Bernd Sauermann was born in Hof, Germany, in 1961 and emigrated to the U.S. In 1969. He attended Northern Arizona University where he received a B.S. in anthropology in 1983, and McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he earned an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing in 1993. Since then, he has taught at Belleville Area College in Belleville, Illinois; The Community College of Vermont in St. Alban's, Vermont; at The University of Phoenix; and he is currently a professor in the Division of Fine Arts and Humanities at Hopkinsville Community College in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. He is also the poetry editor at Whole Beast Rag, an online and print journal of poetry, art, and literature.
He’s had photographs, poems, and stories published in The McSweeney’s Book of Poets Picking Poets, McSweeney’s, Southern Indiana Review, New Orleans Review, Nimrod, The Kansas Quarterly Review of Literature, and other publications, and he has a chapbook, Diesel Generator, coming out this June with Horse Less Press.
The song, the murmur, the pleasure of tresses, the spent buds on the trees raining on us like whispered yes’s. The rush of touches being committed to memory. This distance seems so hard on a gray morning with the window open like a mouth and all this wind listening like soft breathing. Memory of a shiver, a titter of a breeze and the cool night at the foot of a mountain. This distance seems so hard on any given day, the here and now delicate as a window, imperceptible as the mountain off over there somewhere in the night. I train my ears for a forgiving phrase, recall that the color of an eye is still etched in pale blue glass, though these billion light-years distant.
Accusations then and there and the right stays right even in and out of the bed we made these decades ago. Why does a forgotten word change its clothes so easily when the wind picks up? Isn’t this a gathering of clouds? Aren’t these slippery tongues? At the slick portal of a sentence, who doesn’t harbor some small fear? Perhaps that a minute has ceased to pass, for instance, like a scar.
Duration of a pleasure, the faint halo and the phase of a waning moon. Let’s shy away from shadows and the stern gaze of mothers and fathers. Let’s toss no murmured word into the road on any given night. Look into the light of shameless diction and the stars hide behind the safe curtains of clouds. I give you luggage; you give me transport to a neighboring town in which a small scent huddles in a trembling room. No door is locked forever. No window barred from ruthless love.
Through listening to the stars. When scenting the night flowers. The deepening cobalt dusk. Somewhere off years ago a window is barred against intruders. We live our entire lives in fear of locks. So then, abandon is felt in two dimensions and a backward glance reveals two small breasts you had the audacity to show me in light of a hanged moon. Who are you now? Will you open the window? Will you take the night into your locked chest?
Glass shatters like a window through which I see a woman undress. A woman is a bullet in the drawer of an outlaw. An outlaw is a drawn-out moan overheard in passing. A man leaves town for a reason.
The smell of damp leaves in the woods at night. I hear you whisper about a change of season approaching. Yes, I say, the season of leaving arrives. Soon, a stairwell will deliver me from a single phrase. Soon, a stairwell will reduce me to a point in time. Soon, a stairwell will no longer hiss its sad threat. But then morning will offer its soft apologies. A turning point approaches. Enough, you say, and kiss me.
In this country, there is a girl from the high-rise who is murdered. Surely, that same girl was not the one I kissed in the woods. This much I’m sure of, I tell all my friends; I loved her and she loved me for all of an afternoon. Later I’m told it was all a lie. There was no girl. There was no high-rise. There was no murder. This much I’m sure of, I tell all my friends; there was an afternoon in a country where I spoke the language in the manner of a native.
Apples rot on the ground and smell like wine. A bus passes in the cold blue light of evening. On it, there are warm people going to warm places. They look warm. Someone sitting alone on a small hill notices this.
There is a field behind the girly bar. There is a girl in that field, and I am with her. Later, we explore a dark basement room. Years later I am that dark basement room itself. I open the door. I go in.
Anniversary of a day gone rarely bad. Annealed like metal in front of a crowd. The alarm takes us outside amidst the others who know nothing of ashes. A car parked beneath the high-rise remembers nothing. A sky rise remembers nothing. A party of fools under the spell of jazz remembers nothing. A red suede boot, a black skirt, and a strand of pearls remember nothing. A scar across the bridge of a nose remembers nothing. It’s nothing, I mutter, and become silent.
The mouth of the river tells us lies about the moon and wind, but I have no words to offer of my own. Two figures stand off in the distance. One is indifference and the other is regret. They chat uncomfortably about the phrases floating like sticks under the bridge. Soon, on a torrent, a paragraph spins like deceit. Why do things always come to this? The river answers this question with another. Whose language is this, anyway? Whose mouth?
Words all the time and a tricky walk down a rain-slick sidewalk; a man looking for a towel, hot lather, and a razor. He looks for hair at the temple, the faint hair on the nape of a neck, an angel’s sweat on the head of pin. Every man is a failed saint, and every angel is a shock of damp hair on the bathroom floor. So the season of rain and bracing wind bring scissors, warm water, a window, slightly open. The season of leaving arrives. The curtains part slightly. They part wider.
It Tastes Like Silence
How long has one word remained unsaid hunching in the tree line like a mute wolf? How long has a screen door ceased to swing on the slightest breeze? How long has this sentence been unhinged? I come to this not easily: there is weather and there are storms that topple oaks not hung with chains of unsaid rumors. I mouth the word. I try it out. I try it out and it tastes like silence. It tastes like the silence after the wolves stop howling.
The Cause of Death
When the old dream resurfaces like a cadaver, you will be my grappling hook to toss out over the thing, to pull it back for a trip to the morgue. The results of the autopsy go without saying. But where will I go when my energy dissipates? Where will I go when my eyes no longer look at the surface of things but drip from my skull like eggs ready for the skillet? Oh, if only to enjoy a breakfast of shrimp wrapped in bacon to be eaten in the light blue of a winter labeled “winter,” to enjoy a cup of coffee labeled “coffee,” a feast of nothing not labeled “farewell.”
A new year brings rain to distant states of mind. Finally, the weather has horribly broken. Finally, a curtain has parted to reveal a curtain. Night falls like ashes and I mean this in the best possible way. Looking out across the lake, invention attends the sunset. I have brought myself here for no-good reasons. A woman has a basket of food and wine. Slowly, she comes toward me. I offer her my dark balcony. I offer her my steep stairs. Slowly, she climbs them. Another curtain parts, slowly revealing a curtain.
The View from Here
A dew rag and a dropped shot of gin. A dew rag and a late-night diner. A dew rag and a missed chance at sleep, a dream lopped off like a leg gone bad. The farther away from the castle the better. I call you there, tell you I am existing, here and now, in a moat.
An X appears on the head of a boy who will whisper. A Y appears on the head of a girl who will listen. This is the alphabet of heat. A word is formed on the tongue of the boy. That word is woven into the clear sentence of a summer day. I shout this out at the top of my lungs.
Possibility surfaces like an invented word. I am old; you are young. This is the yellow lie on the floor, the lie that was told with that knowing look and a skewed smile. There is chocolate on the pillow, and hope has turned back the covers and winks. Today, rich food will taste like doubloons and my chest will open like a trunk full of gold.
On a hillside in the cool leaves of the first fall night. I remember . . . I will never . . . Right now . . . And then years push between us like a throbbing tooth. I remember clothes, a glance, perhaps an eyelash in a dimly lit stairwell. You remember tears falling like wet syllables. All the light that’s ever washed over your streaked face now washes over mine and then buries itself deep in my palms. Galaxies keep spinning themselves out into the space between unbearable sighs. My ears burn with starlight.