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In My Little Book of Things I Write Down

by Bryce Berkowitz

for and after Mary Ann Samyn

Here’s a toaster. Here’s a dress.
The ribbon I think matters.
Let’s begin here.
This is a question for you, but the rest of you can answer in your hearts.
So much bullshit happens in a day, don’t you think?
There’s a 70’s song for everything.
You tell us a lot, but not everything.
Shame is good. You can work with that.
You just need to give up a little bit. Giving up is useful sometimes.
I don’t like parakeets.
Denny’s is a powerful place.
You don’t want to announce honesty. You just do it.
Don’t settle. Dreams are tough.
Praying is fine. Maybe forgiveness is right.
You can own that word if you want. Pull it behind you in a little wagon.
And it really turns out you haven’t been loved enough.
Sometimes half sorry is as sorry as you can be.
All of which is to say,
Honey put that pillow down. Put that dirty pillow down.
Shame is a theme tonight.
I don’t think I’d like to know about hydroponics.
I don’t really care for modern life.
I think little kids are good at burial. They’re low to the ground already.
How is that possible?
Pigs agree to do a lot of strange things.
Is there a classy karaoke? It could happen in winter, I feel.
What’s the regret here?
A useful mystery.
Your material will run out and then the only thing you’ll have left
is what the rest of us have: a sunny day.

We Do What We Do

by Bryce Berkowitz

I can’t find north in West Virginia.
Beneath the pine-shade on Lillian,

I’ve run the way I’ve always run;
the way anger borders love.

How the spoon bends a certain way.
Maybe I’ll never know what’s right.

Beneath a streetlight, a star trail,
sometimes silent is as loud as I can be.

Poet's Statement: Every year, West Virginia University's MFA program holds a graduation reading for the outgoing cohort. At the 2016 reading, a third-year poet read a poem composed entirely of poetry professor Mary Ann Samyn's quotes during graduate workshop. And each subsequent year at the final reading, another outgoing poet has composed and read a poem made from Mary Ann's quotes during workshop. "In My Little Book of Things I Write Down" was my contribution to that tradition from April 2018.

I wrote "We Do What We Do" during my last summer in West Virginia, after I graduated, but before I left to teach in Montana. Between May and June, I watched my cohort move away—to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, California. In the summer before this, I'd told myself I wouldn't be the last one to leave, but when the time came, lingering in the uncertainty felt meaningful. I often write poems busy with place, but in this poem, I wanted to start with place and go somewhere new.

Bio: Bryce Berkowitz is the author of Bermuda Ferris Wheel, winner of the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award (forthcoming 2020). His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets, New Poetry from the Midwest, The Sewanee Review, Ninth Letter, Nashville Review, and other publications. He teaches at Butler University.