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Limits

Jeffrey Bernstein

 

You know when you find yourself disoriented

on a familiar road, that one that hugs the lakeshore

from the general store, then branches dirt

north towards Bethel or east to the interstate?

 

What does it feel like when you recognize

your brain’s misfiring and it’s going to get

a lot worse? In my case, I hope it’s just sleep

deprivation, missing words slow to come,

 

best I can do is a general reference with [ ]s,

being in the ballpark a friend calls it.

Acuity began to lag behind some time ago,

faded by late afternoon. There was that time,

 

asked to read my poem out loud to a classroom

of pretty young teachers, a decade or two my junior,

preening and flirting out of the question

on a cloudy day without my reading glasses,

 

no alternative but to turn on overhead lights

just to see. My eyes then. Not long afterwards

I found myself in court when a federal judge,

known for his probing questions, asked me

 

the kind of question lawyers live for.

I lost the perfect response, the killer formulation

stuck in my synapses on the way out.

While in the ballpark, I hardly left the cheap seats

 

out in right field near where Ted Williams pasted

a long homer once. I like to say it’s a hard drive

with almost no space left and finding the words

just takes longer because there’s more data to process,

 

you don’t know which freeway to take, traffic’s

no longer predictable (was it ever around these parts?),

and a few hours later the term you wanted

shows up while you are in another county.

 

But all that is kind of comforting

or at least a little bit amusing compared

to wandering in the dark, well past

the summer dusk when you sense

 

fall and winter looming over the ridge,

are you headed for the deepest woods

along the hardpan Stage Road

when you wanted the state highway?

 

 

 

A lifelong New Englander, Jeff Bernstein divides his time between Boston and Central Vermont. Poetry is his favorite and earliest art form (he can’t draw a whit or hold a tune). He would most have liked to have been, like Thoreau, “an inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms… [a] surveyor, if not of highways, then of forest paths and all across-lot routes.” Recent poems have appeared, or will shortly, in, among others, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Best Indie Lit New England, The Centrifugal Eye, Cooweescoowee, Edison Literary Review, Grasslimb, The Kerf, The Midwest Quarterly, Mulberry Fork Review, Paper Nautilus, Pinyon, Plum Tree Tavern, Reckless Writing Poetry Anthology, Rockhurst Review, Silkworm and Third Wednesday. He is the author of two chapbooks; his full-length collection “Nightfall, Full of Light” was published in December 2017 by Turning Point. His writer's blog is at www.hurricanelodge.com.