moment, along the dark
skin above your jaw.
Aug 2016 · 487
A Darkness Dream
Greg Berlin Aug 2016
The night we left the dance and,
drunk, lay in heat across forbidden beds.
A tangle of suit jacket and black cloth,
kissing secrets in our thick
darkness-dream, a tightening shadow,
something like arms
that never quite held you up
but— knowing they never will—
wrapped around you all the same.

Thin straps of a dress
slide to pale arms and sitting,
shivering, and saying nothing,
except perhaps an offered smile
as I pulled my jacket to your shoulders.

How beautiful the world might
be if it was you!
Your little shoulders, your little sounds,
dark eyes alight with excitement,
dark hair as it falls then in front
of a face too solemn for twenty—
only to be brushed away again.
Jul 2016 · 446
Shadow Puppets
Greg Berlin Jul 2016
In the darkness it's like you never left.
Thin masses of black hue
and blend amongst cluttered objects,
blurred curves of the bed frame
rendered indifferent from
the soft length of your leg,
equal and unseen in blackness.

Drawing lines toward the ceiling,
eyes, mouth, lips,
listening to small thoughts
played out against the boundaries
of sight and imagination,
shadows the same amongst
an unknowable darkness.

In the darkness it’s like you never left.
Indentations of shapes tickle
vague reminders of light,
passing hands through it,
settling quickly from the edges
of reality back into an endless
and eager memory.
Jun 2016 · 890
Come and Go
Greg Berlin Jun 2016
The world spins in its own shadow.
Dusk settles across a landscape
that lifts its head forever
upward in prayer.

Existence echoes
along an ageless frame:
a bomb explodes; a child is born
to smiling strangers while an
old man gasps
back toward blackness,

a street light blinks red to green–
back again.

In small rooms, lovers
hurry to make what little
love there is left to make.
May 2016 · 515
Forest Fires
Greg Berlin May 2016
There had been a clearing in thick
of the old forest behind our houses
where we nailed pieces of wood,
stolen from neighbors yards,
to a nearby oak tree and climbing
up, up, up, about twenty feet,
to the lowest of the branches,
looked out over the gray roofing
of the houses and could see
the world from our secret perch,
feeling it then but not quite
yet understanding;

it would be better to have
never come down.
May 2016 · 515
Invisible Fires
Greg Berlin May 2016
In dreams, you are back again;
deadbeat dog-days of a heat
that left us trapped with nothing
but the dry-cough staleness
of early afternoon.
The sweat evaporates as it falls
in unmoved puddles beneath you.
The horizon past the windowsill
holds faint outlines of a breeze
that never comes,
of a promise left unfulfilled.

In dreams, you are there again.
Wrapped in my shirt, too big
and loose at the shoulder.
You are knee-bent by the edge of the bed,
pulling hands through hair;
making love with your little movements,
heavy with the suffocation of
a hundred degrees pressing down
on the pretty, brown complexions
of skin taut against your temples.
Air-conditioning, out again,
gasping against the windowsill.

In dreams, you leave the phone to ring.
Your mother wants you home,
your father wants me dead,
we only want to be cold again
It can be a hard thing to find in the heat,
happiness.

In dreams, framed by the sun-soaked
sheets of the bed, thin and damp,
you almost smile. Dark eyes
lightening at the edges.

In dreams, we keep the shower
on all-the-way cold
through long, dry afternoons—
thinking of rain.
May 2016 · 380
Spiraling
Greg Berlin May 2016
The days blur perilously close
to each other now.
The alcohol does not help;
helps other things.
Blunt force trauma has
swelled and colored
the gulf of skin beneath my eye,
hindering sight.
Disgust awaits the mirror;
a child shading in the
contusions of my face
with the wrong colors;
purples, sickly yellow.
Knowing how it should,
but doesn’t, look.

Faces of friends seem
to slip further away,
this memory failing
as cells burn and pop
atop the frying pan of chemicals
that I have become.
The drugs do not help;
help other things.
A tile floor, a dimming light.

Naked, she is a stranger,
and I am overflown
with nausea, apathy;
some thick welling of revulsion
pitted in the gut that I pray
is only toward her
This hatred does not help;
only any good for the writing,
ironic, unsure if there will
be a writer much longer,
anyway.
Apr 2016 · 639
Zooming Out
Greg Berlin Apr 2016
Another gray, black-eye sunrise,
******* and insomniac,
awake as the earth spins again onward
into the mutable mass of gas and plasma.
How many of them must there be?
The number will rise up
into the trillions, they say,
as the top continues its turn;
dizzying now and incomprehensible.
The sun bigger and bigger
slowly each time, growing
until this small marble
is overtook by some
dystopian beachballl of fusion
and fission, blistering away with
such anger; imbalance.

Hungover, contemplating ends,
I think the bullet may be alright;
regarded as painless if aimed well.
Imagining split-second blitzkriegs
of neural discomfort prior
to blackness, I dismiss the thought.
The sun is up fully now, stretching.
Red giants, they say are cooler
than their white counterparts,
but larger.

All the fights, from the bar
to the battlefield.
All the love, from the brothel
to the bedroom.
All the life, progress, movement,
everything and nothing;
muted by colliding hydrogen particles
emitting heat.
Is it so terrible to be irrelevant?
Mar 2016 · 572
Signs of Winter
Greg Berlin Mar 2016
The birds flew south
early in August and
it meant harsh winter—
your father always
knew to watch the birds.
But young, and ignoring signs,
we stayed in shorts
until the first snow.
Even then, hopped
about in the cold
with fair warning
and wondered what
love could be found
amid the snow.
We watched together
as it melted in the little
fingers and notches
up your spine,
my rough hands careless
as they broke the boundaries
of your back.

The birds flew south early,
years later now, nature proving
herself yet again
as the cold came quick.
Your father was dead by then—
I had seen him buried
where winter could all but touch him.
Still, we thought of him all the same.
Still, the birds left all the same,
with him and without him.
Nature moves curiously and
passes in gray August fog
towards the thick, unseeing winter.

Amongst it once more,
I couldn't help but remember
the fear, steeped in passion,
as he caught us making love
that first time in the old shed
behind the farmhouse.
Feb 2016 · 443
Death From Above
Greg Berlin Feb 2016
The snow stopped.
Thin veins of white lay
in the cracks of pavement,
melting.
The smoke moved out of chimneys,
drifted lazily and without direction
a few seconds before it
faded senselessly into
invisibility.
The sun will not show his face today.
Thick gray blurs the line
between sky and stone;
concrete and cloud sift
through each other noiselessly.
The flag falls stale against the pole.
Ants litter the cold ground
on two legs, stagnant,
opening doors, talking,
gesticulating without urgency.
Brown and gray paint landscape
impressionist against the
thick glass of the window;
everything blurred, everything
intangible, graceless, sluggish.
The world is a cold, dead place
from twenty stories up.
Jan 2016 · 801
Family Ties
Greg Berlin Jan 2016
My father used to call them
stitches in the ground.
He said they were
just like mine,
only bigger.

Big metal tacks of red-iron,
breaking through the brush
on planks of driftwood,
placed methodically
by his grandfather—
a patriarch I will never meet.

Miles of them,
pacing the landscape,
allowing direction for us to walk.
I asked how the ground
cut itself so bad.
He said it was an accident
just like mine,
only bigger.

I imagined an old man
drubbing stretches of metal
between wood and dirt;
green earth-blood stemmed
by scarred, titian hues.

My father used to call them
stitches in the ground.
He said it after I cut my arm open
so I could feel better about it.

My son is in the hospital
with new stitches.
My father is dead—
a patriarch he will never meet.
The tracks sit stolid
and indifferent;
red and brown between the
buried remnants of timber
stifling the undergrowth.
Jan 2016 · 443
To Be in Love
Greg Berlin Jan 2016
There is something in her
youthful capriciousness.
An eager vitality pushing out,
but each movement steeped
in a tender pride;
forced awake in sudden
flares of anger.

To see those brushstroke fingers,
long and carved like talons
as they paint themselves white
in clenched frustration.

To see those dark eyes;
ripping towards and
through you in
sharpened rage.

There is something in that
youthful capriciousness.
Love comes quick as hate;
anger and happiness
lined shoulder to shoulder.

To see those cautious hands,
soft and stubborn,
pulling waves across
your skin.

To see those endless eyes;
telling you everything
she never could quite
find words to say.
Jan 2016 · 423
Phonetics
Greg Berlin Jan 2016
Love is a frail word,
whispered out by the pressing
of the tongue against
the roof of the mouth,
falling deafly outwards
and with little consequence.
It comes rattling out slowly,
beginning there in the epiglottis,
mulling forward and pressing
against the back of the skull
like the blade on a dull knife;
never quite hard enough
to break the skin.
You hear it in the slightness
of the air, pushed through the
smallest gap between the
front teeth and the lower lip;
forming the mouth in precise
measures.
Somewhere within all of this
movement of air against the
contortions of the mouth,
there is a wonderful lie that
we have created for ourselves.
Dec 2015 · 642
Chippewa
Greg Berlin Dec 2015
You can follow
the path back
into the woods,
walking
over loose rocks
and balsam firs.
Fallen leaves, thick
with the night’s rain,
line the old
hunting path.
Keeping eyes on
the brush, you might
be lucky enough to
see hint of a deer,
hear the snap
of twigs
away in the dimness—
Not much today,
however.
Not much
but the rocks
and the rain
and the far
off lull of
rustling water
forever over
the riverbed.
Dec 2015 · 493
Amazing Grace
Greg Berlin Dec 2015
You were a silhouette
in red from the taillights.
We were lost on the side
of the highway.
It was cold and we were smoking,
exhaling gingerly into the winter night.
There's something gorgeous
about you there,
underneath the lamp of the
streetlight and tinted red.
You smoked with the cigarette
high between your fingers,
almost to the nail,
holding it tight and kissing it
to your lips with a grace
I haven't been witness to since.
Your hands got cold
and you grabbed mine,
pushing them into the
pockets of my winter coat.
It has never again been more
ok to be cold, there against
the car.
It has never again been more
ok to be lost.
Dec 2015 · 543
Not Much Left
Greg Berlin Dec 2015
All alone tonight;
everyone everywhere else.
"Good riddance!" I spit,
"what use are they all anyway?"
It seems there isn't much use
for anyone at all, but that's alright,
that's alright,
nothing to get worked up about.
Instead just lay here,
try to enjoy the rarity of each moment,
passing by as faces on a train.
Do you remember Paris?
That was nice,
remember?
All of those pretty people
with their pretty words.
No one needs company when
you've got that.
You don't need company so long
as you have Paris.
It makes it alright to be alone.
But even now, it seems
the color is all drained
from the frame.
What was it she said?
I can't seem to remember
her face except in the photographs.
"Good riddance!" I spit,
"what use is it all anyway?"
And it seems there isn't much
use for anything anymore,
but that's alright,
that's alright.
Dec 2015 · 524
Serfdom
Greg Berlin Dec 2015
The eyes glowed as she nodded
into the apartment. She’s been out.
She comes and she goes
as Prufrock once lamented;
all of that banal nonsense.
She always has things to do,
she only stays the nights,
worn out and turned on.
She begs it all from me,
the self, the mind...
It is all I can to simply
bend the knee.
I concede as man has
conceded since the first in Eden.

I write late into the night,
but not when her footsteps
echo up the stairs.
Not when she nods in,
eyes glowing,
lips silent and pressed tight,
legs, ears, fingertips;
all of the above moving vividly.
I have nothing to
do but sit. I have nothing to
do but wait.

She drags her mess in
with beautiful disaster
and I with eager anticipation.
The pen is mightier than the sword,
but not this.
I am not even a writer anymore
but a servant, a vassal.
She comes and is gone by morning
and the mess is left,
and the page is empty,
and the door shuts silently
but it keeps me from going back to sleep
all the same.
Dec 2015 · 378
Carrion
Greg Berlin Dec 2015
It was never as if you asked for it,
no, not really anyhow.
Sure, you wanted the attention,
perhaps a little love to
tide you over through the night.
Sure, sure, who doesn’t?
But not like this.
No one ever asked for this.

It is sitting next to a vulture,
you see them, you know them,
all dressed in skirts and high, high heels,
all of them in long legs,
all of them in soft smiles.
You can always find something
for them to have going good.
A nice laugh, eyes,
the way they hold their drink.
There’s always something,
a starting point to go off of.
From there it’s game over,
it’s the bottom of the ninth
and you’re striking out.
All they need to do is wait, circling,
sitting there, smiling with sharp teeth.

It is something simply not to
fall in love with every woman
you meet.

Often, we take care of the
death ourselves.
These women needn’t
get their hands *****.
Maimed and tortured
in the backs of bars,
bedrooms, telephone booths.
Beautiful little vultures,
do you see how they circle overhead?
winking, blowing kisses.

it was never as if you asked for it,
all of it part of a plan, an organized death;
carrion for the scavengers.
You think you have it good,
you smile along with it all.
Gripped deep into that flesh,
breaking bones, ventricles,
talons sinking into clutched skin.
And we just keep on smiling;
clueless, eager.
Nov 2015 · 922
Death in the Wintertime
Greg Berlin Nov 2015
You cannot cheat death;
splitting up most of these
little ripples and movements
into a terrible uselessness.
You cannot cheat death;
slipping endlessly through
the cracks towards you.
You cannot cheat death;
but sometimes you can beat it
in the cold, stone-gray mornings,
struggling down pavements
to the corner cafe,
all just to have a seat
and just to have a smoke;
looking across the plaza
at all the young little girls
tucked into their colorful scarves,
their big coats swallowing them,
hair blowing in the wind and
faces red from the cold
and those little fur boots...

They can’t be a day over twenty,
those girls, with all legs
and teeth and attitude,
everything pointing upward.
Youth is a wonder
once it is gone from you.

Is it not enough simply to exist?
Perhaps not. Perhaps the whole
scam of it is just too much
to truly ever be happy.
You understand existentialism,
deep down you accept it,
but you never really think about it,
can't ever truly let it get to you.

"Meaningless... Well then, what now?"
“Nothing," is the response,
"Nothing at all."

Nothing but the smoke,
trailing off in the early morning chill,
lifting up with the wind
up over the balconies, and
the coffee, and me and those
sweet young women layered up
in their wool hats and little gloves,
passing lazily by my table
without so much as a glance.
Nov 2015 · 468
An Asshole's Poem
Greg Berlin Nov 2015
I was writing at the desk by the bed
when she started talking.
She told me that she couldn’t sleep,
told me she wasn’t comfortable here.
She told me that she was just going to leave.

“Are you serious?” I said,
“Get the Hell out then.”

She told me it wasn’t like it
mattered to me either way anyway.
I turned back to the desk and
she turned her back to me
in a sign of dignified protest.

I couldn’t write after that.
They always find a way
to ruin the writing,
something they do,
something they say.
I was ******* she had
said anything at all.

“You know, why do you
gotta always pick fights?
Why can’t you just sleep
like a normal person?”

She told me I was an *******,
told me I didn’t appreciate her.
I closed the lid on the computer,
turned to stare at her;
She was putting on her shirt
and then her shoes, her coat.

“You really gonna just leave then?”

She said yes and told me
I was an *******, again,
I must not have heard her
the other time.

The door slammed with
an angry crack and afterwards
I turned back to the desk,
reopened the laptop and
wrote this poem in peace and quiet.
Oct 2015 · 424
The Little Things
Greg Berlin Oct 2015
A man can fall in love
under any circumstance.
A little attention; a soft smile,
a touch of skin like the
brushing of thighs
or the tips of fingers.

All it is might be a look
across the bar.
There she is; legs crossed,
leaning hesitantly against
the finished oak countertop.
There she is; and it is love
in her brown eyes, glancing
downward after a moment
into her gin and tonic.

A man can fall in love
under any circumstance.
It happens in the little things;
the lock of dark hair she curls
behind her ear but never
quite seems to stay there.

It happens in the little things;
the soft smile, the small touch,
making love without a word.
Greg Berlin Oct 2015
Looking out the glass
down over damp streets
spread like boundaries;
streetlights and stop signs
to keep everything in, or out.

This city is a prison.

Your heartbeat is steady
next to me, slow.
Beneath that slight frame,
veins pump the blood that
gives you life.
The same blood that
allows you to cry at your
worst mistakes, or mine.

This room is a prison.

There is a rotating light,
the spotlight overseeing these
midnight prison grounds.
It burns from green to orange,
back to green again.

Your chest heaves, hitches,
I can feel it as the sobs
whisper out like a jury sentence.
The prison is here in white sheets,
where sighed whispers of
blame echo out.
Aside from that, it is silent,
the window holds out
noises of another world.

I wonder, glowing orange
to somber green,
what crimes I have committed
that hold me here.

I wonder, trapped by these
barbed wire streets,
what repentance I must seek out
to find sleep.
Oct 2015 · 918
Falling in Love
Greg Berlin Oct 2015
Here we are again,
in the same places–
kneeled over–
staring down at the
very knife that gutted us.

The blood is gone,
wiped clean from the blade;
shining and clear and gleaming
now like it is brand new
in the dim light.

How many times must we
impale ourselves
before understanding sets in,
before we realize we are
bleeding out again
beside the bed.
Oct 2015 · 685
Arrythmia
Greg Berlin Oct 2015
You had a tiny, little heart
that let you down.
One that beat to its own rhythm,
slightly off,
tucked away in your chest
as it was.

You had a tiny, little heart
that let you down.
I remember it as you
lay asleep across me,
never slowing.

You had a tiny, little heart
that let you down.
It burnt bright
and then quickly out;
quiet now upon the hospital bed.

You had a tiny, little heart
that let you down.

The rest of you was perfect.
Sep 2015 · 501
Looking out the Window
Greg Berlin Sep 2015
Final descent into the city
in the middle of night.

Out on the horizon,
at the right distance,
there is no difference

between the streetlights
and the
stars.
Sep 2015 · 868
Lovebugs
Greg Berlin Sep 2015
It is love bug season again in Florida,
where they flock to the windshields
of the world to die by the dozens.
I wince at each small pop,
cringe at the light going out
as life comes and goes
so quickly, again again again...

Love like life is fickle,
love like life is cold--
even here in warm Florida summers--
Even here, where the bugs flock
at ninety miles an hour
down this dark stretch of I-75.
Coming to love, coming to live,
sweeping out into the street,
pop, pop, pop.
wrong place, wrong time.
again again again...
Aug 2015 · 442
Alternate Ending
Greg Berlin Aug 2015
The house was perfect for us.
I always wanted stairs like these
because I only had
one floor growing up.
Moving in with all these nice things
and that hopeful excitement
of things to come.

After a few weeks of settling in,
finally got that dog
you talked about,
the white retriever you saw
at the shelter,
such a little pup with soft, big eyes.
He loved to climb around your bed
and sleep curled next to you
almost to the point that I was jealous,
but at first he couldn't get up
on the bed at all,
so he would whine timidly
till you grabbed him up and
buried him in your arms.

Once he knocked over
that photo of us from the wedding
off the bedside table
but the glass didn't crack.
What a treasure that frame contained!
A smile like the one you held
with white teeth in white dress.
The most valuable treasure in the world.

I remember you crying
the night you told me
you were pregnant.
I think I might've cried too,
we were so excited.
Finally starting a family,
finally living out our dreams together,
the two of us
there in that wonderful home
with two stories,
and with that wonderful dog,
with a child on the way,
and those invaluable
treasures of love and hope and family,
vaulted forever in our hearts.
Aug 2015 · 1.0k
Manipulation
Greg Berlin Aug 2015
I write fiction because I realized
from a young age that
I was a splendid liar,
with these pretty little lies
I ******* all nice and tight.
Slowly they became bigger
as I became bigger
and they became ugly
as I became ugly,
and still they came,
with more momentum now.
They grew thorns, hurting the
people who believed them.
I put them on the paper
so they could look beautiful
again.
Still they were false.
Still they sat in my gut
like an unwanted child,
a weight I couldn't help
but carry.
So here, another lie
for me to tie.
See, see how pretty it is?
Aug 2015 · 426
Kiss on the Mouth
Greg Berlin Aug 2015
I taste the bitterness
like salt on your lips—
the sadness in your sweat
a single bead that slips with care
down the crescent of your cheek.
The small of your back
is arched and tight
and I read the tension in the
subtle protrusions of your vertebrate
as I climb them with a finger.

You are full of your own miseries,
you sad  and beautiful devil.
You are full of your loves
and your hates.
Your good deeds
and the shadow cast over
them by your mistakes.
I taste them each individually.
I read them in each notch of your spine.
I learn them in every movement and touch
of our solitary dance.

I fear I will be another
for someone else
to understand one day.
Aug 2015 · 646
Frostbitten
Greg Berlin Aug 2015
Your hands were always cold,
even when you were mad–
even when they were
entwined in my oafish hands.
Oh, and how you would get mad!
I remember how those thin, delicate fingers
would tense up,
long and slender as they were,
and you would press the nail
of your index finger into the
side of your thumb.
You didn’t even notice you would do it.
It got to a point that we fought so often
you had cuts from your own nails.
The most beautiful fingers,
graceful and untouched,
except for those little stress-cuts
dug into the side of the thumbs.
And always cold,
even when you were mad–
even when they were
entwined in my oafish hands.

I am sorry we fought.
I always thought
if I could just keep those hands
warm a little longer,
we would make it through alright.
The fighting and the winters
and the coldness of it all
proved a little too much.
For that, I am sorry.
I hope you found yourself a
warmer hand to hold.
Aug 2015 · 831
Diminishing Returns
Greg Berlin Aug 2015
I drink in order to write
and, often times,
I write to be able to to drink
without the fallout
that surely would
accompany it
otherwise.

There is a madness,
an itch in the back of the throat,
hoarse from screaming,
broken now and caught
on the knowledge
that no one has heard,
let alone understood,
again and again and…
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