after John Berryman
A blind brow above an empty heart is all
you thought you wanted. What simplicity
to be as silence or as air—there yet
not there. But it takes such work to disappear,
and secrets threaten to spill from you like liquor
you can’t hold. You tell yourself you’re someone else.
Though repeated lies become familiar
and safe, words are like labels, easily
removed; your clothes obstructions, easily
removed. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but practice
perfects your expectations. Too many men
know where you live. Some nights you fear they’ll come
for you; more nights you fear no one will come.
You are all sticks and bramble, a wicker girl,
a hazard. Women eye you up and down.
Men lick their lips. You could grow old in hiding,
resign to a shuttered room, but hope, cruel trick,
emboldens you, so you unlock your door.
In cartoons gravity waits for recognition—
the long pause while Wile E. lingers mid-
air before grasping his predicament.
He scrambles just beyond the precipice,
then plummets through branches or protrusions of stone
to crash in a heap, but only briefly broken.
Rarely in reality does ignorance
buy us time. Gravity allows no in-
between. We think we know our limits, think
we’ll see the brink before we’ve gone too far.
Last night the edge was looming like horizon,
and I felt myself compelled as though carried by tide.
The moon’s pull is nothing compared to the weight
of my body sinking into his bed again.
The acceleration of a falling object
occurs at a constant rate, and repetition
changes nothing if conditions do not change.
Yet how we revel in that moment of
suspense, the freedom when no choice is left
to make, when no reaction can alter fate,
and, for a moment, we can disappear.
Elizabeth Hazen is a poet and essayist whose work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2013, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Her first book, Chaos Theories, is forthcoming from Alan Squire Publishing in 2016. She teaches English at Calvert School in Baltimore, Maryland.