Four poems by Ali Berman

In Defense of Profanity in Poetry

If Ginsberg had written
penis instead of “cock,”
or anus instead of “ass,”
it would be as if,
clawing closer to his partner’s body,
he said, “Let’s have intercourse,”
instead of, “let’s fuck,”
when frankly, fucked
is what he intended to get,
crass and common as the flu,
lovely and plain as salt.


Canadian Geese

Moving ahead of the rest she glided into the engine that cut her into mulch. The others followed through the feathers, thin bones and blood. Such an unusual cloud.

Those engines could take a sparrow or even a crow, but a Canadian Goose with her large body and thin neck clattered through the machinery breaking the fan blades as well as her body.

When the passengers looked out, they didn’t see the fragments of birds that pulsed through the turbines or the bits of bill and feet that must have clacked against the metal like teeth. Instead out the windows they saw fire, held their breath as their vessel skipped over Manhattan and hit the icy water with the ease of a kingfisher.

The next day the paper called for the slaughter of the birds who live near the runways of JFK and Laguardia saying they “threaten air travel around New York.”

Canadian Geese with bones like hairpins, perhaps sea gulls and raptors for their larger bodies and need to be by the water. Cull the birds that grow too great to splinter easily through the jet engines and make way for human flight, now blessed with a solitary sky.


Lady in Waiting

Of course your body is broken,
a busted antique at the village dump.

It’s no surprise you pray for death.
I sometimes wish for it too.

“You get better or you die,” you say,
without remembering what better means.

You can’t walk,
or recall how you got here,
an infant dressed in an old woman’s skin.

And I think:
Of course you die.
How else could anyone agree to let go?
Unless tortured first: beaten, subservient.
The only promise kept, a tomorrow worse than today.


The Fish

Getting closer to nature
as it turns out
means death
for someone like you
or if they’re kind
just a punctured lip
to see your size
release you.

It’s what we do
for the twitch of life
in the hand.

After all,
if death is the art,
we must at least
dangle it between
our fingers
bending it towards us.

Your great gaping jaw
slick and wide
is just the method.

You aren’t actually
here at all.

More poetry at Used Furniture.


  1. Wow. I’m blown away. I think my favorite poem is “The Fish” but I enjoyed them all. I love the way “The Fish” is formatted. The staccatto way the first stanza ends. It drew my eyes down and made me read the words at the pace you placed them. This is control in poetry, and executed extremely well. My favorite line:
    “After all,
    if death is the art,
    we must at least
    dangle it between
    our fingers”

    One of my other favorite uses of imagery is “an infant dressed in an old woman’s skin.”
    I love it.

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