Suzanne E. Berger

Cadmium brilliance of a tree outside the hospital
(For my brother)

The stinging light aims and sets a tree to yellow fire,
a glow that hits the dull red bricks behind–
secular miracle in extremis near the parking lot,

a tree scorched by cadmium flame
outside the place where few miracles occur.
A light that hurts, is out of orbit, out of the known world,
and not–only a diminishment, a delay of coming dusk. 

All seems too brightly on the way to gone–
light not light at all, exactly,
just minutes less of coming feral darkness.
Inside a car, I see the blaze and its resound,

and know my waiting brother, inside, does not.
And I know elsewhere the light could be a sacrament or reverential
like the thick marbled glow in Michelangelo
bringing wonder or surcease.
How did it come to this,

can light be sullied where it lands? Outside, an unearthly tree
throwing fiery shadows against broken-down walls of Admissions,
inside, the rooms not lit with calm or slightest equipoise.

Smoking in My Mother’s Garden

I light another cigarette. 
Her clematis climbs up a jagged garden wall,
clinging at top with sharp flutings.

Again she ‘s shaking inside on her bed.
Again, compliant, waiting for
any form of comfort
that comes on spongy shoes down the hall,
or the daughter who will come– soon–
into her wallpapered pain-papered room.
My mother like a most-lost child, in every way, undone.

How has the unfurling begun again
and later, the perilous un-becoming?
How long can I put off going in?

Inside the house, the voltage of distrust,
sparks  of breaking apart. 
Woman adrift again, far off, very far,
like a bird that leaves the hierarchy of migration
and has to fly alone.

I grind my cigarette out, scattering ash,
punishing the outdoor beauty;
embers burn in soft wet leaves, burning the clematis petals
strewn on mossy pavement.

Garment: Afghanistan                                                             

Is she sewing a rag, a piece of tapestry?
                Is it white, is it yellow,
      is it beige and tattered, with somehow
                     a lace border, a bright-colored band?

Is there dust in the cloth, has it been
            washed over and over
                        is there water?

When the bomb splays near the edge of her tent
             is the needle halfway through its work
         on the sleeve, on the stricken skirt—
                        through the broken, through the noise?

Is the pain like a needle shattering in,
              does the needle fly
                           from her hands, or stay there?

Does the bomb fit over
                and in her body, entirely?

Suzanne E. Berger

Suzanne E. Berger is an author  and teacher. A Pushcart Prize winning poet, she has taught at Lesley University, the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard Summer School, and  Boston University. She has served on the NH State Council for the Arts, and has published two books of poetry and a book of  essays: Legacies (Alice James Press) These Rooms (Penmaen press) , and Horizontal Woman (Houghton Mifflin). Her  work has appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Agni Review, The Harvard Review,  Antaeus, and many other places.