“Women with Men” by Jacqueline Berger

Jacqueline Berger


Walking one evening 
with my husband in the park,
we hear moaning from the bathroom—
a girl on her knees 
clutching the toilet, 
a guy fucking her from behind.
Should we call the police?
Or yell to see if she needs help?
According to my husband
they’re just kids too drunk 
to care about the public 
setting of their sex. 

True, we didn’t see her struggle.
Do nothing, keep walking,
the cinderblocks darkening behind us.
A dozen years ago,
but I think of her sometimes. 

Girl on her knees, 
now nearing thirty,
does she remember 
that night, or is it lost
in a blur of bad
or semi-bad, or only messy
attempts at love?
Maybe she was dragged 
from the path 
and what looked like lack 
of struggle was betrayal,
her voice on mute and her body,
what could she do but abandon it?
My own voice
buried like a small animal
under a tree another animal
digs up and devours. 

from Rattle #68, Summer 2020


Jacqueline Berger: “I was riding my bike in Golden Gate Park, not far from where the event in this poem took place a decade earlier. Suddenly the whole moment rushed back into focus, and with it the persistent shame of having done nothing. I betrayed my instinct to act, but, too, my instinct to avoid was revealed. Into these impossible places of inner conflict, send poetry.” (web)

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