and the winds bristle your neck hair
as the cold of 50 degrees creeps up,
snatching you into misery with an icy grip,
when the sea becomes slightly uncomfortable,
but still swimmable.
When we conjure imagined icesicles
and every day bound to the window
to search for even a flake of snow
that might make our environ uninhabitable
our roads non-negotiable
and our homes warm bunkers against the coming blizzard.
On the morn of another Thirsty Thursday, students roll out of bed early—on average, ten minutes before class—to traipse across the Novembered campus en route to the nearest Starbucks. The wind pushes through the streets like a gaggle of British tourists, slapping students’ faces, rippling every Fraternity flag, and snatching piles of leaves into cyclical whirlwinds. The perfume of reefer, estrogen, and dead fish wafted against the historical buildings, which when campus tour guides spoke of them used almost visible quotation marks—”Historical Buildings.” At 11, the students still stand in a winding line out the door of Starbuck’s and down Calhoun, as girls file out the other end clutching Gingerbread Lattes, Caramel Brulee Lattes, Peppermint Mocha Lattes, Pumpkin Spice lattes, and occasionally an iced coffee.
Somewhere on the corner of campus, a man grills hotdogs. Somewhere beyond him, a hung-over professor packs his notes into a leather attaché case and sprints through the wind-scarred streets to class on the third floor of Maybank—where his students are absent, mired in a stuffy Starbuck’s across the road.
I have neglected this blog for a long time, because I’ve been fairly busy with school, but I want to re-establish my online presence here and now. I am breathing, poet-ing, and living life all the time. In the course of these events, I have a few tidbits of incredibly explosive news.
Firstly, I have decided to self-publish a chapbook of poetry, which will be entitled Skinny Dipping with Strangers, named after the featured poem of the same name. Hypothetically, this poem will be released in early January or as early as late December! I will be working on it even harder once I finish final exams and begin my winter break!
Secondly, I will be performing at a number of shows in the upcoming months, including the open mics I already frequent. The soonest will come this Wednesday on November 20th at the 827. I will be performing a 25 minute feature, after which will follow an open mic and poetry slam! For all the information, check out the event here: http://www.the827.com/#!open-mic-night/cdoa
Or you can join the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/556583157768045/
If you cannot make this performance, that will be perfectly fine. There will possibly be another Charleston-centric event I shall update you about on a later date.
Likewise, if you’re not in the Charleston area and clambering to experience Derek Berry’s poetic gymnastics, I have three great options for you. Firstly, I will be working in the coming weeks to produce a few low-budget videos of my performances, and maybe even some music-video-type projects for poems! Secondly, I am going to work on getting a professional recording of the poems that will appear in the book (and some other poems too) which I will be giving away for free to those that purchase the book.
Finally, I have a very exciting announcement. I will be featuring in the city where my spoken word started off– Augusta, GA! On January 2nd, 2014, I will perform a show at M.A.D. Studios, hosted by Catherine Zickgraf. I will also post again about this in the future. You can come out and see me play home field.
In other words, get psyched for the possibilities for the future. There have been other poetic concerns clouding my mind, but I don’t want to share them until they become officiated. Keep in touch, and I will keep everyone updated.
rides the elevator constantly holding a coffee
with creamer and two sugars,
and she says, “You know what tonight is?”
The afternoon maid shrugs,
equally aware that Friday has arrived,
but might be less excited because she
must work on Saturday.
“It’s date night,” said the British manager,
biting her lip and raising her eyebrow to
infer something almost certainly sexual.
“I’m going to get it on.”
This latest statement confirmed
she did indeed, mean to suggest sex.
The afternoon maid shrugs,
and we all enter the elevator together,
and ride in silence down to the lobby.
Well, I remember this one time, I ate ants. They had been crawling in the bread, every day that we sat for breakfast on the back porch that overlooked a sad garden and a cracked paved street that followed the ocean. We could watch the sunset in the evening atop the house in ancient metal rocking chairs, and we could drink rum every night if we wanted.
During the first night in the new town, I did not touch the bread. I spat the bread onto my plate and wrapped the chewed bread in a napkin; ants crawled through the dry porous innards of the slices. By day four, I ate the ants—I could not be bothered by the extra protein, so small, squirmy black specks. I pressed the bread against the ceramic plates to suck up warm egg and then munch on the bread.
We could see the horizon from there, the sea crashing against the rocks, and lovers striding up and down the lines that divided the domestic from the wild.
You can feel the vibes—they live in your ears
and they party all night with music with heavy bass.
Some nights, when you’re trying to sleep, the vibes will rise,
they will eat microwave chocolate chip waffles,
then dance like lunatics in their bedrooms.
The vibes really enjoy shitty pizza,
preferably at two a.m. in the morning,
and typically, they do not like to
tip the middle-aged delivery man.
The vibes live next door, and they like to chill.
When you first met them, they ensured you
that they were fresh and cool, that they just wanted “good vibes.”
Then they littered the hallway with PBR aluminum cans
and play FIFA at top volume
and chucked glass bottles out the window on tourists.
The vibes dislike bathing and never go to class.
The vibes are fresh and cool,
they don’t want any tension.
His older sister’s friend lays on her back, stretched against the white plastic slats of a poolside chair in the glaring light of the sun. July afternoons have cooked her tan, her long legs shiny and satin-soft, even her feet perfect and brown and pretty. She wears her hair down, un-wet because she never dipped her head beneath the pool’s lukewarm water. Instead, she allows the water to cling to her in tantalizing droplets.
The boy swims around the pool, bobbing his head up from the surface of the pool and back down again. He wears goggles that mask his entire face, even his nose because he has not yet learned to properly hold his breath. When he pops up from the water, he peeks at his sister’s friend through the fogged glass of the goggles, then returns to his aquatic exploration. He wears blue swim shorts with cartoon sharks, which he thinks make him look childish. For the past thirty minutes, he has wanted to climb out of the pool and jump from the diving board to impress his older sister’s friend. But each time she stands and stretches cat-like, her bikini bottoms caught in her crack and revealing the tanned buns he has seen only in videos he watches at 2 am while his parents sleep.
Meanwhile, the girl looks up from a book she is reading for school. She holds it aloft in front of her face, mumbling the words with chapped lips and adjusting her bikini bottoms which unfortunately ride up her ass every time she moves. She contemplates buying a new pair she saw yesterday while shopping online. From behind her amber-tinted glasses, she can see the bloated old man in the pool staring at her. He does not seem to harbor any shame in viewing her body, his eyes glazing over her legs and her breasts. She does not think her breasts look as good in her bikini top as her friend’s, whose little brother looks like a frog dipping in and out of the water. For a moment, she wants the old man to watch her, but she does not.
She reads a book she must read before school starts back, and though she secretly adores the story, she does not tell her friends because they absolutely hate reading.
The man floating on an inflatable ring is a poet, 67-years-old, and gay. With his shirt off, he believes he looks like a Goodyear blimp. He can already feel the sunrays blistering his skin, caressing it with singes that will broil the white into a sickly red. Across the pool from where he floats, he watches two teenage girls—they must be only seventeen. Whenever they look back at their books—they are reading the same novel—he peeks at the girl on the left and shudders. She reminds him of his dead sister. The man wants to cry but he thinks it might be inappropriate. Somewhere behind him, a thirteen-year-old boy bursts through the water, spins around quickly, then descends back underwater. His sister had been driving home drunk one night from a party—this was when the poet had been attending college in another state. He did not hear about her accident until three days later when their foster parents called.
The boy wonders what it might feel like to drown. To test himself, he swims to the bottom of the pool and sits cross-legged on the floor, pinching his thumb and forefingers together like a Buddhist monk—or rather, what he conceptualizes as a Buddhist monk. He attempts to hold his breath for as long as possible, but he cannot. He cannot think about anything other than his friend’s sister if you don’t count the chicken fingers he ate for lunch—they came with honey mustard dipping sauce. He uncrosses his legs and pumps his legs hard, kicking off of the bottom and rocketing to the surface. His splash licks at the old man’s feet, who brushes the droplets of water off his toes, and the boy gasps for breath, then goes under again.
When Cassandra exited the bathroom stall, she stood for a solid minute puzzled at the absence of mirrors. Someone had come into the high school bathroom, the unit located in the Andre Hall, and removed each and every mirror from its place. Silver fasteners remained, framing unpainted yellow squares above the dirty sinks. In place of each mirror read the message: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
Well, that’s awfully nice, Cassandra thought. She did not feel very beautiful: she had woken late, tied her hair in a bun, and forgotten to put on make-up. Though she appreciated the message, she regretted that she could not fix her eye shadow which always gooped in the early afternoon. An impulse overtook her to remove her compact from her purse, just to check, but she did not. I am beautiful, she thought, of course I am. Imbued with confidence, she strode out of the bathroom, her head held high.
Screams erupted from each of the passerby’s who saw her. Unfortunately, she had not noticed the massive spider crawling across her face and biting her cheek with poisonous results.
His feet black with mud, he walked heavy across the creaking floor. From my vantage point under the bed, I could observe only dirty toenails, the jagged hem-job of dirt-streaked jeans, and the marbles dropping one by one from the table to roll dangerously toward me. In my chest, my lungs strained to work properly, but the breaths caught like tennis balls in my larynx. He clucked his tongue in regular intervals, pacing the room, calling my name.
He opened the closet and stood for a moment peering in. From this perspective, I could watch him press his hands against the doorframe, his chest heaving. He turned suddenly. His eyes travelled across the wall, to the fireplace, to the bed. As he drew nearer to me, I shifted. The floor groaned with every budge of muscle, and I trembled in an attempt to keep absolutely still.
Cluck. Cluck. Cluck.
Our breathing grew heavier, the search intensified. He knew I must be in this room. “Alice, come on, why are you hiding? You’re—come on.” He laughed to himself in that maniacal way he could, the humor observed with overtones of hostility. “Are you in the fireplace? Behind the bed? Under the bed?”
I squealed. His head appeared, and he reached beneath the bed to pull me out. His hands groping. “No, no, no.” I kicked against him, rolling out from the bed, staring at the ceiling. His face above mine, smirking, his black-mud-coated feet parenthesis to my cradled head.
“There you are. You’re It, Alice. It’s my turn to hide next.” He helped me to my feet, and I skulked out of the cabin. “Come on,” said my brother. “You have to help me find the others, come on.”