John Saunders: Reading Berryman



Imagine a room fall into itself,
one full of children without history.
The wall paint peels and mocks,
on the rooftop a thousand crows marshal,
their homing instinct primed,
the journey of their lives already mapped,
accidents and foul play accounted for,
in ledgers of molten wax.

Notice the tracery of soft flock,
untouched, unscarred,
while the bombardiers line up targets,
off load into the basement
where her ghost dressed in silk
lifts the piano lid, fingers each key,
prepares to play the Symphony of the Dead,
in minor keys – imagine the stillness.


Reading Berryman


“The dew is drying fast, a last drop glistens
white on a damaged leaf not far from me”,
you wrote at the height of your arc,
a secant through this circular life.
Buttoned up starchy preppie, bearded
gesticulator, out of control pharmacological
centrifuge, you lit the great man’s cigarette,
became poet, scholar, teacher, depressive,
drunkard, victim, knew failure before and after,
life sprayed so hard with bullets of dark
it flowed  slowly to its own self destruction
found solace in its unnatural history.
“I breathe the scent of the flowers, but every breath
I take is all at once a birth and growth and death”.


(Lines 1 and 2 from Berryman’s Dream Song no.23, last two lines from Virgil’s Budding Roses)


Copyright© 2013, by John Saunders. All Rights Reserved.


John Saunders’ first collection ‘After the Accident’ was published in 2010 by Lapwing Press, Belfast. His poems have appeared in Revival, The Moth Magazine, Crannog, Prairie Schooner Literary Journal (Nebraska), Sharp Review, The Stony Thursday Book, Boyne Berries, The New Binary Press Anthology of Poetry, Volume 1, Riposte, and on line, The Smoking Poet, Minus Nine Squared, The First Cut, The Weary Blues, Burning Bush 2, Weekenders, Poetry Bus and poetry 24.  John is one of three featured poets in  Measuring,  Dedalus New Writers published by Dedalus Press in May 2012. He is a member of the Hibernian Poetry Workshop and a graduate of the Faber Becoming a Poet 2010 course. His second full collection Chance will be published in early 2013 by New Binary Press.


John Saunders: Reading Berryman
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