“Why I Joined the Cult” by Paola Bruni

Paola Bruni


I was twenty-three, married, pregnant.
My husband said, Get rid of it,
in the same smoky breath: take out the trash,
what’s for dinner.
Already, that fetal gem inside me—
a golden yolk I’d defend beyond reason.
Is that mothering? I have to ask. Because my baby
vacated, spared itself.
Later, when I discovered letters to lovers
inside his faux leather briefcase—
That’s when I met the Guru.
His white fingers traced my jaw
with a thunderous tenderness,
as if I was the first egg on the planet.
No, not an egg, something to be carved, slit open,
scythed like wheat.
He said, You are God. And I believed.
With a look, he did his humble work of discovery.
No. It was more a routing, an exhuming.
Don’t we all want to be raised from the dead?
His chant, Allah, Buddha, Siva, Om whispered
into my ears, my palms, into each crack,
was a flowering—mind blowing east,
thoughts dashed against a divine threshold.
No, it wasn’t a flowering. It was a fingering,
a hunting. He the lover, hunter, mother—succor,
babe to a teat. My anguish sprouted carnelian wings,
soared into the heavens.
Allah, Buddha, Siva, Om. Whatever desperate
grief I held turned to longing
for his presence. Transcendent amnesia, a balm
for the dark lies ripening inside me.

from Rattle #70, Winter 2020


Paola Bruni: “The truth is, my poetry is a kind of confessional. What I write is often about secrets I’ve held, emotions I judge, ideas I just can’t talk about. But on the page, all is allowed. What a blessing!”

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