Narrated by F.J. Bergman
Music by Fred W. Bergman
In a past life,
I was not a temple dancer,
black hair braided with beads and bells,
swaying behind veils,
who died young.
I do not remember
being a foot-soldier whom the legions
left behind when my feet froze
in useless sandals spattered
with elephant dung.
I could not have been
a Neanderthal, pale eyes wide with fear,
stumbling over the rocks on a broken ankle,
while Cro-Magnon hunters closed in,
shrieking their glee.
It is unlikely that I was
the model who spent weary days
immobile, naked in the chilly studio, waiting
for Michelangelo to notice
my sweet smile.
I was probably not
Aleister Crowley, living his iconoclastic,
tumultuous life. After all, I have acrophobia;
and despite my affinity for the Tarot, my poetry
is quite different from his.
Nor was I the first
mate of the Erebus, maddened
by lead, carefully packing the sledge
with my shaving-mug, cufflinks,
a dead man’s false teeth.
I was never anyone
or anything else or other
than I am as you see before you,
neither fish nor fowl, animal, vegetable,
or mineral, not frozen in substance
nor sublime and intangible,
not the signatures on the hemp-paper pages
of the constitution for a long-dead republic
nor an atom in the water raised to Plato’s lips.
I was not here, before.
BIO: F. J. Bergmann edits poetry for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com) and (temporarily) Star*Line (sfpoetry.com/starline.html), and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. She has competed at National Poetry Slam as a member of the Madison, WI, Urban Spoken Word team. Her mostly speculative work appears irregularly in Abyss & Apex, Analog, Asimov’s SF, and elsewhere in the alphabet. A dystopian collection of first-contact expedition reports, A Catalogue of the Further Suns, won the 2017 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook contest and the 2018 SFPA Elgin Chapbook Award.