buried song


Buried Song

Amy Gerstler

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 aggressive
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.

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash


cave lady


Self-Portrait as Cave Lady
Amy Gerstler
Nameless volcanos vomit rock.

Can’t keep cave clean. Swarms

of striped flies invade at dusk, bats

catch too few. Tender feeling for

baby mammoth as we eat him.

Sudden juice-leak from my eyes.

I pet baby mammoth’s roasted

hide, unfold hairy ear-flap still

stuck to skull and whisper into it.

Later, take chips of burnt sticks,

spit, plus mammoth fat, mix

in cup of hand and use paste I

make to sketch young mammoth

on shadow wall. Make black hand-

prints too. Rub mammoth fat

on my old, cracked feet. Rub some

on scars. Gather fresh dry leaves

for sleep. Give baby chunk of tusk

to suck so he’ll shut up. His yowls

rile wolves, who pace and whine

just beyond the all-night fires.

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

alluring woods


Bon Courage
Amy Gerstler
Why are the woods so alluring? A forest appears
to a young girl one morning as she combs
the dreams out of   her hair. The trees rustle
and whisper, shimmer and hiss. The forest
opens and closes, a door loose on its hinges,
banging in a strong wind. Everything in the dim
kitchen: the basin, the jug, the skillet, the churn,
snickers scornfully. In this way a maiden
is driven toward the dangers of a forest,
but the forest is our subject, not this young girl.

She’s glad to lie down with trees towering all around.
A certain euphoria sets in. She feels molecular,
bedeviled, senses someone gently pulling her hair,
tingles with kisses she won’t receive for years.
Three felled trees, a sort of chorus, narrate
her thoughts, or rather channel theirs through her,
or rather subject her to their peculiar verbal
restlessness …    our deepening need for non-being intones
the largest and most decayed tree, mid-sentence.
I’m not one of you squeaks the shattered sapling,

blackened by lightning. Their words become metallic
spangles shivering the air. Will I forget the way home?
the third blurts. Why do I feel like I’m hiding in a giant’s nostril?
the oldest prone pine wants to know. Are we being   freed
from matter? the sapling asks. Insects are well-intentioned,
offers the third tree, by way of consolation. Will it grow
impossible to think a thought through to its end? gasps the sapling,
adding in a panicky voice, I’m becoming spongy! The girl
feels her hands attach to some distant body. She rises
to leave, relieved these trees are not talking about her.

sea foam


Sea Foam Palace
Amy Gerstler
(Bubbling and spuming
as if trying to talk under
water, I address you thus:)
Must I pretend not to love
you (in your present bloom,
your present perfection — soul
encased in fleshly relevance)
so you won’t believe me
just another seabed denizen
vying for your blessed attention?
Some of us (but not you)
are so loosely moored
to our bodies we can
barely walk a straight line,
remaining (most days) only
marginally conscious.
We stagger and shudder
as buckets of   blood or sperm
or chocolate mousse or spittle
or lymph or sludge sluice
continually through us…

I love the way you wear your
face, how you ride this life.
I delight in the sight of you,
your nervous, inquisitive eyes,
though I try to act otherwise.
Being stoned out of thy mind
only amps up thy fearsome
brain wattage. Pardon my
frontal offensive, dear chum.
Forgive my word-churn, my
drift, the ways this text message
has gotten all frothy. How was it
you became holy to me? Should
I resist, furiously? Is this your
true visage, shaken free, flashing
glimpses of what underlies
the world we can see? Do not forget me
murmurs something nibbled
by fish under the sea.

After dark you’re quick-silvery,
wet /slick /glistening. Don’t
make me chase you, dragging
my heavy caresses, a pair of
awkward, serrated claws,
hither and yon. Give me a swig
of   whatever you’re drinking,
to put me in tune with the cosmos’s
relentless melt, with the rhythms
of dish-washing, corn-shucking,
hard-fucking, bed-wetting, and
the folding of   bones of other loves
into well-dug graves…    may we
never become lost to the world.

Photo by Matt Brockie on Unsplash

insidious hope


Amy Gerstler
He fancies his chances are good with her,
unaware that in the years since the war

she has come to prefer women whose cunts
taste like mustard. To pin one’s hopes on

a bark-colored moth, its wings crinkled
like crepe paper, a moth affixed high

on the kitchen wall, frozen for days where
it will likely die in noble clinging mode

just under the cobwebby heating vent,
is to confirm your need for more friends

and a greater daily quota of sunlight.
To raise C.’s hopes that T. can stop

drinking and then to liken those
hopes to fields of undulating grain,

alfalfa perhaps, is to wish C. hip deep
in acres of unscythed denial. The blind

typist hopes she’ll be hired tonight without
her disability becoming an issue. L. said he felt

hope’s rhizomes race throughout his body,
radiating in all directions, like some incipient

disease he’d been fighting since childhood.
Hope, he said, it’s as insidious as bitterness.

If mother earth only knew how much we
loved one another she would creak, shudder,

and split like a macheted melon, releasing
the fiery ball of molten hope at her core.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash