Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

The Art of Conversation


The college girl outside the coffee shop has just burst
into laughter so wracking
that it might be she’s coughing, having lost
her balance between breathing and speech,
a bottle-blonde dinghy tossed off-course
on a vast and hilarious sea.
She’s on the phone. I imagine
the vacuous chatter between friends at nineteen,
or her father delivering a good one-liner—
he who has long known the exploded diagram of her
humor by memory and how to fill
the yawn the last of her laughter brings.
Whatever is transmitted through still air
or static doesn’t matter. I believe her
connection is clear, though her mouth moves
soundless beyond the window-glass,
though the dark roots betray
her hair’s true hue and dusk
consumes the afternoon before
we leave to find our ways. I flinch
at backfire blasting from a gray Chevrolet,
uncover green grass shoveling snow
up the edge of the driveway, spy a charm of finches
flashing gold between the boughs of pines.
Collection notes and doctor’s bills
arrive sometimes with friendly letters,
or televisions blare the air to tatters, and I
speak to no one for days.

Daniel Berkner teaches in the Department of English at the University of Idaho in Moscow, and has recently completed his first book-length poetry manuscript. He plans to get a good night's rest.