Curb

(from “To Laughter With Questions: Poetry by Shelley Berman”)

To hear Shelley recite this poem, click on the player below right. To return to the Poetry page, click on the “Poetry” link above.

 

Having been here before, I arrive
with expectations. certainties of
unexpected good. Surprises;
of story, dimension and degree
and, on these premises,
fortune-finding of my own,
what fortunes I myself
have brought unknowing -
discovery - to know
only at the knowing, and to know
I will soon be who
I am by being someone else,
and to know
the attention here - the
essence, end and persistence
of intention here - is Laughter.

There is a rare collective habit
here of hands held out; uncommon
care, comfort, kindnesses and kisses;
coffee, sweets and guiding touches
on the arm. A word of help, of praise,
of ease, a joke, and I am smitten,
beholden in this place.

With Curb I learn
the possessive pronoun "THE":
THE dressing room, THE closet,
THE hanger, THE toilet.
My, my, I am My-deprived.
Isn't this an invasion of
THE privacy?

We are the Immaculate Exhalation,
envy of roses and nectar-drunk gods.
We are the breath-mint addicted,
worshipful druids of chlorophyll,
confident of one-on-one kisses
and making close nose-to-nose gossip.
We are the Breath Unremarkable, and
if by some chance noticeable, it's
probably the mint. No one
here has need to fear the chance of
olfactory embarrassments. (This
solely addresses breath offense,
no guarantees re: flatulence.)

Newton's Law in Malibu:
An Actor at rest tends to stay
at rest and an Actor in motion
tends to stay in motion with
the same speed and in the same
direction unless acted upon
by Another Force.

The Other Force:
His glasses ride
haughty on a high-ridged nose,
his gray fringe fits
like a loose tiara slipped down
round the ears, the gray
giving way to darker-hued
rosettes clinging in ignored
desperation to the nape.
Opposite the nape,
a smart smile, appealing
though shockingly revealing
of wondrously perfect teeth.
The Other Force. He
knows where he goes, we go
where he goes where
we go.

Craft-critical is the Trust:
Improvisation. This is
where the doings emerge,
where the Taking
is the Giving, where we
become the symbiotic paradigm,
where we in our invention
are mindful always of
the end and persistence
of intention -
the Laughter, the Laughter.
The end is nothing
if not the end in Laughter.

All poems copyright © Shelley Berman. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Shelley Berman is strictly prohibited.