Delmarva Review: The Man Who had Luck By David Bergman


The Man Who had Luck
By David Bergman

He wasn’t a survivor, just someone who hadn’t died,
and only then because of his stealth and stubbornness.

And luck. How much luck he’d rather not say
but others, far greedier and more scheming,

did not live to see the end of the war.
On his Atlantic crossing, he took

another chance and wed a fellow prisoner
for the simple reason that he knew

he’d never find words to explain
what he had gone through or live

with any woman who hadn’t herself
done whatever it took not to die.

Theirs was a marriage of many silences
in which they shared without a word

the otherwise unspeakable.
They passed the unsaid between them

like a worm-holed leaf of cabbage,
that would save them from the language-hunger

they feared would be their end.
It was not an unhappy union.

She was as discrete and bold as he was,
Luck stayed with them. It turned out Auschwitz

was better than an MBA from Harvard
for learning how to squeeze a profit

out of the least liquid investment or find
opportunity in the most unpromising place.

They grew fat and rich
and, with difficulty, had a daughter

whose hair was spun from gold, whose laughter
tinkled like silver shekels, and whose skin

was as smooth as an unmarked page of the Torah.
She grew up with a daring that delighted him,

a willingness to try almost anything.
She married several husbands

on the off chance one would be a winner.
Several pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

Still, she kept trying. And when he got the call
from Vegas asking if he would cover her debts,

he did not hesitate a moment to wire
everything the mobster asked for.

Nor did he call in his chips when she failed
at first to learn the intricate quadrille

of the twelve-step programs
meant to curb her appetite for chance.

He figured that his daughter had inherited this addiction
from her parents who had both gambled with death

and won or at least fought it to a temporary draw,
for now his wife was too sick to leave her bed.

Gambling was a recessive trait that in
certain environments gave Darwinian advantage.

What had placed him among the fittest,
condemned his daughter to the mentally ill.

But he too knew the lethal joy of beating the odds,
and the absolute indifference to defeat,

how icy nerves can set your skin on fire,
and how no loss is too great as long

as it leaves you standing. He remained
hopeful even on his last visit

to the quiet sanatorium she liked best
for its high-stakes air of intervention.

Her bone-colored face had been reduced
to a nearly blank cube on which her eyes,

once so bright and challenging, stared out—
two small dots that always came up craps.

Maryland poet David Bergman is the author of four books of poetry, the latest Fortunate Light (Midsummer’s Night, 2015). He won the George Elliston Poetry Prize for Cracking the Code (Ohio State). His latest book is a critical study, The Poetry of Disturbance (Cambridge 2016).

“The Man Who Had Luck” was published in the 2017 edition of Delmarva Review, a literary journal discovering outstanding new poetry, fiction and nonfiction from writers within the region and beyond. In it’s tenth year, the nonprofit Review is supported by individual contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. For information and copies, please visit:

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