Since 1996 Volume XXI

                                   Jacqueline Berger


Jacqueline Berger’s fourth book, The Day You Miss Your Exit, was published this year by Broadstone Press. Previously, several poems were featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac. She teaches at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California and lives in San Francisco.

Sex Ed

Popular in part for the pharmacy, 

his after-school job,

John initiated our Friday nights

with handfuls of lifted pills.

I remember the ketamine cough,

nasty side effect of a blurry high.

Remember one summer, sleeping

all night in the hammock, the profundity

of trees, their undersides

like garments twisted inside out.


When Robin bet me John wouldn’t kiss her, 

this was years before we knew he was gay,

I bet he would, the power

of beauty is absolute it seemed

to me back then. She climbed

onto his lap, he was watching the game,

the den, dark, was filled with boys,

parted his lips with her tongue.

When he opened his mouth for more,

complicated host of reasons, she flounced off,

came back to the kitchen where I’d been waiting.

You won.


I remember a survey of sexual experience

girls circulated in junior high:

Have you ever let a boy

eat you out? I was shocked

at the grammar, who can’t

manage take you out to eat?


Did John make it through

the plague years? Or has he

long since been memorialized

by friends we never knew?

West Hollywood chapel, a handful

of rainbows in a dish by the door.


The owner of the pharmacy

was a member of our temple.

Of course we never told.

We took what was offered,

went where it took us.


John is dead. I imagine this

then imagine he survived,

who disappeared from our lives, left us

to the long story of the body,

our blank sheets

puckery as water under wind.

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Mary Barnet


Grace Cavalieri

Joan Gelfand

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