Carol Berg

In the Locks of the Danube River
It is December and the water runs fast and cold.
The river sinks us slowly and we are lost unlost lost
into water concrete water. What is rising
what is falling: the stars into the river?
The river spreads itself and the rocks
move as slowly as stars.
I am lost unlost lost in the locks
of myself, rising when I should be knee-
crushed, low, unholy. The river—or is it I—
growls as it is lowered, as if a cage collects
part of its movement, water separated from wave.
And my heart moves slowly as star or rock,
something almost still surrounded by blood-run current.
Oh, current, run—before my heart is cage-trapped and un-trilled.

God Comes Over to Clean My House
He demands an apron—
I’ve only got the handmade one
my sister made me for Christmas with my name on it.
He frowns. I’m already doing it all wrong. He dons his pink
plastic gloves, opens a bottle I think is bleach or at least Pine
Sol. Liquid green pours out bubbling and in froth.
I hope the bucket doesn’t melt. He’s brought over sheets
He’s ripped into hand-sized pieces. At least I think they’re sheets
but maybe they’re something else—clouds gone bad and repurposed.
I’m thinking I should sing a song or give thanks or say something
but all I can do is watch the swirl of foam and little waves
His rags make in my bathtub. I get embarrassed when He opens my
kitchen drawers. Little piles of sawdust and spilled spices. I pray
He doesn’t open my refrigerator: so many bottles of opened wine
and a large puddle of brown liquid solidified on the bottom.
For once, I’m so glad my mother can’t call me on the phone right now or pop
unexpectedly over. He just keeps cleaning and it’s such a vision: floors sparkle
as if in new sunlight, the rug seems to be fluffier, even the windows—they don’t
exactly gleam as if seem to be not even there—just air between me and the outside.
Cobwebs newly strung in the bushes, not hanging malevolently in the dining room corners.
Even my bed is bouncier, perked, and re-sheeted. I’d like to dance but feel self-conscious.
At last He gathers up his stuff and abruptly leaves. I feel at once relieved, purified,
and strangely lonely. I’m tempted to call my best friends, have a raucous party,
dirty this cleaned-up place. Instead, I uncork new wine and eat some pre-sliced prosciutto.

Taking My Time
I’d like to hold onto at least one
minute, feel it beating in my cupped hands.
I’d like to be surprised at time’s
slippery skin. To inhale just one
second, sniff out all the odors associated with
such a small entity. Would a second smell new
at first, like a baby’s soft head? And then as it
left, old, like a musty book? And the sound a year
makes—like a pop of champagne cork or a river’s
continuous murmur, so many voices from one joyous
source. Would a century be afraid at first and then exhilarated
at its power? Is that why time moves so haltingly fast?
And time along my skin, what a trickster!
Marking me with such dots, time must truly
love me. Or is time that bored to play hide and go seek
with the hairs on my chin? I used to make fun of my mother’s
hair on her chin—I’m sure time must have heard. Oh,
what big ears you have, Grandmother Time.

Carol Berg’s poems are forthcoming or in DMQ Review, Sou’wester, The Journal, Spillway, Redactions, Radar Poetry, Verse Wisconsin, and in the anthologies A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poems and Bigger Than They Appear: An Anthology of Very Small Poems. Her chapbook, Her Vena Amoris (Red Bird Chapbooks), is available and her chapbooks, Ophelia Unraveling and The Ornithologist Poems are available from dancing girl press. She was winner of a scholarship to Poets on the Coast and a recipient of a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.