At the Longest Red Light on Telegraph Avenue

A man in the blue sedan next to me
sweeps the air with his hands,
exactly conducting the Dvorjak on my CD.

Windows up, he can’t hear and, muscled,
dreadlocked, isn’t the type anyway,
but he adagios his arms, raising violins.

Left, right, left, rows them to a slow fever,
Gesturing to the guy beside him, unaware
a baffling channel’s opened between us.

Fleet undulation of fingers calls in
clarinets. Oh, virtuosity in his hands.
Now flute. Palms forward, then a flurry,

molto vivace, and we shift into the allegro.
His passenger thinks he’s talking to him,
doesn’t see he’s tuned to me,

middle-aged woman in a grey Subaru.
The full O of the moon hangs over
three neon Os in the Whole Foods sign.

Light turns green, I race to keep up.
He prestos. Left hand strokes final chords
in closure. God, I love this man.

He grips the wheel, turns to the freeway.
I shiver, brake. No one beside me now
but a BMW gunning to cut in front of me.


Party of One

You came alone?
Yes, solitary me, and an hour late.
She led to an empty patio where a canopy
of pink mimosa littered the buffet with silky wisps:
souvlaki for thirty, still skewered, garlic prawns
bug-eyed with the shock of fresh air.
Twenty minutes ticked by and I understood
no one else would show up.

We met in trapeze class,
a converted warehouse in south Berkeley.
Dangled together, arm and leg at nine a.m.
I was a sorry bird, only flutter and fear.
Not much of a life, single, new to California,
trying to find my people.

Her husband turned out to be the VW dealer
on Gilman who overpriced my new clutch.
We’d traded furious words.
She introduced us, he blank as a wintery beach,
no memory of what scraped it clean.

On her elegant table little blue flags
topped cheese biscuits like they’d sailed out
from the oven only to wash up here.

I flailed at conversation, mimicked enthusiasm,
the sole audience in the theater opening night,
clapping too loud while I plotted flight.

Years later I still wince: how unable I was
to bear their disaster with them.
All I could think: What did everyone else know?
Lone car on the freeway, radio off, I failed
to hear the warning, drove headlong to the shore.




Beverly Burch’s fiction and poetry have appeared in New England Review, North American Review, Willow Springs, Tinderbox and Poetry Northwest. Her second poetry collection, How A Mirage Works, won the Sixteen Rivers Press competition and was a finalist for the Audre Lorde Award. Her first, Sweet to Burn, won the Gival Poetry Prize and a Lambda Literary Award. Her She is a psychotherapist in Berkeley.