Sunday Apr 14

Newberry Poetry Jeff Newberry tells stories in poetry and prose. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of online and print journals, including Brevity, North American Review, and Sweet. His most recent book, a collaboration with the poet Justin Evans entitled Cross Country, will be published by WordTech Editions in 2019. The poetry editor of the online journal Green Briar Review, he teaches in the Writing and Communication Program at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia, where he lives with his wife, Heather; his children, Ben and Madi; and their newest edition, Sally the wonder dog. Find him online here

Conceptions of Heaven


I have dreams of an isolated cabin
by a pond where fish dimple the water.
Mountains in the distance. A faded
wooden dock, where I stand to behold
the silence. I drink coffee and never
tire. All day, alone. At night, no dreams.


My family has gathered in my dreams.
A long table lined with food. A cabin
filled with joyous song. The party never
seems to end. I drink wine and water.
My father smiles, and the child I hold
will not age to a hazy memory, faded.


My Baptist childhood said I was fated
to float on a cloud with a harp, a dream
the preacher taught me how to hold
in my mind, cupped like match in a cabin,
a place so dry it could go up. No water
can douse the fire, which burns forever.


The soul emerges into some gray never.
No color. No shadows. Just a gray, faded
landscape. No horizon. No fire. No water.
Nothing to sense, so, then, nothing to dream.
Here, there’s no land to build your cabin.
Here, you’ve only got forever to behold.


My dead father is teaching me a song. He holds
a guitar, seeking the right chords. I’ve never
seen him play. Once, we stayed in a cabin
to fish for a week and didn’t speak. I waded
out to avoid him, ignored him to catch bream.
Now, he sings in a voice like river water.


If the streets are paved with gold, is the water
liquid silver? If the harps all the angels hold
never cease, wouldn’t I want to just scream?
The Gates of Heaven are locked. No one’s ever
scaled the walls to break in. I must be fated
to live eternity alone, isolated in some cabin.


Some nights, I dream of endless water.
Other nights, I behold cabin after empty cabin.
My mind is empty as slate. The images fade.