Anger

By April Bernard April Bernard

I

When in a farmhouse kitchen that smelled
of old rinds and wet cigarette butts
I hoisted the shotgun to my shoulder
and aimed but did not fire it at the man
who had just taken my virginity like a snack,
with my collusion, but still — 

When I sat in a conference room
in an inquisition
at the “newspaper of record,”
across from the one slurping his pipe,
the one arching her eyebrow,
and I felt the heat like a wet brand in my chest,
repaid insult for insult and left their fancy job
like a squashed bug on the floor — 

When I was twelve, too old, the last time my father
spanked me, pants down,
because I had “distressed” my mother
and my vision went red-black and
I did not forgive — 

When, during my travels along the Gulf Coast,
the intruder returned in the night
and I did not call the cops again but stood
with a butcher knife facing the door, yelling, “Come in!”
although this time it was just the wind flapping
and banging the screen door — 

When across a skating-rink-sized glistening table
I told the committee chair and her brooch I was a fan of Marx
and lost the fellowship — 

When I threw a pot of hot coffee
and it just missed a man’s head, and the black-brown spatter stains
were still there four years later long after he’d left me
when I finally moved out of that East Village hole — 


II

I would have had to be thinking
in order to have thought — loaded, not loaded?
 — and I was not thinking, I was only dripping hot
and oh the pleasure, I can still feel its prickling,
crackle over the furnace of my rage,
to see his face go pale, his eyes widen,
his “put it down, put it down” — and I
put it down and allowed my life as well as his
to go on.


III

I miss my anger. Decades go by
when all I can muster is absent-minded invective,
you know, directed at the news;
or a brief fantasy
of shoving someone in front of a bus. Yesterday
I slammed my fist on my desk
and then apologized, to the desk.

Consider the tapestry of the seven deadly sins, at Saint-Denis:
Anger, wild-haired and half-dressed,
picked out in blue and silver thread bunched
against the crimson,
rough against the fingertips, she
rides a black boar dappled with blood
and waves her double-headed axe — 

Yes, I remember her.
I always lie when I always say
I didn’t know the gun was loaded.

Source: Poetry (June 2014).

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This poem originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2014
 April  Bernard

Biography

April Bernard’s most recent poetry collection is Romanticism (W.W. Norton, 2009). A novel, Miss Fuller, was published by Steerforth Press in 2012.

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Poems by April Bernard

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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