The Reservoir

By Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge b. 1947 Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

The reservoir is trying to freeze over
with an expanding map shaped like an angel
Separated lovers on a coast keep walking
toward each other. Low sun reddens
their faces without heat

They are weary of always moving
so seldom touching, but never think
to move inland, massive and stable
Imagoes hatched on thin ice, it’s
their illusion membranes are brighter
than occluded flesh of interiors

Membranes have the density
of an edge, and edges violent as lava


All day she walked across the tundra
He began to drive away obliquely
at exactly her speed, so she altered
her angle, aiming above him, as in a current

He departed in a zone that solidified
at his whim, so she reached for his hand
Land cracked with their weight. He seemed
to reach toward her, a hand like paper
twisted and folded over, only a surface
with wan modulations, like a map


Then she delicately stepped out
toward the edge, tenuous as a leaf
as if waiting for a letter
but it froze too swiftly before her
At dusk his voice broke her concentration
She turned, vexed, and saw he had not spoken.

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, "The Reservoir" from I Love Artists. Copyright © 2006 by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge.  Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.

Source: I Love Artists (University of California Press, 2006)

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Poet Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge b. 1947

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Relationships, Love, Men & Women, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Arts & Sciences, Sciences, Realistic & Complicated

 Mei-Mei  Berssenbrugge


Berssenbrugge was born in Beijing, the daughter of a Chinese mother and an American father who was the son of Dutch immigrants. Her mother was a mathematician, and her maternal grandmother received a college education in prerevolutionary China. Her father was employed at the American Embassy in Chungking, and later pursued Far Eastern studies at Harvard University. Her family moved to the United States when she was a year old. . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Men & Women, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Arts & Sciences, Sciences, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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