Jeffery Berg was originally from Lynchburg, VA. He received his MFA from
New York University. He lives in Brooklyn now and works various jobs.
The mustard people
is what we called them.
An old couple in a house
at the first stop light in town.
Front porch overfilled
with boxes, banana seat bikes.
Hanging by ropes,
Cabbage Patch dolls.
Whenever the couple happened to be outside,
my sisters & I would gasp.
How ordinary they looked.
Frail husband, oily gray hair
& bosomy wife with tight gray curls
in a violet muumuu.
They sat across from each other
at the picnic table on the front lawn,
mustard bottle between them.
We'd stop by the light,
stare from the car window.
Stars over the housetop,
a breeze bending the overgrown grass.
I'd hate to go back there now
& not see the house
collapsing in junk. Not see
the mustard bottle,
the picnic table, the couple
with their white paper plates
of baked beans. Not see
the dolls with their flat stares
& beat-up, dirty cheeks
their bodies swaying in the wind.
just sitting on the steps,
waiting for you to come home.
The humid air, green vines
on our brick complex. The sun
begins to go down.
In an oil-stain from Jenna's Honda,
I see the black lake
behind your parents' house.
Now, you pull up in the lot,
roll down the window,
ask where we should go for dinner.
Later in the year, you'll say
Richmond is so full
of negativity. Ghosts--
the stories of your clients
at the methadone clinic.
I'll want to say, let's go back
to that black lake, our shared raft,
wet hair, bodies in moonlight.
I'll just run my finger
over your lip, this year--
the year before you'll leave.
Beach movie marathon on TBS.
The last one--Stuff a Wild Bikini--
Alone, I watch from my chair: a weak-kneed
Miserable time. Now, it's all so tasteless:
"Louie Louie," big-haired pineapple princess
On wicky-wicky wacky Waikiki.
I was all Mickey, Frankie, and Skippy
Beachcombing the MGM sand, graceless
In love with a young ukulele hunk.
I wonder now where it went--the era
Of innocence. Now it's all retro junk
Washed-up, lost. Back then I was never scared
That I would ever want to shed this mind.
Though it was all forgetting, passing time.
we make love.
Outside, trees drip rain.
For us, this month
rumbles like a timpani,
minds flushed with
ticker tape: the world's pain
blazed in script. One sentence:
we've destroyed the camps where the Afghani terrorists trained
is on my mind a little bit, but now,
the TV's off in the bedroom
where the heat hisses,
rusted radiator needs some paint.
I think of all the things I'll remember
hand on your chest,
licking behind your ear,
anthrax, the JLo song on the radio,
the sex ed teacher who said,
Never use the word "you"
in an argument with your lover.
Outside, where the trees drip rain,
children scream in rubber masks,
No one remembers October quite the same.
Like these kids
eating chocolate in the street.
They stop us
from making love,
they get us fighting again.
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