Winter 2010

Table of Contents - Vol. VI, No. 4

Poetry Fiction NonFiction Reviews

Jeff Bernstein

What I Wish I Knew at Twenty-One

James Prescott Joule to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in 1869 notes "at the moment of the departure of the sun below the horizon, the last glimpse is coloured bluish green."


We struggle to see the green flash;
in summer, sit patiently
on the gray deck at twilight
facing Cuttyhunk and her sister isles

as fog dissipates and navigation tower
emerges at the entrance to Newport Harbor
like some oversized Queen's Guard
at the palace. Wait for the sun

to sink below Vineyard Sound,
right-coasters all our lives, we watch
day's end across the western waves:
a gift our Pacific cousins take for granted.

Then we think we see it, strain
and squint for that green flash,
airy prism that curves earth,
rewards the faithful a few times

over the span of a life
with a second or two of light
you might think blue,
but that's below the waves.

It is an emerald flash
we seek after sunset,
crackling with what
it means to be human.


You ask me now at fifty-three
what I wish I knew at your age.
It was the search for that mirage.
Bittersweetness. That discussion

continues three years after
your grandfather died. I remember
that seventies' summer before
college, first love in flames,

I asked what it all meant,
over and over. His patience
never flagged, but of course
he had no answer.

Thirty-five years later,
I know the meaning
was not the seeing,
but simply the pursuit.

Oblivion Is Also the Name

of a trail, white gash
on a high shoulder
of Mt. Tecumseh, skier's right.

At age eight, Ben flew
off the icy lip, disappeared
over a cliff while brightly

colored skiers flashed
above like tropical fish
unaware of sharks

beyond the reef. Zeus took pity
and gave me strength
to clamber down

to retrieve my boy
from precarious perch
holding tightly to an ash,

slightly stunned, teary,
goggles broken, flag-
starred racing helmet

the thin thread
between darkness
and our fortunate lives.

Was my heart beating harder
than his? How many times
each day do we near

those threads, slight
as the lightest monofilament
that even the fish cannot see?

© Jeff Bernstein

Poetry Fiction NonFiction Reviews

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