The Shine Journal

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Three byJeff Bernstein



The Mailbox Poems

I. Beyond the Mailbox

This afternoon, nothing
stirs, save a vernal stream
convinced it is April instead
of November.  Lone blue jay
balances on a branch.  A few
scraggler leaves shiver
in the bare wind,
refuse to give in
like heartsick, jilted
lovers, that sort of thing.

II. Today Inside the Mailbox

the steel shudders, rings
straight through to the Arctic
Circle.  If no chill shatters,
then there is a tiny compartment
of silence, like the inner chamber
of a broken music box.  Even
a letter deposited
by loyal rural carrier
cannot displace the quiet.
It merely slinks inside,
occupies the whole
rectangle, leaves nothing
but an earthbound black hole
on this winter day.

III. The Mailbox is Looking Tough

This morning the mailbox
looks the butt-end of last
night’s barroom brawl
or did an errant plow flying
down our road sideswipe
it in February half-light?
I had hoped its cement
bed, pressure-treated
six by six post, galvanized
steel housing, super-
cladded, Ace Special,
would protect it
but its days seem
numbered just like ours.


At the Windsor County Fair

What wasn’t there?
Carny rides,
fried dough,
that stench of grease
from the booth serving
onion blossoms,
overflowing their white paper boats,
games of chance
you couldn’t possibly win.

What was there?
A nostalgic bouquet
of new-mown hay, everywhere;
hand-sewn quilts,
home-made pickles and fudge,
miniature horses, pygmy goats
and dwarf rabbits.
A nine year old
girl clutching my hand
tightly, like a child holding
the bridle on her first pony ride.

Why haven’t we been back
        in eight years?
It rained some years,
children get older
very fast.
Some summers
the gates simply
stayed closed,
one year we went to Paris.

Why are we going this year?
Next year, the nine year old
will be in college.
We are all dying
at varying rates,
yet most of us
don’t know it.
Do we really need
a reason?


You Even Surprise Yourself

Before, you never would have imagined yourself being a regular visitor to a cemetery, let alone a little one tucked between hospital, affordable housing project, university and two-horse strip mall with sub shop, spa, groceries, lottery tickets that sort of thing.  Sometimes you look really hard and the air is still and you can’t feel anything.  Once there was an ant carrying a blade of grass tracing the raised lettering in the recessed gravestone, marking the “Bernstein” with special grace.  Today, you found yourself making the right angle between stone and fading sun behind the snow clouds building to the south.  Somehow frozen in that small constellation, you could back up but you could not change the basic configuration and you could not leave.  Other days, you see him in the treetops, a warm wind, the rustle of fall leaves, flowers on the shrubs.  Nearly the thirtieth month and you have stopped counting how many times you’ve been there.

BIO! A lifelong New Englander, renewable energy lawyer and writer, Jeff Bernstein divides his time between Boston and Central Vermont.  His chapbook, "Interior Music" was published by FootHills Publishing last year.  Recent poems have appeared in The Aurorean, Ballard Street Poetry Journal, Hobble Creek Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, Miller’s Pond Poetry Review, Tipton Poetry Journal and The Oral Tradition. His poem “A Short Guide to the Proper Treatment of Maryland Blue Crabs” was a semi-finalist in the Naugatuck River Review 2009-2010 Narrative Poetry Contest.  Jeff’s writer’s blog is


For The Mailbox Poems: A continuing meditation on the mailbox across the road from my study window and the very smallest things.

For At the Windsor County Fair, a modest attempt to freeze time a la Wallace Stegner being a writer because it is the closest a human being can come to be freezing time.

For You Even Surprise Yourself, a prose poem reverie on a very strange sense of place.

Click the pics to meet the members!


Editor: Pamela Tyree Griffin

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