To my daughter on the other side of the world

All night you were in my dreams again,
dreams that hurt. No mail delivery was possible
and your hair was falling out in thick bright tufts.
Rebels were fighting in the wet streets, over
frayed velvet jeans and cans of synthetic food,
near-protein with the hideous sticky texture
of rice pudding. It was manufactured in huge
underground chambers where squirming
invertebrates powered the electrical generators,
heaving against the darkness. The luminosity,
while variable as weather, was still a comfort.
Anyone with proper identification was given
crackling packets of vitamins, as well as orange
umbrellas to ward off fog, radiation sickness,
and roving flocks of noisy, violent germs.

Everyone asks after you and wonders if
you are wistful in wartime for news of America
and the black monolith of its politics. Let me
remind you that the little ones missed you,
given the chance. No matter that you were
marred so often, depressed and vulnerable.
At least you bypassed the endless underwater
corridors of religion, where, while sleepwalking,
I so frequently lose my temper or my way.
Stars still prickle in the night sky, quivering in
the ethereal wake of a concave moon. The family
extends its greetings like an embroidered napkin
offered to a starving body in lieu of sustenance.

In winter there are moments when I
feel a pending change, something liquid and
absolutely romantic on the verge of the midwest.
Susceptible under a mountain of snow, I hanker
for more stormy passions, erotic afternoons
as seen on television late at night. Imagine that
I have no immunity to the glowing movement
that holds the heart’s full-blown fantasies, half
a bottle of bourbon and a cat in my lap. But by
two o’clock in the morning I usually remember
I am married. Your father says hello.

©2003 F.J. Bergmann

"To my daughter on the other side of the world" appeared in the Wis. Academy Review Vol. 50 #3

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