F. J. Bergmann: Three Poems

Guardian Demon*

If you elicit true candor (which can
be done in many ways, like sharing
a six-pack, a fifth, or maybe even
brownies with a special ingredient),
you’ll find that pretty much everybody
has a beef: some secret grudge or sense
of injury (using the term “sense” loosely),
something about which, with the right
sequence of nods and grunts, muttered
agreement, judicious use of the words
Grandpop used for the kind of people
he disliked without knowing anything
about, you can get them to start being
more outspoken, to meet up with others
like them, to talk a lot about the kind
of guns they own—like throwing a stone
into a pond, to create circular ripples
you can watch spread out, for fun.

*First appeared in One Sentence Poems (2017)


The uniformed security guard said he couldn’t help it,
couldn’t change anything;
he was just there to see that the eviction went smoothly,
which it didn’t.
You’d think they could have waited till after Christmas.
Somehow the kid had managed
to save enough from his subsidized job to buy presents,
if not pay rent.
He’d even tried to wrap them.
He didn’t know how to fight it
and his social worker was on extended vacation.
All his damaged life
had been planned by others around his circumstances,
beyond his control.
And when he saw all ruined by the whirlwind
sweeping through his story,
he let it take hold of him too
and opened the window and began
throwing his gifts into the street,
where passersby picked them up
and walked away with them.
It was that kind of neighborhood.
As he flung them he was shouting,
“that one was for my mother,
that one was for my sister, that one …”
And throwing them out the window,
that was for himself.

*First appeared in Pemmican November 2009

To the Victims*

You, the ones who, captured, face to face with death,
knelt to kiss the ground or spat through your last breath,
your torturers, your killers, still concealed,
remember damage done or harmed heart healed:
the knowledge that in their midnight’s ascendant hour
they chose to do these things, to use this kind of power.
We vote or abstain: no reason to believe or doubt;
no signposts mark the dangerous, descending route.
To crush all opposition; to force through schemes:
that’s the stuff of evil, bloody dreams,
metalled with chrome-plate hate and driven
by the corroded engine of religion.
The clouds press down; the winds grow stronger;
we’ve all seen better days, and longer.
Now the last leaf of love falls in a black November
and is burned, and no one is left to remember.
There was a chance: we made our choices;
there will be other years and other voices.
Leaching into groundwater or suspended in smoke,
you might be anywhere:
your chemical signatures imprint a billion volumes of air.


*First appeared on poetsagainstthewar.org 2003

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