Selected Poems | Daneen Bergland

Mothering, Four Seasons


Late April
and the dogwoods still
refuse. We fever.
We burn pure
to our purpose.
The elements remain
locked in cycles.
A front is coming. It promised.


All of a yellow
my heart appled.


Once cistern, now lake,
I decant, I am care-
ful. We leave
glistening stains.
Azaleas amazed,
shiver like wet birds.


What I knew of sky
raked bright, abandoned,
I know of borrow.

Wedding Prayer

I will make myself a husband,
and rest my head
on the lion’s tongue.

With this fence I thee wed
the deer tail twitching in her bed
of blood-stained leaves.

Let this make us safe
to kiss and wake in the bright light
of science. Let us place too much

stock in our own resilience.
Let us experiment. Let us embrace
and make pets of our differences.

Dear orcas who can see all the way
inside our guts. Dear mice who kill snakes
too cold to fight. No one is safe

in nature. Let us live there together
distracted as feral bees untethered
from their keeper. Our work is better

when we’re kept. Let us be needy
and also full. A crown of kinglets
ringing the suet. Let us forget.


Call it a habit my beauty my something
I do/ you can’t help it/ a horse has a habit/ they too teeth

the moonscum off of the apple/ a tree has
the way that it grows/ so I branched and went madcap
after she told me don’t let him break the horse

in you/ I was at that age of dirty feet in the bedsheets
never standing up straight when she said it/
bike pedals bird bones goose skin and horse flesh

water in my ears and a lock of hair to suck on/
trees have a habit of baring their branches
exposing the birds like new bruises/ some girls

become nuns in a habit/ no boy ever kissed them/
staring up at the trees while their branches
brushed dust off their shoulders/ at that age the trees

whispered close your eyes to me over and over
I wished for a shoulder to cheekbone/ for treebark
marking the backs of my thighs/ the shirt doesn’t know

till it’s back in the closet how it missed the hanger/
the hours I spend willing the woods back to stillness
before I learned how to sulk I loved horses and their eyes

how they are trapped behind masks made of velvet/ how I wish
I were the straight-backed girl jumping from saddle to saddle
while hooves bullet the sawdust/ I knew him the first time

the way I know which door in my house opened by the scrape
and the sigh/ sometimes I make the sound of a pencil
not moving/ when he touched me I’d swear to be crowshadow quiet

Skinny Dip

whole moon for a halo
she flickers like an insect
shimmering on a switchblade/
feels like waiting
for the trickyfish
feels like wishing/ like giving
the middle finger/
foot fidgety for the mud suck
in a surface tension necklace
in a cold water dress/ one sinks
and her hair turns to ink/
dares the dark to blink and whispers
skinny/ whisks the mirror into glitter
with her shinwings/ flashlit flesh
glinting hint-hint/ limbs insist
the surface part its curtain
which resists

Daneen Bergland’s poems have appeared in Tahoma Literary Review, Hunger Mountain Review, The Cincinnati Review, and Alive at the Center: an Anthology of Contemporary Pacific Northwest Poets. She is a recipient of the Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship for Poetry.