The Madame was conceived, but never born. She wrote on the shadowy walls of some feminine void for centuries, quill dripping with the quiet of her solitude. One day she heard something from the outside: "We shall be fat, gentlemen, but never happy." In that very instant, she stepped out of the womb like a nude from a painting, a starlet from the silver screen, cool, milky & voluptuously formed, reflective pools in her big grey eyes.
Right away she had offers - big, exaggerated Hollywood offers - but she took off on horseback across the plains.
When she laid her lovers down in the fields, her hair would swirl about their faces, a fiery mahogany frame for no picture she might afford to see. She remembers, "It's a beautiful accent, ma vie en rouge, but where is it from?" She swore her mouth would never make that shape again.
Having emptied their pockets, she would flee in the night - millions amassed in a cluster of rock, metal & paper. Several ocean liners & one anachronistic stagecoach later, & she found herself here - doing her good work in worship of the two most vital traditions in this world.
Don't ask more of her origin. Do not question the work. Everything you need know of this woman, she can see - slathered all over your forehead in brilliant, black ink.
Stephanie Berger is a poet, artist, producer, and entrepreneur. She is the CEO of The Poetry Society of New York and co-creator The Poetry Brothel, The New York City Poetry Festival, and The Typewriter Project. She is the author of IN THE MADAME’S HAT BOX (Dancing Girl Press, 2011) and translator of THE GREY BIRD: THIRTEEN EMOJI POEMS IN TRANSLATION (Coconut Books, 2014). Stephanie’s poetry and translations have appeared in dozens of magazines and her work has been covered in dozens more. Other honors include a 2015 &NOW Writing Award and grants from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Fractured Atlas, and The Casement Fund. Stephanie earned a B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Film at the University of Southern California, she received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the New School, and she has taught in the English Departments at Pace University and Berkeley College. To book Stephanie for a reading, performance, or to inquire about her work, you can reach her at email@example.com.
it doesn't hurt that she is beautiful
As she descends into the canyon, she becomes
the descent, the way an action
can become solid as a steeple.
I can be the downfall of man, that sunburst
of flesh! For I am
the moment the desert meets water
from the mountains, an instant
connection, a language that can travel
into your memories
like a fiction, like water
from the earth, a landscape
more various than the human heart.
But she isn’t human. The way her nose
comes down the center
of her face like a coin, like candle
wax, a waterfall. A beautiful
creator. A dutiful daughter.
Excitedly, she babbled, more
adorable than any brook.
Things come to a head.
They come into it. You reach
a point in your life. There is a point
in every life at which
you can see no further, a black
hole in a bucket, and so you let it
drip, clear as a window
in the water. It is important to remember
there are windows in the water.
This poem is completely unspeakable
because it is written in a whorish language.
Were I still a lady of the night, I could read it aloud.
Perhaps I am. In a miniature replica of Saint-Sulpice,
the Madame sleeps. Were I a dream,
she would live inside of me. But I am not
a dream. I am solid as a book, and I throw
a shadow upon the wall like a fit
because I am a real girl
with the scars to prove it. I was 22
when I learned the word "whore"
could fuck you better than a whore. The poem
speaks to me, it speaks of me, it speaks
through me, but I cannot say it aloud
because I am not a whore. I cannot replicate
the shade of blue you wore or the recipe
for the disaster. Not the body of another but
the dream of her clears the way to the greener
side like an eager toddler. Ours
might have been a lark. Holding a baby
bird in the hand is a wonderful art.