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Jim Berger

The Fragilist


Nodes and groves of glottal frictions--
Has his telephoto memory condensed all that distance
into volume, the way a drizzle on TV looks like a torrent?
The red-cheeked birds who bow their heads;
the red-tailed birds that veer up out of the trees;
in nagging disproportion;
almost perfected.




Make the fragilist toughen
his new teeth,
his new tongue
will salivate the acids necessary.
The delicate diner has no defenses,
he tries to seduce
with coy declensions.
If only his stomach had hairs lucid enough
to conjugate the infinite follicles.
Mad for dust and sand,
the marble-smooth branchless trunks of palm trees:
the fragilist crawls in the bushes
while his wife buys clothing.
Everywhere there are children, he notices.


The fragilist is busy protecting
the cyanides that he’ll crossbreed
with lettuce in his covered garden.


And in a puddle on the sidewalk
a deep lasciviousness awakens his memory.

On the road’s nearest approach to his house,
the fragilist finds a bomb,
a homemade device hidden under
a green plastic rug supposed to look like grass.

How fertile, how fruitful
the toxins of his soil.




The spider plant,
its leaves delicately
browning and curling,
is healthy,
                    she tells him.
It is the fern he must watch closely.


The frenzy of what is not;
one after another she returns perfected–
wearing makeup? More slender?
Her brother is alive again?




The old couple must be his parents.
They create nothing– Their sexual act
is the creation and dissemination and
comes from male, spread onto female.
The fragilist doesn’t want to watch,
to see them–
doesn’t want to be part of it;
but he is,
inadvertently, apologetically–


Striation still is possible.
Face two faces:
arm in armory,
shoulders like continents.

Why he’s so tightly bunched--
it’s music
that pulls his brain off.




I didn’t expect him
this Hasidic cliche, pale, dark beard,
skinny like he’s never heard of a gym,
tzit tzit hanging out of his pants
a stunted confirmation to cosmic dishevelment.

He studies Talmud.  The rest of his ineptitude
he wears as an arrogance he’s only recently discovered,
a dark suit on the hottest day.
I’m the Jew, it says, what are you going to do about it?


But I’ve been studying the signs and formulas
and there’s no doubt: it’s him, this little putz,


I fuck her and she’s pregnant.
I fuck her and she’s wearing the tiniest
little panties
and I fuck her then she’s pregnant.
I fuck her and she’s screaming, pregnant,
perfect, slender, obscene.
I don’t exist, she’s holding me
and I’m fucking her then she’s pregnant.
I fuck her and she’s crying.
I fuck her till there’s no anger in the world,
till the world is healed,

and what does the fucking Moshiach do?
I’ve seen him with his wife (who’s fat and seems
to be drizzling in some psychic way over everything)
and his seven children.
When is that asshole going to start working?




Behind the left flap
Beyond the right hood
Beneath the startled calendar

and allergic cadenza


He shells, he peaks–
a perch abates just past
his spying.
In multerous bags
he carts his personal grapes.

                                                             One animate figment;
                                                             one survival of marked pivots.

                                  That skunk
                                  who seizes the black and white cat.

            He wonders,
            how can a single escalator?




No more pressure for a free skin,
my aggressive friend;
no more burnishing brandished by
my cognitive branches.

Do you find scratching redemptive?
Do you urgently?
Would wishing make it snow?


Destitute– he looks out from
the pavement grating




There is strength in the two red flowers,
in the narrow tubes supported by their fluids.
There is a general hopefulness,
she tells him.
When we finally turned the plant around
after many months,
it was like a bristling gaping
a burst relation.
You can absorb it,
                                she tells him.
Imagine you are the object.


He’s turned around the wrong way
so the room doesn’t look right;
disconnected like a vat of seeds
marking its alluvia.

Cradle the science of soothing,
                                                   she tells him.




Poor cell, poor cell, pregnant again
with division, its over-completion
is its fragility, a hyphenation
that never knew what split it.
He’s tormented by that fantasy–
of sponginess, the possibility of that rip
right down the nucleus,
of incarnation,
in each moment of labor
the mutating code re-engaled
like a sneeze.
He fears, rather, that he is porcelain,
poured to a shape,
unable to blink;
the same baked function.


The fragilist sees a tunnel in a pool of dark
and small half-worlds, durable, drifting,
illuminated from a source in haze
beneath what must be a horizon
yet somewhat closer than where he’d guessed;
A horizon for every occasion, he surmises.
There is a sense of “presentation,”
as if “pecan encrusted on a bend of lentils
and a banana leaf,” or at least that impression
bundles itself, as with secret muscles
which then dissolve, as if
abandoned by his spine.