Stephanie Berger: Once He Left Me for the Lake

Stephanie Berger: Once He Left Me for the Lake



Once & with an angry wafture of his hand,

we were dismissed, the daughters of

air, in our heads, we were prettier

than the tragic masks, crowns of cypress.

Haven’t you got anything better

to wear than that cast

would look better with his name on it.

Signed the visages away 

to the river, my suitor, who took

three forms to ask me of my father:

a bull, a snake, a man with an ox-like

face, I have been feeding him

since the day I was born

from the ground, sort of an aquifer, 

sort of awkward, I was wounded, I

didn't know myrrh from cassia,

nightshade from nightingale, I fed him

I am wounded, a shout leaped

from abroad, an impatient throng

rushed along his edges while overhead,

a sky of troubled blue & beyond, a lake. 




Truth, marrow, stone, & consequence.

She didn’t earn a dime of it. The light,

hammering down on the desert
from the opposite side of your

expectations as the morning shifts

to afternoon. His hat tilted low
over one eye, he was practically debonair
in his exhaustion, drunk on the feather
in his cap. She asked
who gave it to him.
Once she’d skinny-dipped with some
kind of demigod
& his daughter. She found a dog
in the water & the word
for “family” was born.
She wanted to eat the lilies, to be filled

& floating on the water like a body.
I can see her, sun-drenched
& precise & yet, we have never met.
Love is a mystery that way,
more civil than any city, like a pilgrim
who reaches her destination
& cannot bear to stop.

Stephanie Berger is a poet, performance artist, event producer, and entrepreneur. She is the President & CEO of The Poetry Society of New York and is the co-creator of The Poetry Brothel, The New York City Poetry Festival, and The Typewriter Project. She has published two chapbooks, In The Madame's Hat Box (Dancing Girl Press, 2011) and The Grey Bird (Coconut Books, 2014). Her poetry has appeared in Fence, Hyperallergic, Sixth Finch, Prelude, The Volta, H_NGM_N, and other journals. Other honors include a 2015 &NOW Writing Award and an artist grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Stephanie earned a B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Film at the University of Southern California, received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the New School, and has taught in the English Departments at Pace University and Berkeley College. Her website is