Morning in West Virginia


By Bryce Berkowitz

I can imagine living a whole life
in my hometown, in Illinois—
on the dock with my father
peeling back the layers of our secrets
until the last remains of orange light
burns between the boughs of the pines,
and the dark sky spills out of the clouds,
and we head inside to the wood stove—
this place, where, at sixteen, in a used Ford,
I jumped the hills on my way to school,
where, at twenty-one, I fired a bullet
through a gallon of milk,
and my father said, “That’s what it does
to someone’s heart.”

I can imagine how different I’d be
if I stayed behind to start each day
barefoot in the morning light,
shuffling over hardwood,
in my father’s footsteps,
from the bed to the coffee pot,
in a home that could’ve been mine,
had I chosen this life that never happened.

And to think that now, if I’d chosen differently,
that life could’ve carried me
from this lonely, gray morning
in a basement apartment in West Virginia
under the coal-fire sky of autumn—
with Subarus puttering up mountain passes,
and tired students hunched beneath book bags,
walking through a doorway as if into a dream
that hasn’t yet materialized—
while under the streetlights on the bridge, a man,
who could be my father, is walking away from me
with a boy, who is sleeping, slung on his back.

Bryce Berkowitz’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets, The Sewanee Review, Ninth Letter, Third Coast, Passages North, The Pinch, Sugar House Review, Hobart, Barrow Street, Permafrost, Salt Hill, Bayou Magazine, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Laurel Review, Pembroke Magazine, Appalachian Heritage, and other publications.