The Rainbow’s End #2

Debbie Berk: the story of life

Short biography:

The daughter of an abusive, alcoholic father Debbie Berk was born in Ohio in 1969 as the oldest of five children. She married in 1992, gave birth in 1993 and 1996. She has two grown step-sons and two step grandchildren. She’s had a lifelong battle with depression and has been writing since childhood. Her writing is a way of coping with the effects of the physical, mental and sexual abuse she endured as a child and throughout her teen years as well as her struggles with depression, anxiety and with the death of her father in May of 2008.

She was first published in 1993 and has appeared in a hand full of other publications since but didn’t send a lot of work out over the years and decided to self publish with the help of a program affiliated with amazon.com, createspace.com. In January 2008 she founded The Stray Branch, a literary publication for poetry, fiction, artwork and photography, online and in print. In December 2008 she published her first book of poems and writings, ‘In The Shadow Of A Heartbeat, Letters To Your Ghost’, written after the death of her father. Her second book followed in February 2009, ‘Speak‘: a collection of 39 poems that speak bluntly and honestly about the human condition known as existence. These poems speak on subjects such as grief, loss, addiction, survival and depression to name a few.

Music was and still is her escape, writing, her salvation. She also has an interest in photography. All the banners, images, animations on her site, unless otherwise noted are her creations.


Five essential questions:

1) You’re a fulltime mother and step-grandmother who works and writes regularly poetry, publishes and combines this all with an online and printed magazine. What keeps you motivated?

I am motivated by the idea that I am more than a wife, a mother. That I am still an individual with dreams and goals. I am driven by the desire to accomplish the goals I set for myself. And by accomplishment I don’t necessarily mean success, monetary gain or popularity. Even if I fail I can say I tried, I did what I set out to do and that is the accomplishment. In my opinion true failure is in the lack of effort, of not trying at all. My passion for writing, for poetry, for self expression drives me.

 

 

2) What was your biggest influence: reading other poets or life?

Life

 

 

3) What catalyzed the start of publishing your online journal and your books? What made you decide to start the process? Why did you opt to self publish (instead of e.g. small press)?

I am mostly a private person and while I want my work out there, to be read, I don’t like being in the spotlight. I mainly chose self publishing so that I could maintain total control of my work and to maintain artistic freedom to produce and publish what I want when I want to, plus I wanted to be in print in this lifetime. I’ve always wanted to be published but over time it became less important as to how I was published but that I was published at all. As for The Stray Branch, I’ve always wanted to have my own publication where I could offer other poets, who struggle like myself to find a market, for their work a place to display their talents without all the formal and rigid restraints and rules of some other publications.

 

 

4) A more personal question, as I am very attracted to your writing and recognize the remark of the darkness of your work versus the reality of life on your site … Do you think life is really that dark or the perception of the author versus reader play a more important role?

Many say my writing is dark, maybe so but mostly I say it is simply honest, real, from the heart, from my life experiences. So yes, maybe it is dark, however pretty poetry is not for me. My work most always reflects what I am feeling, thinking or going through at the time it is written. Reality can at times be very dark and for me my writings and graphic art/photo manipulations are my way of exercising my demons in a constructive, creative way. Each piece is in some way a piece or a reflection of some part of me. I am drawn by nature to the darker side of things, to the rawness and brutal reality of truths that exist within human emotion and the wisdom of life experience, to the wounds, the tragedies, the flaws, the mistakes and the scars that give us substance, depth, strength and the beauty of being a survivor, knowing our own truths, unashamed and unapologetic of who we are and from where we’ve come. I write what is real to me and leave it up to the reader to develop their own perception of the piece, how it relates to them.

 

 

5) Who are your favorite poets and authors, which works do you adore, what’s your favorite quote?

Favorite poets: Edgar Allan Poe, William Butler Yeats, Edgar Lee Masters, Anne Sexton, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath and Javan.
Favorite author: Stephen King
Favorite book that I’ve read recently: The Crimson Petal And The White by Michel Faber
Favorite Quote: “To thine own self be true” by Shakespeare

 

 

Poems

Honesty

Eyes mirror truth
unaware of their betrayal
in the honest reflection
of a human moment
when we discover ourselves real
among pretense

7/3/04 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

Conception

If not for these bones that frame me, steady me
then surely I would fall, sink…deep into the sagging flesh
flowing loosely as wasted ink to dry as an unformed thought
never to live beyond a whisper of the mind…

2006 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

Butterfly

Beauty is but a brief glimpse
into the existence of perfection
within mirror’s youth
lost to the years
that follow in shadow
yet only time can sustain truth
beyond its reflection

2009 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

Lovers And Strangers

We fumble through the chill
of night’s silence,
trace the strangeness of skin
‘til it becomes familiar again,
‘til we remember the words,
find our way back
to the warmth
of something that resembles love…

6/5/09 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

Dead Quiet

Silence mocking my sorrow
as darkness deepens the void
and the words form only shadows
in the fog of my sullen mind

8/17/09 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

Speak

The words fall empty and my thoughts stay haunted
rising in the mist of this human shadow forming, following
ghost like, screaming echoes like a final sigh
whispering up through the throat of sound as it dies….

8/17/09 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

Life Support

Your heart beats, minutes…
…recorded by a machine,
through a tube of plastic lungs you breath
and somewhere between this life
and the beyond you dream……

8/17/09 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

Alone

Darkness falls like a widow’s veil,
shadows linger where mourners dwell
a tear……

Drops……

……shatters the silence
like a whisper of some long kept secret
buried now in the cold distant ground
as still as the dead,
as loud as the sound of grief,
Sharp and fading like the memory of warm skin,
echoing like the scream held in the breath of my heart,
that ghostly haze of your eyes……,
of dreams lost to the depths of endless night
and hours that collect like words
silent beyond the reach of my lips

No voice can touch you now
as sleep moves you beyond this world,
the sky, the clouds,
my arms……

6/22/09 Debbie Berk

 

 

After Loss, The Return To Normalcy
(excerpt from In The Shadow Of A Heartbeat, Letters To Your Ghost)

Sound…echoing through tunnels
of some strange, distant world
far removed from the one in me
Untouchable…
Stitched tightly within my alien skin
ripped at the seams of raw, naked sorrow
that continues…Oozing like puss from
the wound of a festering infection
scabbed over then is torn again by
a shadow pain,
the invisible noise
Silent beyond the scream
of words
All foreign in their inability to define
this fevered ache of loss
and the depths of its complexities,
To make sense of confusion
as I babble to myself,
mumble in the dark of a burning sun
Sentences of a forgotten language…

5/11/08 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

The Thorn Within My Heart
(excerpt from Speak)

I pierced my own heart
with the thorn of a rose
Plucked from your
funeral bouquet
Stuck it in deep
Dug out the insides
and scribed in blood
A letter to your ghost
Signed it with a tear
then stitched up the wound
with a jagged thread
Sealing you…
…Forever
within the scar

12/31/08 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

The Inside Out Man
(excerpt from Speak)

*Written about father, his final hours and watching him pass on…

A horrible sight
It was……
Quite a shock
as he was
hardly recognizable
as the man
I remember
instead he seemed
more of a stranger,
In fact, he was*
almost beast-like with
familiar features
And it pained
my heart deeply
as I watched
this process
unfold,
this transformation
of man
Into……
this other worldly
Creature,……This human
……Being
no longer of this earth
And perhaps
no longer even man
but a mere manifestation
Of……
The hard years spent
……in darkness
Of mental instability,
Of addiction,
self torture
and despair
That bore in his shadow
A monster……
That fed on his frailty,
that devoured him
And was now desperately
trying to digest him
Outside its own skin
And this……
……painted in my mind
The portrait
Of man,……
Turned inside out
Escaping to the return
Of his birth
at last breath…

12/18/08 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

Existence Within The Ghost

A shadow in yesterday’s clothes,
haunted within these bones
of slow motion moving through hours
that cling to my skin
like dying clocks reaching
with broken hands
unable to cover deep wounds,
keep parts from spilling out
while numbers hang like ghosts
in a calendar of days that read
like my obituary

4/9/09 Debbie Berk

 

 

The Ghosts My Father Saw

Always the curious child,
frightened and yet fascinated by the mystery of you
I remember the many times
I crept into empty rooms that held only you,
overheard conversations with yourself
that caused me to wonder, worry about your sanity
yet in my innocence I reasoned away the nagging questions,
was often happy to play along as you made it a game
of hiding from the voices,
the entities that hunted you
inside and outside our windows, doors and walls
that only you could see, only you could hear
At times I even felt jealous,
wishing I could hear them, see them too
Oh how I tried but I didn’t have eyes, ears like you I guess,
couldn’t see, hear the ghosts that visited only you in the dark places
of your torment, lost to the shadows of your broken mind
that left within me a scar of jagged uncertainty,
a reality sketchy at the edges of your imaginary world

5/21/09 © Debbie Berk

 

 

Existence Is…(When It’s All Gone To The Dogs)

It’s the nothing days and the endless nights,
the hours that crawl, the tossing and turning,
the heavy eyes needing yet refusing sleep

It’s the darkness and how even the moon seems to weep
It’s the silence, the loneliness that leaves me cold

And It’s the annoyance of the dog who lays, happy at my feet,
shakes an otherwise quiet bed by scratching, licking his balls
then coming up for a kiss, tail wagging, wanting out for a piss

And then it’s the passing by of mirrors on the way to the door
exposing a reflection growing old that makes me question existence,
the how, the why, when did it all come to this?

It’s the overwhelming emotion that comes over me, the sorrow that
leaves me empty, believing that as annoying as he often is
this dog is truly my only friend

It’s the moments later, back in my bed when the tears come as I pat his head,
and silently pray for the mercy of death……

7/1/09 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

Loss

……like a wrinkle of regret
folded deep into the hours
of fate’s merciless clock……
……faceless and aged
beyond grace,
where breath is like
the blink of a heartbeat
of minutes passing,
forever lost to the shadows
that linger……
in the heart of the matter
thick like sorrow,
like the words
that could never live
beyond a feeling,
or a thought
fading……
coward like
within the ghosts of tongues
as they fail to speak
beyond the fear
of knowing themselves
OUTLOUD,
dark and hidden
like a secret religion,
like redemption that burns
in the light
……like truths that remain
the godless whisper
of a silent prayer
to bless the dead

8/08/09 ©Debbie Berk

 

 

Note from the author: a life to live

No matter what my duties in life are or have been or will be I will always keep a journal and pen somewhere and will make the time to stay true to my calling. It is a struggle at times as you try to juggle many things, most of which take priority but you can’t give up your dreams. I believe you have to remain your own person, keep something for yourself. The day will come when the children will be grown, retirement will come, your duties will be fulfilled and then what do you have? I feel it would be completely devastating to live your final years looking back in regret.

I believe you should always take time to laugh, to never take yourself too seriously and that arrogance is the ugliest of all traits.

Website
Stray Branches www.straybranches.com

Books
Speak
www.createspace.com/3373259
In The Shadow Of A Heartbeat, Letters To Your Ghost www.createspace.com/3354118

The Stray Branch, A Literary Publication www.thestraybranch.org
Issue #4 Fall/Winter 2009 www.createspace.com/3387942 also available on amazon.com

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