It was the class disasters I enjoyed the most

Simeon Berry


My 11-year-old brother
getting drunk

on dirty rum balls
at the church deacon’s

Christmas Party

and ollieing off
the colonial staircase

as my mother receded behind
a medieval halo of humiliation

and I read C.S. Lewis in the den
underneath the never-opened

leather-bound set of the World’s
Greatest Classics

wondering why the animals
were so weird

Not knowing this
is what happens

when you stuff Paganism inside
a Jesus skin suit

Snow came down outside as if
in a novel

footnoting everything
with little muttered

exclamation points

and I had this tiny undone button
of sadness inside

at the dyspeptic beach duck
T-shirt I wasn’t allowed to buy

because waterfowl
were for girls

and the only humor boys got
stung like antiseptic

and was wrapped
in anonymous malice

like paper around a pound of flesh

Like the cancer test where
they punched you

when you saw if your hand
was bigger than your face

The deacon’s house was
scented with burnished cinnamon

and I loved it
like all the mansions

I’d been suffered to enter

in a post-apocalyptic way

Decorously emptied
of the cashmere-sweatered

inhabitants who didn’t

me and my brothers

were only supposed to shower
once a week because we didn’t
have a septic tank

Just an emerald drainage field

where we capered before
the badminton net

and my grandmother paid me
a sweaty quarter
to brush the iridescent asterisks

of Japanese beetles

off the leaves
and into a heady jar of gasoline


Simeon Berry won the National Poetry Series for his first collection of poetry, Ampersand Revisited (Fence Books), and his second book of poetry, Monograph (University of Georgia Press). He has been an Associate Editor for Ploughshares and won a Massachusetts Cultural Council Individual Artist Grant, and his work has appeared in AGNI, Colorado Review, Blackbird, DIAGRAM, The Iowa Review, and many other journals. He lives in Massachusetts and is the Prose Poetry Editor for Pithead Chapel.


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