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chase berggrun



This is              the little river

This is              the harbour where
                                    the graves stretch out into the sea

This is              a bell in bad weather

This is              a funny old face
                                    all gnarled and twisted
                        a sailor at sea
                                    tellin’ lies
                                    hurrying home


I was looking sweetly pretty
                                                I think they all fell in love with my ghost

Dizzy women invented tombstones

                                    Look here all around you
                                    see the stranger murdered by young eyes
                                    drowned in the light of the aurora borealis

I said                  
            Everybody in the place knows
            that glorious resurrection is a pack of lies

 He said
            My pretty lass
            I was just a little heart-sick

                                                            I am sad
                                                I see scattered all over the town
                                    a black clatter of waltz


I sometimes imagine myself
a very sad spider
always growing then
partially diminished
progressing and undeveloped

                        I was spreading out again
had been very sick

                        Sleep buzzing about my brain

                                    I shall have to invent a new life

                        To me it seems only yesterday that my whole life ended


            I am anxious
I am unhappy
in sleep            I walk along the edges of cliffs            then suddenly fall over
sympathise with the weather
                                                so perpetually nervous

            I pray it will get easier             I pray for patience

To-day is a       grey
sunburst tumbling in
over the sandy mist

The sea sounds like some dark figure making straight for me

I’m afraid
the dead
                                    afraid of dyin’
                                    I don’t want to die
                        I can’t refuse to answer death
but it’s in the sea
                        that sore sad heart

There’s something in that wind
                                                that sounds and looks and tastes and smells
like silence

                                                            The queerest storm

                                                            We’ll hear more of her before tomorrow






            The body of the storm had
a sultry heat                 and a foreign foolhardiness

            Her undulating swell       painted
                                      the distinct harmony of midnight
on the level sands

Strong men clung with ghostly effort
to their trembling experiments            

                                    The safety of the moment                                 
                                                 was swept away                                             
                                                             by her impossible speed

She was           sea-fog            
a mass of dank mist the organ of her shudder         
her corpse swung        to and fro                                             
                                      unsteered by the hand of a man

Crashing down on the eastern side
of some sudden emotion


On the pier
a small dead seaman was loudly asserting
his details        into the storm

She took          all men            
into blue water            cum grano


We finished fresh 

Dawn entered Bosphorus
dissatisfied but steady


A rain-storm to-day began to scowl

There will be some trouble      the men will do some violence

A maelstrom                a tempest
another                                    tragedy

Only God can
guide us in the fog and God
seems         to have deserted us


It is nearly all over now

A raging
blanket of despair
            a secret sea
            had got rid of the men
                        one by one
                        God help these horrors
                                                which the sunrise
                                                cannot pierce
                                                             I dared not go to die
                                                             my strength begins to fail                       

I am growing weaker


The storm was sharp
she dressed herself       in her intention
                                    in sunbright foam like snow
she was restless at night
she is quite odd           she will admit
                                      she had a look
                                                    that men said made them shudder

She feels influences more acutely than other people

She was
angry           howling harshly
                     in a fury    eyes
                                    savage   hairs
on the war-path      agonized      super-sensitive

The whole agglomeration of things
                                                            furious and now in terror
                                                                        will all afford
                                                                                    material for her dreams




Chapter XIX

This whole story is put together
in such a way that you know more than I do
but in a dreamy kind of way
so mixed up and earnest
wild sad and spiritual

At certain times
I tried to play with
the image conveyed
in the idea of our bodies

I could not get away from the feeling
that the feeling was common to us all


I noticed that every sound and every shadow
was heavy with tattered weight
time-yellowed maps of an idea’s direction led the way
my existence was ruined and stagnant

How shall I describe
the corrupt and ordinary circumstances of my heart
no corners         no doors         no aperture of any kind
no hiding-place for imagination’s phosphorescence 

Unconsciously I disturbed a snarled evil in the atmosphere
dread seemed to slip from its untouched uneasiness
summer was quickening in the key of fear
sweet mother’s other monster has gone elsewhere


Some pain                    is too great a strain
            for a woman                to bear             to conceal
                                    from a world that will not even recognize her
            that will simplify          and reason
call it
                 false delusion

He said                         that my memory is a mental disease
I answered                   I wish you would take your theories somewhere else
                        he sat indifferent to me

This world is no place for a woman in touch with her distress
                        drawn further into the fool wishes of men
sad and low-spirited
simply because they told her to be

                                                            Crying again                 I must hide it
                                    put a bold face on                    I suppose it is one of the lessons
                                                                        that women have to learn


I can remember
a queer silence stirring            

                          Death             a thin streak of slowness
across my thoughts     
                        creeping over me


The man was loud         though I could not distinguish a word
he pulled my clothes over my head     he was bending over me
            and thought I was asleep         I was powerless

                        The heavy gaslight                    had grown thicker

It occurred to me
all his tricks and convenient smoke                 thicker and thicker

Things began to whirl through my brain
and through it all came words             through the fog
             momentary mental wandering             reality              dream              imagination

To unseat reason
fear would become woven into fear
                        to hurt me
                        tire me
I spent all yesterday trying to brighten
for I forgot how to


He knew that if I was to begin to flirt with power
I might want it




Chapter XX


I was not in a condition to prove much
            hieroglyphical              half-obliterated
by booze and booze the night before

                        I am tired and pale
I kept a broken burden reticent

My dirty daily tasks      misled me       
                                      I found difficulty in
                        discovering      the right track
            but had a vague idea                a slender clue
                                           of who to ask
I had to pay for information


A heavy phrase thrilled through me


Having paid for information                I walked westward
                                                            beyond the framework still remaining
I would have given a good deal to gain access to dusk
                        autumn was closing in on me

                                                            I required a friend
                                                not an enemy
I made a gallant effort to be cheerful

            My task                        seems somehow
                            to have become repugnant to me

I had to get abreast of my own doubt
I had to get agency and command over an ineffably terrestrial life


Through the cloudiness of insanity

                        an accurate knowledge of light and energy
                        inspiration and determined confidence

He would distract my attention with ridiculous nonsense
or             distract me with                  
another homicidal fit

I cannot think clearly when my body is confined
            and this story is haunted by
his lethargic buzz and fire

                                                The only important observation was
that men
cannot be trusted
                        they are not


I seem at last to be on track
to the coming destruction
                        the monster
                        his face on the floor
                        all covered in blood


Chase Berggrun is a genderqueer/non-binary poet and the author of Discontent and Its Civilizations: Poems of Erasure, winner of the 2012 jubilat Chapbook Contest, and their work has been published or is forthcoming in Prelude, inter|rupture, Apogee, Cosmonauts Avenue, Cutbank, BOAAT, Beloit Poetry Journal, the anthology Time You Let Me In: 25 Under 25, and elsewhere. They are Poetry Editor at Washington Square Review and Swarm, and an MFA candidate in Poetry at NYU.