:: Article

Four Poems

By Jed Berry.

Reliance, South Dakota

today’s paper yellows before you finish
reading it. 237 miles from Sioux City
and your head echoes numb on your neck.
the girl who sold you gasoline works in
the diner. across the street, her house
sits atop the only hill in town

her reasons for smiling were never clear.
a retarded brother and grandpa still in
prison. she smiles at you as she pours
cool, weak coffee into your thermos. you
tip her three dollars and leave
without a word.

at the grocery the clerk hurries you along
despite the empty parking lot. July the 7th,
92 degrees, a full tank of gas and a six pack
of beer. you roll from the dusty lot toward
I-90. just before the highway you notice the
water tower looking you over. it looms rusted,
empty, distraught.

the town disappears in the rearview before you
get a chance to notice.
there was never anything there anyway.


for the voices of birds

with a name like
i have to laugh
yellow-rumped warbler?

other names that
give you away
or killdeer
both nervous
both elegant

with names like that
you must eat human babies

i digress
it’s your song
i want to celebrate
morning doves
pulling the lavender shade
of evening down
then letting it up
cooing bookends

or the fly catcher’s
omnipresent voice
thrown around
junipers and dogwoods

or the poor red-tailed hawk
whose song always prescribed
to the bald eagle
whose song is stoic, brief and kurt

make up the sound track
of my life
and i owe
you so much more
than the
black-oil sunflower seeds
i leave on my
cracked, concrete


yard sale

she walked through
the dead woman’s garage.
the old man smiled around a
nose full of green oxygen.
a night gown,
a pair of slippers,
a change purse,
a typewriter.
she bought the change purse for herself
and the typewriter for her new husband.
she could not bear to buy the night gown.


one more

the history teacher, the carpenter, the catfish,
the .41 caliber Blackhawk, the fishing lure, the ashtray
all have no need for form.
they all function in straight lines
descending or ascending from a fixed point
at random.
there are nights like wild dogs
outside the bedroom window.
the mechanic, antique pounding of this typer, holds them
at bay.
perhaps, when the whiskey is gone,
when the hull cracks,
we’ll understand the moments of brilliance and why
they never reveal themselves
as they happen.


Jed Berry lives in Southwest Montana. He wanders around the woods, drinks whiskey, and fishes too much.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, August 25th, 2010.