Her dignity could not be effaced by the quality of her clothes.
I knew this back near the border when I was not satisfied.
I recommend highly a new approach to the situation.
Such was the time spent together.
What could I offer her that would not betray her?
Money was cold comfort, bleak as the weather.
There would be half a smile and polite rejection
and words beneath her breath in a language
not spoken since a time before words were written.
All this I tell you now.
A time there was when such could not be broached.
Not even by those whose position it was to assist.
Why do I go on this way?
These memories forbid true contemplation.
If only the sight of her had been enough.
If only the mention of her now was enough
to assuage the inevitable distance.
These things arrive in old cases full of letters,
photographs vanished with age. She emerges
as a shape on their surfaces and I remember,
but I do not recall how it began.
That would be conjecture. Still, the images return.
As I went out this morning I had misgivings about
Netscape. Not the ordinary kind that many
surfers must have from time to time.
(Such fears are seldom realised and as such
should be summarily discounted.)
No, my fears were more base.
If it were in my power, I would relate
them to you but given that time has
made them unspeakable,
I have to demur from doing so.
At first we suspected the machinery,
complications in the algorithms,
a feedback loop intense enough to penetrate
the human skull, but that was all folklore.
It remains in the air, it appears on television
programs designed to appeal to
the superstitious. Beyond that
it has no value at all.
I fear that something more sinister is at
work, if I could only wipe the pixels from my eyes.
But instead I keep hearing talk about renovation,
which appears almost as a remembrance to the visiting many.
Yet, I told them before, in three differing disguises,
that I will not enter the gardens,
nor alarm the inmates of the house.
And I promise never to deprive the ladies
of their senses or become a burden to their families.
I know of such things from a past time,
and the trouble it can cause. But today my extension
has been granted and I can proceed on my course.
The maps and blueprints are laid on a table before me,
the maid bows and politely backs out of the room.
At first glance they seem completely indecipherable,
an inscrutable tract left by aliens. I have difficulty believing
that I, in another time and form, created them myself.
Gradually, with study, the language and specialized terminology
return to me and I become comfortable enough to
begin to make the necessary changes to allow for the demands of
my patrons. The greatest difficulty may be with the terraces
or the third, secret hand, of the gardeners that tend them.
I have heard that these gardeners have relinquished any notion
of scientific impartiality, hence the dubious nature of their findings.
Me, I tried to enter into things but my maps were discarded, and
the institute carefully audited my outgoings. Now I am the subject
of councils who have denied me my meanderings
within the hallways of pedantry. How I long for the days of
the river, where I could rest easy on my boat and cook kippers
before the tornadoes. I had a wife then, and a son on the way.
But to dwell on the past just serves to bring the present into grief,
and I can see the clouds forming now and a storm brewing.
Was freedom as tangible then as I remember it being, now that
it is so elusive? Now, when fear is the only common coin, the
storms seem more ominous.
When I study the clouds
I find things written there I am unable to comprehend.
When I met her, those first months, we had
complete command of the skies. Not a drop fell that did not
on some level, catch our attention. The whole earth was ripe
with meaning and we needed no intermediary. Now
I hustle though my days to stay ahead of the guards,
the dogs of cognizance who know nothing at all except
greed and revenge and subservience to masters that
none of us have seen or believe to exist.
Today, though, I’ve got my eye on some land,
but I’m scared in case I’m too far gone to turn around.
When you’re on the run perspective gets lost, and you tend to
go with resistance. She knew that too; at least she said she did.
If only the sound of her voice could be with me now. But sound here
is now a much desired thing. I cannot make it and I cannot
hear it, lest I be discovered in my hiding place. When you’re
on the run you have to make these sacrifices. She knew that too.
From my vantage point on this promontory, I can see all around.
Sometimes I look up; sometimes I look down. Things don’t look too
good. That may be well understood from my condition. I am fading
like a falling leaf.
Events rush toward me in waves. I am unable to discern if this
is purely subjective or if reality, nature, the world as we observe
it is actually rising and receding in regular intervals. I pace my room –
a circular stone cloister built into a high cliff face on the edge of the
sea. I suspect monks, perhaps of some heretic order, carved their
dwelling here to live in peace with only the sound of the waves,
their prayers and chants to keep them alive and free of their
oppressors. Just now she stepped in from outside and told me
the fish we caught this morning were cooked and ready to eat.
I didn’t bother to answer or even turn away from the window.
I learned long ago to distinguish between strong memories and
whatever the world is, rushing in now again with a large bird
on the horizon, or is that some sort of flying machine?
I was always like a kingfisher to her especially after a day’s labour
tilling the soil on land I would never own. The daily struggles almost
made me refuse the fish brought to me but for her kind smile
and simple measures that helped to defuse my incipient
anger. But even now, centuries later, I am forbidden certain things that
any other man can easily claim. But we’re still here after all these
years, and I’m still trying to work out what went wrong.
I hated my life because of a beautiful woman, and because of this
I ended up in insurance. It seems like all the women I love are with
Do they seem inappropriate to me because I wish to possess them and
cannot, or because of some desire they have to live in situations
in which they are destined to be dissatisfied? I pour over the figures
in the actuary tables. I am obsessed with them. They hold the traces,
the movement of the beast inside the herd, expose its true motives.
No beast that ever drug a plow through hard ground could match
the strength or malevolence that dwells in the meticulous methods
of those numbers. That beast is still in the wild, unknown, unnamed,
and unaccountable to any law, even its own proclivities. Just at the
moment you think you have discovered its physics it explodes into
wild distortions – earthquakes where no fault line was previously
known, cyclones in high northern latitudes. Still, I must pursue
something, if only to distract me from her memory. Sometimes
in my dreams, she merges with the beast in the statistics. When I
wake, for a moment, I wonder if they are one and the same.
And now I know they are, for I remember her in front of the
turquoise door in Dublin Street. We both played our best hand then, but
I lost; or did I really win? She bound me so fast that I half expected
to go mad. It is fortunate that I am still coherent given the shame that
I befell when riding that wicked horse. But you are always in my
thoughts, no matter what part of the world you are in. And I have
suffered for your love, even though I knew a great deal about law. But
woman, be still now, for you are watched by my father and all his
servants, and I cannot be responsible for his actions. One day you will
experience my love, as if captured in my bower.
So I wait for the opportune moment. I devise plans for your
rescue, your recovery and rediscovery with such meticulous detail
that none of my kin would be able to decipher it in the unlikely
event they stumble upon its cloister. But there was something
I had not anticipated, more virulent and sinister than any evil before.
Over the hills they came in hordes, led by two men on horseback with
a cross emblazoned on their chests. Each of the swarm carried a knife,
sickle, pruning hook, any sharp implement they had at hand. It was
obvious that they intended to kill every living creature in their path.
If it had not been for the small cellar I’d dug beneath the floor of
my shack I would have been another among the numberless
thousands they sent to ground. Nor would I have been able to
learn the reason for the scourge or visit the aftermath searching,
hoping against deepest dread that I would find her.
That I would find her and save her from these men in case her love
became transferred to them like that time in Reno. Me standing helpless
amongst the hordes; my sorrow and care just words she might cast away.
But such men can be beyond reason, and whilst the owl slept I left
that place never to revisit. I later heard of her demise while underground
near Sun Valley. For many years, the authorities held me as the culprit,
and my hiding continued. Yet, occasionally my mind goes back to when
I was carefree; when we kissed fifty times before the window where
Each of those kisses opened a world and each of those worlds contained
their own histories. Geological ages come and go, species ascend and
decline. For these several years I had forgotten anything beyond the
passion of those kisses. Their fire entranced me and I was bound to a
single place and time. I could not forget. Such is the dilemma of the broken
hearted. Slowly however, as I became more secure in my hiding place
and began to become familiar to the people in that town under another
name, wearing a new face, those worlds begin to reappear in my dreams.
Then, even in daylight, I would get glimpses. It was as if the scene that lay
before me slid away like a veil and behind it, if only for an instant, I
glimpsed the 50 worlds passing through one another. A moment of chaos
and confusion, then clarity, then the familiar day to day world returned.
For now I remain disconsolate because I cannot remember how to enter
those worlds, or even if it is possible to do so. Is she lost forever to me?
Were those worlds really mine? For a time, there was talk of rehabilitation,
and the need for observation. But my instincts drove me far a way from
that sort of safety. Now there’s something about broken bridges and time.
I couldn’t tell her anything that I had not told the rest. Sometimes for a fleeting
second I see her dress again or the shadow from her body stretched out
across the bed. Such images have sustained me as I work out my
extra time—free from the outside but trapped within. I’m just walking
through reservations to recapture land I once saw. Don’t know
if it’s still there, but I’ve learnt much in trying.
It’s another day in another place. I’m uncertain where. I look out the window.
The Bowery again. How did I get here? There was the taxi in Istanbul. I remember
that clearly because beneath a flap on back of the front seat was a picture
of you, scantily clad, apparently from a silent porno, 1920s. That must be
what sent me here, waking in this horrible hotel room, staring out windows
that have not been cleaned in half a century. Who knows what lives in that
dust? I cough into my hand. Something wet. I look down. Blood. Is this the
start of something new? Tuberculosis or just the old stigmata returned to
get the last laugh?
Either way time drifts on. My lust for you raises more than questions. But to
question in this climate would be a mistake. I don’t know if I’m still being
followed. The warnings I received indicate that I am. But then again your contacts
were never that secure, and I was intercepted when I tried to cross the border.
You knew I was never a security risk yet you exposed my cover and left me here
to bargain for my freedom. This blood I look at on my hand now remains for you.
Concordances could not even make me sway; neither could vistas and timbrels and
the various options yet open to me. This blood on my hand speaks clearly for us now.
We have nothing left to barter or to sell.
From my position at the window I can see clearly down both ends of the
narrow clay street. Wide enough for foot traffic only, or small carts drawn
by beleaguered donkeys or goats. In the mornings the sellers make their
rounds, wailing in the thin cool air the names of the fruits and vegetables
that are native to this soil or the few ornaments and devices the poor
artisans cobble together from scraps of metal, glass, fabric and leather.
Just yesterday I bought an oil lamp, then spent the remainder of the
morning finding fuel for it. Last night when the cold dark settled in I lit
it and immediately saw your shadow move across the floor, up the wall,
and dance in the rafters until I passed out drinking the thick green
liquor the locals consume. I have no idea from what it is concocted,
but it produces a dreamless sleep and no residual effect beyond a
constant longing for love lost? But that’s just me isn’t it? If I could
only remember who that was or when the memory of him slipped away.
But all I can recall is something about my being employed as a data input clerk
for an insurance firm in Lafayette Street. Certainly not enough to keep me going
at the time. And even though these images are morphing into insignificance,
I till contemplate transactions beyond legal boundaries seemingly justified for the
the sake of eternity.
apocryphaltext Vol. 4
Jake Berry is a poet, songwriter, and visual artist. His books include Species of Abandoned Light (Pantograph Press), Blood Paradoxes/War Poems (XPressEd) and Brambu Drezi. His work has appeared regularly in journals, magazines, and online publications for more than two decades. He lives with his wife and two cats in Florence, Alabama.
Jeffrey Side has had poetry published in various magazines such as Poetry Salzburg Review, and on poetry web sites such as
Underground Window, A Little Poetry, Poethia, Nthposition, Eratio, Pirene’s Fountain, Fieralingue, Moria, Ancient Heart, Blazevox, Lily, Big Bridge, Jacket, Textimagepoem, Apocryphaltext, 9th St. Laboratories, P. F. S. Post, Great Works, Hutt, The Dande Review, Poetry Bay and Dusie.
He has reviewed poetry for Jacket, Eyewear, The Colorado Review, New Hope International, Stride, Acumen and Shearsman. From 1996 to 2000 he was the deputy editor of The Argotist magazine.
His poetry and other publications include, Carrier of the Seed
(Blazevox), Slimvol (cPress), Cyclones in High Northern Latitudes [with Jake Berry] (Lavender Ink) and Outside Voices: An Email Correspondence [with Jake Berry] (Otoliths). Carrier of the Seed has had some excellent reviews, a sample of which can be found here.
an excerpt from Cyclones in High Northern Latitudes
by Jake Berry and Jeffrey Side