The Gates: poetry

Michael Berger


I went over it many nights in the intervening years:

how we found a garden, or I did and brought it to you,

or you knew about it already but wanted me to find it,

because deceit is a turning point in every story,

and how we swapped one garden for another,

how we lost them both or mistook them for their opposites.

It was the darkest phase we passed thru, so we

grasped for wisps and snares of any distant refuge,

offered imbecile sighs to shrine upon flaking shrine,

never to be recorded in any official guide.

I memorized the coordinates we must have taken:

hard lefts and rights where the fog broke and the sirens faded,

when it wasn’t smoke we smelled only crashing black waves

thru rows of mimosa and ficus and ivy-choked colonnades,

car-shelters in the fire districts (fiats, dodges, land rovers)

crystalline blossoms lured us down utility stairwells

into the mouths of mysterious neighborhoods

we loved for being auspicious. You meant dangerous,

as we elbowed thru a barricade of coughing motorcycles,

a school bus set ablaze, moon in the motif of the peacock,

drag racers outstripping tentacled clouds. Our days were

controlled blazes and sabotaged houses, reign of panic,

destruction of money, viral misinformation, an Armageddon

we co-imagined by fleeing like amphibious refugees,

foretold in thrashing of underclothes in the run-down garret

you called your heart’s outhouse. I have a garden, you said,

muddier than most, but soon you will too. Parasites live

richer lives than humans, so we brought each other to a

porous brink where germs swarmed like ferns. Travel across me,

you said, holding your hips, you’ll hit night’s core quicker,

together we can lose the future here. The garden was doomed

from the start, as any living thing is, yet still we fiercely tended it.

We had seldom ventured that dark before, (speaking for myself)

where bannisters slick with dew descended

blindly into an entirely unnamed city.


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