Fall/Winter 2014

Judith Berke


This place tried to be paradise.
The devil came to look it over
but what fun is ruining a place
that is almost ruined already?
So he must have gone someplace else,
Bali, maybe, though even it
is getting just packed
with tourists, like the ones I saw on a beach

last week; 50 degrees and there they sat
in their bathing suits, holding their pale
pink and white faces up to the pale weak sun
as if it were golden.

There I sat, on the way to the hospital, stuck
in traffic, like those who wait in that waiting place
called pairidaeza, for judgment and hopefully

and I still remember what it was like here
when I was a child, the smells
of flowers and sweet suntan oil and salt air

the magnificent giant conches
as plentiful as grains of sand
on the beaches—
so that I wonder, is a paradise lost
better than not at all?—

though sometimes I get a glimpse
of it, when it’s hot and a nice cool breeze
from the sea manages to squeeze
through the skinny spaces between high rises

and all the gorgeous new palms:
coconut and royal and date . . .
and I can’t remember
the rest, there are so many

and sometimes a sky—sky
blue, naturally—
so pure and fresh and clear
it’s as if some creator

had just dreamed it up,
as if it had just been painted.

Judith Berke’s poems have appeared in APR, Paris Review, Poetry and many others. Her book White Morning was published by Wesleyan University Press. She died after a brave fight against cancer in the summer of 2013.



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