November 18, 2014

Jacqueline Berger


A woman in a poem wants to be raped
to have the third child
she and her husband have both agreed
they can’t handle or afford.
Doesn’t fantasize more money or help
but force, because we’re all sick
of our ledgers, pros to one side
cons to the other,
so being slammed against a wall,
having the wishbone of her legs pried apart,
though the poet doesn’t speak of this,
the strain of muscles that know
they’re going to lose, being slammed
has in our rational lives an appeal. 
We hire out our wild,
dress him in black, cram
his head into a ski mask,
who wraps a handful of our hair
in his fist, drives us to our knees.

We fondle the details,
infinite losses a body suffers—
aneurism, embolism. How many hours
or days unconscious before death
slips his gloved hand
over the mouth and nose,
ushers one in the dark
to her seat?
Easier to talk about
the leak than the plug,
what we didn’t intend to lose
and not how we wanted
to be filled. 

A friend around the table
tells a story: a woman
with a vicious desire—
coming made her angry—
died an hour after.
Odd word, stroke, the tenderness
of a hand running its length
over a surface. The opposite
of strike, a field of flaming poppies
rising on a cheek.

No one wants to die,
but no one wants to live forever,
so how not love the thief
who favors us with the end?
We don’t know our lives
face to face but from behind.
From a distance,
shape and meaning.
In the middle, the picture pulses,
pinwheels of color.
We’re showered, struck
and dumbstruck.

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014

[download audio]


Jacqueline Berger: “It’s kind of exciting, kind of shameful, the feeling we get looking at horrible images, so the theory of ruin porn goes. But expand the definition of arousal, and the pornographic becomes the poetic. We read poetry to be lured from the daily hypnosis by the startle of lyric. As for ruin—loss, grief in its infinite shadings—there’s nothing shameful about being compelled by that which we can’t avoid.” (website)

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