Meredith Bergmann

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Meredith Bergmann is a sculptor. Her public monuments can be seen in Boston and New York, and she is currently creating the FDR Hope Memorial for Roosevelt Island, NYC.  Her poetry and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, Contemporary Poetry Review, Hudson Review, The New Criterion, The Raintown Review, The Same, The Tri Quarterly Review and the anthology Hot Sonnets; and online at Lavender Review, Light, Mezzo Cammin, Per Contra, and Umbrella. Her sonnet “The Bird in the Bathroom” won an honorable mention from the Frost Farm Poetry Prize in 2013. Her chapbook “A Special Education” has just been published by EXOT Books. She is poetry editor of American Arts Quarterly and its website at Meredith lives in New York City with her husband, a writer and director, and their son.


Sculpting in Time

“Better some day than not any day,”
the Russian doorman says. He loves our film,
he loves the cinema, he’s like a slim
comedian from in between the wars.

His smile seems bitter, so I say, “We say:
‘It’s better late than never.’” Am I wrong?
May I translate his grimly hungry grin
to mean he thinks, in time, we will be stars?

One year we studied lighting in Boothbay.
The night class had us faking moonlight bounced
from huge balloons, false dawns, and scenes eclipsed
by the intermittent lights of passing cars.

Then through our long, bright mornings-off we lay
awake, and through our wall the Soviet students
quarreled, republic to republic. Stuck,
exhausted, we weren’t able to ignore

them till we gave them our Tarkovsky. They
then had to share his last, forbidden words
and we could sleep. The work they’d brought was worlds
more serious and dark and fierce than ours,

including footage where some peasants pray
in shafts of dusty light. Our teacher mourned,
“You can’t find faces like that anymore.”
The doorman has one, though– his smiles are scars.

I wonder, briefly, where they are today.
I read one made a feature in Ukraine.
The elevator sinks, its gilt décor
a mimicry of palaces for Tzars.

Shall we be famous, feted– that cliché–
or made, like him, continually to rise
and fall on others’ errands? As if in error
he brings us, some days, to the highest floors.



with Soma Mukhopadhyay,
who has taught hundreds of autistic children
to communicate by pointing to letters
July, 2008

We learn that love and worry cannot cure.
There must be some dispassionate insistence,
some standard fixed
some distance
from which to see the slightest hint of turning.

A tiny woman in a tiny room,
she leads you, wailing, yet not quite rebelling,
to break your spell
by spelling.
She knows her love must be the love of learning.

You learn your self a letter at a time.
And all your teachers wish they’d been the one
and wonder what
she’s done
that they have not, for all their love and yearning.

How can your breakthrough be that swift and sure?
What did you understand? What do you know?
We are left stunned
and slow
to learn to see beyond her first discerning


The Jade Tree

For weeks I have been learning Photoshop.
I click and drag, and (Cut) and (Crop), with care.
On a film set we’d cry, “Lose that potted plant!”
and some kid would rush to carry it away.
The screen got (Edit)ed before the shot.
And back when I was studying Design,
all we had were X-Acto knives and glue.
So I’m keyed up by these uncanny (Tools).
I (Deselect) or (Hide) an interfering frond
or an entire hedge. (Erase to History)
and, faster than a marshall’s seal, my house is gone.

Here now on my desk but not my Desktop,
behind my Mac, behold the family bonsai:
its heavy Chinese pot, its living branches.
It’s here on a rest cure from the living room
where it gets (Pick)ed and plucked and excavated,
the predations of our son, his restless “pica”.
Its leaves, those succulent parentheses,
grow paired and look bereft when partly nibbled.
Despite its minerals, the quartz and mica,
its potting soil’s no snack for a (Grow)ing boy.
Now from a twig, three dollars, its trunk is (Thicken)ed
as a strong man’s wrist. Its inadvertent crown
is (Shape)ed by our collaboration:
by accidental falls, compulsive springs
across the room to (Snap) a leaf and eat it,
or hasty prunings when I think to give them.

When I was young I’d “lose” my hair. Whenever
I craved the feel of freedom, I’d (Cut) a lock.
I’d end up (Trim)ming everything… (Transform).
It wasn’t suicide but topiary.

Now we have lost, by choice, our wisdom teeth
and many bits of (Texture) and (Emboss)ing.
But beyond the Mac there is no (History)
in which we may (Step Back), (Restore), or (Clone)
my other crumbled teeth, your fingertip
or all his early dendrites, pruned to silence. ()

We grow in one direction: lighter. (Gain)
A jade tree stands for friendship and for money:
it propagates by (Cut)tings, not by fruit,
and flowers delicately in my mind’s eye.
The (Inner Glow) is beautiful– get out your Leica.
Apply the (Healing Brush),
the (Magic Wand).






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One Comment:

  1. The Jade Tree is genial, informative, codified. Cool, Meredith!

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