Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

HOW NARROW MY ESCAPES

 

I may still have been

a girl then & a cheap
                drunk watching opossums
molest another

harvest weekend.

              I went two years with no
sex. For this the boys

declared me leaf or

                cutting, plant planted
to grow not needing it.

No one knew

where to look for me
                but who was ever looking.

I staged my portraits:

               hung myself, neck out
of view, a shade

in the making.
               In the long exposures
I clinched my flimsy

shadow,
              us doubled up in the stupid
shirtdress

that never fit

                my hips, kitten heels I’d one
day vomit on

in Brooklyn,
               just like a real girl. Please
don’t tell

my mother
               what she already knows—I
had to

reinvent the well,
               dedicate each spade’s heap
to the starry

bottom and there

               you’ll find me still,
dreaming that rain

follows the plow.

              Did I year wrong? My student
tells me

we are in the last days,

               that God will pour out his
seven bowls

of Armageddon,
                 just punishment for the
wicked. The end

of the world is near,
                 he says, look around and
you will see the prophecy

fulfilled.
              I look around & see
that making it on merit

is a wooden
              nickel and my cup
of wine is filled with holy

air. I kept

               the mouse-killing cat
& tonight

he watches me

                 floss so greedily I bleed. Did
you not know

that to anoint

                someone your last love is to
tempt them

to flight?
              Alone I drink and drink
under my cracked

lacquered
               tiles of pride. Whole days I
send this tongue

around my teeth
              but nothing gives up its
hiding place.

Once, I had two dreams:
                 one lazy, the other, away.

 

 

 

 


LILLIAN-YVONNE BERTRAM is the author of Personal Science (Tupelo), a slice from the cake made of air (Red Hen), and But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise (Red Hen). She teaches in the MFA program at UMass-Boston.


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