FOCUS: Love letter to Charleston


Editor’s Note:  With all of the political back and forth with the approaching Tuesday election, we thought it would be good to start off the day with a poem by Derek Berry as part of our monthly Palmetto Poem series coordinated by poet laureate Marjory Wentworth.

By Derek Berry, special to Charleston Currents

Charleston’s got a spine worthy of worship.
Her teeth are corner-stores, crooked
and jammed. A fluorescent light is buried in her throat
beckoning us down from second-story porches.
She wants us to hold her hand,
to slip into something less comfortable,
a cotton shawl in the sultry shudder of summer night.
There is beauty in how she undresses
us with her humid tongue, how we return
to childlike abandon in her mouth.

But we are a city who knows
how to weather the storm.
We reach into the Heavens like church steeples
and stand atop parking garages
watching the people like specks of dust.
It rains so hard here
even the weather vanes rust.

We are a city of gravediggers
unearthing each others’ bones.
Our hands have become so dirt-honeyed.
Charleston, you sweet lover,
do you even know my name?
Charleston, the streets where shame
dissipates like ocean breeze , where every sneeze
is a swan song calling us home.

Bless her belly button, we all started there and drifted
along new tributaries
until we lay naked on the shore.
Bless the secret kiss of jazz
slithering over garden gates.
Bless the accidental baptisms,
the holiness of wet socks.
Bless the graveyards, the reminder
of our soon deaths.
Bless the bodies and the stories
they hold like deep breaths.

Listen to the exhale, tell me
this does not remind you of the most beautiful haunting,
an exorcism of everything we pretend to believe.

16-1107-berryDerek Berry is a poet and novelist living in Charleston, S.C. His first novel “Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County” was released in 2016 with PRA Publishing. He curates a poetry series called The Unspoken Word. 



  1. Bud Ferillo says:

    Brilliant, a breath of fresh air, a message of pride in the blessing of the heart shaped
    peninsula we call home. Bud Ferillo/

  2. Mary Baker Stevens says:

    Yes and yes. How did you know? Thank you, Derek Berry. Mary Baker Stevens