Amy Gerstler


Anthem

Dear blitzkrieg of wetness and breasts, 

Dear masseuses and muses, thighs sluiced 

with juices, Dear coven members posing 

peppery questions, like: is a witchy third breast

akinto a third eye? Can we climb into the light 

now from cellars or attics? Can we abandon 

our nectar dance temporarily, stop skimming 

the froth off the cauldrons and let our bravura 

arias ascend? So much depends upon shrewd,

ingenious, difficult women, prodigal daughters 

and wisecracking wives, unwilling brides, bakers 

of exploding pies, giantesses in whose tresses 

condors nest, audacious maidens with blood on 

their tongues, all of whose chests house furious

hearts: how is it your beauty never departs?

 

Buried Song

When our love first became alien to me,

when you first peered at me like I was smeared

and illegible, then a rude-humored voice

began to leak from some objects, a tube of anise 

toothpaste, for example, a taste I can’t sanction

given licorice’s near-opiate sweetness, 

so like that of a well-told lie. So I questioned 

the right of that toothpaste, and later a lamp,

to disparage me. But that was as far as I got

in defending myself. There’s something crushing 

about being judged by the butterknife you just 

buttered your muffin with. When I took issue

with its critique, I was met by agressive 

metallic laughter. How long have objects been

nursing these grievances? Though the authority

they seized seemed like a disease, I was nonetheless

hurt by what they implied. This winter, while seated 

beneath a chestnut tree, trying to unite my mind 

long enough to understand a paragraph, the tree 

spoke to me, though at first I mistook its voice 

for tuba music, a rake scraping flagstone, or

someone snaking a drain. Though the tree 

astonished me with its equanimity, though it talked

gently about how to treat ailments not easily named, 

when I left the tranquil courtyard that afternoon and 

ran into smack you and you looked at me askance, 

it took several days to recover from your glance.

 

Everyone’s Darkness

is noteworthy and curious

causing vision to skitter 

like the thoughts of small birds

 

or it’s a black sack yanked over ones head 

as one is roughly shoved

into the trunk of a car 

 

his particular darkness 

involved booby traps and snags 

humiliation and violation

 

and his particular darkness

had needle-like teeth

but was a bigger stronger animal

 

than both of them put together 

while her particular darkness

recorded on her arrest record

 

added ferocity to their conflict 

and one feels torn saying this

but it was like he was some convict

 

behind thorn-crowned prison walls

except he’d done nothing wrong

the two of them a raging mess

 

their heads swarming like hives 

falling into disuse  

while they concentrated on everything 

 

below the neck

he nursed his limited definitions of beauty

while she meditated on whether 

 

she wished to be buried at sea 

whether she’d want their ashes 

shaken together in a cocktail shaker 

 

making a dry martini of them

before being tossed to the hungry tide 

or whether it would be better 

  

to have their ashes scattered 

on separate planets 

and dispersed by solar winds

 

Night Life

How can this equal rest or peace, this garble of gasps, snuffles, 

and horse-like snorts? His lips flutter as though he’s blowing 

bubbles, his moans so choked he must be drowning . . . or are 

his legs being sucked in by quicksand, the way a restaurant

critic sucks the bones of her osso buco? In my overheated, 

night-gowned silence I watch him flinch in a puddle of bedside 

light. A range of ages and plights wash over his face. Who is 

this sleeping, unshaven male, this slab of snoring meat, this 

leaky ship of divinity? I stare across the chasm which divides 

each waking or sleeping creature, whether they’ve touched 

each other or not. He’s a magician who made an orchard 

disappear, an unhinged shooter from St. Louis, a plum

colored shadow, a handful of chameleon teeth, one of god’s 

toboggans, a tree denuded of leaves bleeding beads of amber.  

 

Photo on 9-5-13 at 11.26 AM.jpg

Author Bio

Amy Gerstler’s recent books of poetry include Scattered at Sea, Dearest Creature, and Ghost Girl (titles published by Penguin.) Scattered at Sea (2015) was longlisted for the National Book Award, and short listed for the Kingsley Tufts prize. Dearest Creature (2009) was named a New York Times Notable Book, and was short listed for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She teaches at the University of California, Irvine.