Leslie Bergner graduated from Trinity College, where she studied English
literature and creative writing. She went on to write for Yale University and
several corporations and to teach high school English. She is particularly
enamored with the sestina and sonnet. Her poem “Apple Picking” won a prize from
the Connecticut Poetry Society.
The Four Seasons
Flowers like pansies with faces
squint at the sun near my mailbox
with indisputable mirth and irony.
The trees, still bare of leaves,
perform plies and tour jetes,
reach to the sky with their
branches in vernal prayer.
The forsythia roil the air
with bright madness--makes
me want to sing and shout.
At the city green,
dreamers loaf on the grass,
intoxicated by the sun,
reading, dozing, writing poetry.
Lovers lie on blankets,
bodies touching lightly,
while old men play chess
and feed the restive pigeons.
Girlfriends at a picnic table
laugh raucously, smoke
cigarettes, eat Chinese food
from plastic containers,
wave their hips to music.
A violinist, case open for
donations, plays Vivaldi.
I think I see Walt Whitman
by the fountain.
The wind flings golden leaves
across the blacktop--
a sovereign tossing coins
to a throng of beggars,
crumbling matter converted
to currency by nature,
a final shimmering.
In French they call it hiver,
one letter short of shiver.
Naked branches with witches fingers
point in every direction, howling j'accuse!
The burning bushes, round and red,
sass the season as the snow rolls in.
Like small furry mammals
with caches of acorns, we sleep.
On viewing Marc Chagall’s painting,
The Three Candles
Three candles taller than the shtetl's rooftops
glow bright in the Belarus sky. My groom
and I, larger than life, hover above the village
while acrobatic angels swoop and dive.
Townswomen wave in wonderment
from the deep red earth below. Atop a fence,
a harlequin wails on klezmer clarinet.
A flying fiddler strikes a minor key.
White peonies, flung like stars across the sky,
match my simple wedding dress.
My husband holds me tight against the cold.
Gravity has no power here.
The artist’s love keeps us from tumbling.
Originally published in Orchards Poetry Journal
On the porch sits Cleopatra the meditating cat,
an uproar of birds in her amber eyes,
poised on her haunches, ready to strike,
with no malice or awareness of self.
She pads into the kitchen with her Zen walk,
barely touching the floor, not giving away one secret.
You want to know her secrets.
You’ve been living for years with this cat,
her pink paw pads and noiseless walk.
You look for clues in her reptilian eyes.
What is she thinking? you ask yourself.
How does she know when to strike?
You’re startled by the stealth of her strikes—
they fool the birds and surprise you too. Always a secret.
She makes a fetish of bathing herself
until her coat shines like a seal, not cat.
Riddles hide in her sphinx-like eyes
and no one knows where she’ll walk.
If you got a leash and took Cleopatra walking,
the neighbors would see how striking
she looks with exquisite sunshine in her eyes.
They would talk about stealing her in secret,
reminded of the statues of Egyptian cats
they saw at the Louvre, craving such beauty for themselves.
You protect Cleopatra and yourself
by watching where you go and how you walk,
never hinting that your house has a silky black cat
who earns her keep by finding small animals to strike.
There is no bottom to the layers of secrets
echoing in her yellow eyes.
At day’s end Cleopatra gets in bed and shuts her eyes.
You join her in the mystery of nocturnal self,
of dreams that hold past lives and other secrets.
In them, you tiptoe and leap and do a slinky feline walk
and have no mercy on the creatures you strike,
waking up feeling part woman but more cat.
Originally published in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily
Ode to the cactus
A cactus doesn’t love you.
He lives in spite of you.
Some grow in spirals
like Fibonacci’s offspring.
Some have fuzz most pleasing.
One day I want to own a greenhouse
filled with these ornery plants—
big ones with Mickey Mouse ears,
petite ones from the market,
and ones with flowers
blooming on top like jaunty berets.
A cactus doesn’t love you,
but he can make you laugh.
He’s stubborn and never lets on
when his feelings are hurt,
even though inside
he’s soft and sweet as jelly.
He saves face no matter how
bad the circumstance,
waiting for rain in the desert,
He has shallow roots but stays put--
a role model, really.
I keep my cactus on the kitchen table.
He reminds me to be tough on the outside
and tender on the inside.
The sound of your voice
for my daughter
When you were born you made no sound, just looked
at me with blue eyes full of language.
Soon came your cries, high as a singing bowl,
then chirping words, surprising sentences.
I learned your distinctive intonations,
the ever-changing moods they expressed.
In time, your voice grew very like my own.
I knew if you were tired or depressed.
You are now a woman of middle age,
mobile phones, the way we communicate.
I keep mine close to get your messages
and search for tones of voice in what you text.
The technocrats grow richer and rejoice,
while I miss the sound of your precious voice.