Poetry Class Reflux

By Jamie Bernstein

Early, like me,
She arrives for class but,
Unlike me, armed
With a hamburger. It looks good;
I missed lunch. Lately
We’ve been hanging out some:
Catching movies, gossiping
Over makeup displays. Once she gave me
A tin belly: the kind
Italians display to ward off
Bodily afflictions. Right now,
My belly is afflicted
With vacuity. I’m hoping
She’ll invite me to share that burger.
I crave the salt, the fragrant
Fat of it, the warmth
Of the gesture itself. Desultory banter,
No offers forthcoming.
Then arrives Elizabeth.
She was a good poet too,
Maybe better. Suddenly
They’re hugging, kissing
Both cheeks, chatting  
With an energy so intimate
Their menses must have fallen
Into lock-step. And I hear:
“Would you like a bite,

Behold the golden arch
Of ravenous ambition, ablaze
In all its bilious sodium splendor.
Is that what it takes to snag a seat
At the grownups’ table,
Brandish the heavy silver
As each gleaming morsel ascends
Have I got this straight: is there no
Reward, no special mention
For the shorn nape of diffidence,
For hands plain-folded, heart
Hospital-tucked?  These being
The nutritionless questions
On which I perpetually

PoetryJamie Bernstein