December 14, 2020

Martha Engber – Two Poems of Vulnerability

Martha Engber – Two Poems of Vulnerability
The House 
 
 
Once there was a house. 
Once there was a choice. 
 
The house was made of inside, 
while the choice lived outside. 
 
Before that, there were many other choices, 
all outside, too, but 
that could be gotten to 
 
because the house had a 
door that opened, allowing a going out 
and a coming in, and had, and did. 
 
But then came this choice, of surprise 
and delight and innocence, 
more than any other. 
 
A choice made wholly of outside, 
it could not come in, but rather must be 
gone to and embraced. 
 
Surprise. Delight. Innocence. 
Yet a choice to which the responsible 
door should not open. 
 
The house suddenly so bounded, so 
permanent, so… 
shut. 
 
The windows, with their crosshatched bars, 
gazed out at the choice, 
 
though really, a choice 
no more, but instead 
a reverie, 
 
forever out there. 
 

**

 
Vulnerability 
 
 
It’s not natural to bare 
your breast, 
 
to, with unarmed fingertips, pull 
away 
 
the scant material barricading 
the pump that is your life.  
 
To make a close-range target for someone  
 
to shoot at  
to laugh at 
to do nothing about 
 
in the off chance the person— 
 
the people 
the world 
 
—will empathize and 
 
pity you  
like you a little 
love you. 
 
Try unclothing yourself even once 
and eyes roll, your death predicted, 
 
when the opposite is true. 
 
Look at me. 
 
I mean really. Look 
this way, 
at me. 
. 
Watch as I lift my nude 
fingers, hot with touch. 
 
Study how they curve and hook to the edge 
of my cheap cotton tank top, 
 
pulling the fabric away 
for you to see 
 
the freckle on my left breast 
the white of my skin, and beneath, 
the faint blue threads, like gun smoke drifting upward. 
 
I appear 
 
weak 
undignified 
not dangerous. 
 
But I am, 
to you 
 
who stands close 
who is unsuspecting 
who does not realize 
 
nakedness means there’s nothing 
else to offer, to lose. 
 
I can, if I want, strangle  
with my truth 
 
either 
 
killing 
or birthing 
 
us both. 

***

Martha Engber

A journalist by profession, Martha Engber ’s next novel, Winter Light, is available for preorder (due out Oct. 6, 2020, Vine Leaves Press, Melbourne, Australia). She’s also the author of The Wind Thief, a novel, and Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up. She’s had a full-length play produced in Hollywood and over a dozen short stories, essays and poems published in anthologies and literary magazines such as the Aurorean, Watchword and the Berkeley Fiction ReviewFor more information, check out her website or connect with her via TwitterInstagramFacebook author pageLinkedIn, Amazon or GoodReads

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