Four Poems|Katie Berger

Factory Night Shifts

 

My dad slept all day. I played the piano so quietly and slowly I heard the hammers hesitate before each note. And with my brother I fought for limbless GI Joe torsos in spitty whispers. Who controlled the remote controlled little: mute Ninja Turtles, mute Clarissa, mute coyote off a cliff, boomless flash of Acme. The buried shrapnel in my chest shifted when someone asked. Asked why I moved to that noisy city whose Interstate never stops singing with Subarus. See, in the little towns you can hear yourself think. You can hear the piano music if you stare at the sheet music long enough. You can hear the radio if it’s not drained of battery life. You can hear the clank of the chainlink gate from a mile away, a truck leaving the factory. You can smell the steel mill, the chicken plant, and the cattle yard all at once but to say this reeks is to wake up all the shift workers and send them blinking angry into the sun. I’d pull the string on the back of my talking Tweety bird: I love you, little buddy. Easier to blame the birds for making noise about love.

 

 

Forget the Stars

1.

 

The cherry punch drink mix        giver of years        of sour a sour somewhere        between blood and the well        at the campgrounds yet we never really camped        all s’mores built by midnight        no one slept someone was eaten        by rage at raccoons or missing toilet paper        some of us knew        so easily how to breathe        a cloud of bug spray         into ourselves         seconds before the silent treatment        we’re going home early        forget the stars

 

The day one of us        added sugar to the drink mix        each blaming the other        for years of drinking        vampire piss        I slid my journals        through the shredder until it jammed        dumped them into grandma’s piano like confetti        no one could know I once considered them all        mean

 

2.

 

I sell the piano        when I move to a new state        I cannot read music        in Florida or Maine        I cannot change a tire or check        the car         for trailing oil        I cannot break spaghetti        over boiling water        but I can read        like old farmers        with fingers licked to the wind looking for storms        the rooms at funerals        the silence between the paper        of Christmas cards        the soft lull of the last ribbon of gravy        before the pop of a breaking dish        say the meanest thing         I will move        to another state

 

 

The soft silver ‘70s    garland the smell of mildew        up from the basement        every year a coil wound tighter        and tidier        around the tree        set the scene        a manger lined with tinsel        peace on earth by way of lenticular         Grinch ornament        the tree a museum        of what we haven’t thrown away

 

Cameron Fire

 

My brother calls

from his subdivision annoyed

 

with blue jays and his dog

chewing on the screened-in porch

that overlooks the mountains.

 

The hotel where he got married

now stands too close

to a fire called Cameron

 

and I remember

his constant cloud of arctic

 

deodorant between the shower

and his room, the plastic spiders

and army men, the floor

prickly and endless with them.

 

Or the microwave popcorn nights,

the singed snapped ribbon

of overwatched Star Wars tapes.

 

The high-ceilinged victory

march with medals

was his favorite scene.

 

Social Distancing

 

Wellness influencers are calling,

flip tarot cards to re-route

the Russian roulette.

Do I feel that feeling or nothing.

 

The things I used to say before

the times got unprecedented.

Now I hold everything close

 

to my bedroom. I brace for ascension

right when Jo’s monologue hits

in Little Women.

Lonely and women.

 

Ascension Day is called Kristi Himmelfartsdag

in Norway. Christ Sky Speed.

I miss Norway.

 

Oh god what if I’m Keanu Reeves

 

Winter. Much easier than scarves.

 

Photo by Akhil Lincoln on Unsplash

 

Bio:

Katie Berger’s publication history includes two chapbooks: Time Travel: Theory and Practice (2013) and Swans (2016), both from Dancing Girl Press. Other pieces have appeared in Cherry Tree, The Maynard, Thimble, The Broken Plate, and many other publications. You can find her at http://www.katie-berger.com/

 

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