“The Underside” by Ben Berman

Ben Berman


My friend confides in me how his wife cheated—
well, not cheated, but sent racy photos
of herself to other men—how she created

some online profile with a phony
name—Lady Falcon—and how he stumbled
upon this one day when he used her phone

to order a pizza. They’d been so stable,
he tells me, maybe they needed this breach
to save their marriage from growing stale.

In front of us, a hawk’s perched on a branch,
calmly pecking at a squirrel’s entrails.
We’re sitting side-by-side on the bench

but see different things through the tangled
crosscutting of limbs in front of us. My friend
mentions that he’ll hide some of the details

from his analyst because the man can find
subtext even when they chat about sports—
which makes me feel bad about my own feigned

attention—how my mind spirals and spurts
like a squirrel getting chased up a tree,
then scrambles to piece together the excerpts—

it’s just that I’m tired of the puppetry…
my friend says …some childhood desire…
he adds …while residing on my property—

but what an impotent word—resides
just hearing it makes me long for nude
photos of his wife. On the underside

of the branch, now—directly under
the hawk—is another squirrel, his floppy
tail pointed stiff—this must be duende,

I think—ready to spring at the slightest flap
of a wing. How should I have reacted?
my friend asks, as the squirrel fixes to flip.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012

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