By Jean Berrett 


Words like forever or never are not enough.
The tiny animal who left tracks in patches of snow
over a quarter mile of rolling pasture and grain fields,
who lives, who lived, somewhere near the marsh sink
that divides the gigantic range.

Broken cornstalks in silent rows are watching
the swoop of an owl
over tiny footsteps
or are listening to the terrible roar of killer
cars and trucks on Highway 29.
He, too, was beloved.


What was that short, thick-bodied bird
that all at once flew, fluttering and splashing,
up from the Little Patuxent?

Night will come down differently
in spite of the traffic that crosses
the bridge, in spite of
the shouting, “Hey man, ya got some? Ya gettin’ some?”

Pickerel weed in the small wind beside me.
The beaver who forgets
he is my drowned father
sleeps under dead fallen oaks
in the deep muddy bank on the other side.
He will not slow down until dawn.

So lightly the river carries its leaving.
Another night as though to answer
an asking beyond belief.


In your eighteenth year you are
as fragile as October ice
that lies and lifts on Cramer Lake.
You turn away, angry and afraid.

When I see you like that, I want to give you
something measureless
and full of light.


I have no mother, no father.
But I have driven alone all night
and watched the setting moon dissolve
mammoth and orange
into the black sea of Nebraska.

I have walked nights at the ocean
listening to jagged cliffs
who answer the unanswerable Pacific:
be silent and resist.

My son, I am giving shape
to another arriving dark.
My son, there is a wind when it passes,
it is nothing but the wind.

About the Author:

Jean Berrett has been publishing poetry since 1973, after she took a Creative Writing-Poetry course offered by University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The instructor told her that he thought she was the best poet in the class and he encouraged her to begin submitting poems to magazines.  She obtained her BA at University of Wisconsin-Madison and her MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry from Eastern Washington University, and she taught English at College of Menomonee Nation. Since she first started publishing, she has published 89 poems. Other publications include translations from Virgil and Lucretius and also three stories and two book reviews.  She has two sons and seven grandchildren.