The Best Value in Managed Care

Each time I visit my primary care physician,

he tries to save my Jewish soul.

He humbly suggests I ask myself

which one of us will be eternally condemned?

I suggest God has room for both of us in Heaven.


His God disapproves of my Gay Bingo t-shirt

which I have stopped wearing now that I

live in an intolerant yet friendly small southern town.

I used to study on a Quaker campus

near one of the most diverse U.S. cities.

Our discussion is one of faith, values, and trust.

He excises the dark mole from my left shoulder.


It is numb and I feel nothing.

The pathology report will be back in a week.

He’d make a great Talmudic scholar.

When he demurs as a man of Christ, I explain

I respect his wisdom and his gentle teaching.

Stitches should come out in a week;

by then we’ll know malignant or benign.

The fate of our souls will still be up in the air.


Shari Elizabeth Berk

Louisa, Virginia

June 24, 2004


On Turning 50, October 9, 2014

In the early morning of my fifth decade I reflect

upon well wishes written on my cyberspace wall

friends and family whom I dearly love and miss.

I am kept apart not simply by lack of money

nor fear of aviation across the miles but rather

impatient hostility of TSA workers that suggests to me

terrorists are truly winning.


Or at least battling personal demons has become

more problematic as I get older, more anxious

now less afraid of random acts of violence then entrenched bureaucracy

social ennui. A month before the State primary election

a young pollster calls: I have been selected from a database.

She doesn’t want to hear what I have to say

unless it’s that I have decided to put her candidates in office.


I think I crested The Hill at 33

marriage being a defining mistake in my life.

As I strongly support the rights of others to love equally

under the Law’s protection, I realize how little

I was protected from a depressed man, his angry family

my apparent failure as a partner. The Blood Moon rose

yesterday. I hang on to auspicious hope.

Shari Elizabeth Berk/Goldsboro, NCfall 5


Heidi Comes Home

Fewer than 48 hours after a pale golden German Shepherd dog

met her forever mom, quiet brown eyes cautious

with disbelief and timid trepidation

because a sweet, honest, gentle girl

doesn’t often get a second chance to prove loyalty and love

On a crisp Saturday morning

Heidi jaunts on leash to the left

obediently stealing glances at her new mom

looking for approval, acceptance, a kind smile

until an irresistible smell wafts from off to the right

tangles dog and woman into each others’ legs and lives

leads to lilting laughter, renewed belief in mutual rescue

Evening ends with a backyard romp

sniffing opportunities for adventure while the grill heats

for company dinner, the prospect of years to explore

suspended while Heidi the golden Shepherd mix

chases rabbits in her dreams

resting on an old dog bed from another poem

her terrier sister asleep at my feet

Heidi’s forever mom and I bask in the peace of days to come.

Shari Elizabeth Berk/September 24, 2014/ Goldsboro, NCheidi on bed 1


Un-Vacation Images



At Sunset Beach, the circle of life

involves using smaller fish as bait

I run across the bridge at Crow Creek

alligator and I warily disconnect gaze

Bale of turtles slips beneath surface of mossy pond

evades my capture of their souls on film


Herons alight, escape this ancient curse

I don’t understand but probably should

unease suffuses days

unable to force myself to relax

toss and fret unremembered nightmares

sweaty and chilled by daybreak


suffocating malaise of relentless awake

I wonder what the predators know


Shari Elizabeth Berk

Goldsboro, NC

August 10, 2014



The more we have, the less we know

Mom rescues discarded photos, lists,

slips of paper, from the garbage

precious to her in that indiscernible way

that gives a daughter pause

to question balance between

generation gap and dementia.

Who decides what is invaluable?

Worth keeping for an undefined posterity

we grow older, less important

every trinket more meaningless

could I light a match to material things

find myself in the ashes?


Shari Elizabeth Berk

Goldsboro, NC

August 10, 2014


Picture Purchase – at Tanger Outlets, North Myrtle Beach, SC

Beach breaths, morning coffee at eleven

brunch mixes fresh peach and granola

nightmares woke me at three

the day already too long

Swallow back tears that decry

summer sunshine clouded by deep sighs

walk the pier, shake sadness

waves follow thunderstorm

cars hurl rain from treads the next lane over

I wonder how others banish nameless pain

wander outlet malls in search

of the exact purchase to assuage emptiness

picture perfection in designer things

snapshot away from content

If I capture the correct image on my camera

will my attitude clear with the rainbow?


Shari Elizabeth Berk

July 17, 2014

Calabash, NC