melissa broder


If I don’t stop using
the word fingerbang
I’ll never get to be

poet laureate.
Are mornings at your house
really that good? I should

start listening to more
Art Blakey. Is it in
your espresso or

does someone have to die
so I can get some
writing done? The jazz

isn’t working
and sometimes I forget
to watch the world.

I should go over
to the Brooklyn Museum.
Once I used the word
touché incorrectly
for 24 years.
A stranger set me straight

and so I married him.
We need a wife
to cook us osso bucco.

Is it really that good?
Touché. The paintings
don’t work and I don’t think

I am enough. I should go
bald. Is it the rainfall
or must I have someone

else’s shit childhood
so I can get some
writing done?


When the three poet ancestors, each named
Ann, fold me into their Bloomsbury Group
at a rooftop pool party, there’s not
enough oxygen. They talk old guard—
jazz, ashtray, verb, Paris—and warn
against falling into fashion.

What if I don’t take snifters? I ask.
Nowadays, Diet Coke’s ok, says Ann.
I didn’t try sweet vermouth, I say.
It’s never too late in the day, says Ann.
Take a break from your scares, says Ann.
Or have them anthologized, says Ann.

The Anns’ daughters emerge from behind
a plate of poached pearsto tell me I’m blessed.
The Anns aren’t jealous of my youth.
Look, they say, none of them wear bathing suits.
I think they must like me for my womb,
how it’s pruned like theirs. But the Anns know

my first baby before I do.
Expensive and confusing, says Ann.
Symbiotic and fattening, says Ann.
It’s be no Ars Poetica, says Ann.

Beat your own keppe
say: lookee how prolific
say: she never quit a thing
say: she kept it at one
evening in the 80s
in JR Ewing’s Mercedes

(certainly a pearl necklace
was involved, oh yes, she surely
lost that Ferragamo footing
for the sake of Mars poetica)
yet somehow she landed
cerebrum side-up
the following morning
in the Ewing breakfast nook
(grapefruit of all things)
to say: Miss Ellie,
when the pupil is ready

say: Miss Pamela, that’s powerful
use of enjambment

say: now Sue Ellen, you’re sweet
on Ted Berrigan, admit it

and good hair was never so important.


Excerpted from When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother by Melissa Broder. Copyright February 2010. Reprinted with permission of Ampersand Books.

Melissa Broder is the author of When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother (Ampersand Books, February 2010). She is the chief editor of La Petite Zine and curates the Polestar Poetry Series. She won the 2009 Stark Prize for Poetry and the 2008 Jerome Lowell Dejur Award. Broder received her BA from Tufts University and is getting a slow, scenic MFA at CCNY. By day, she is a publicity manager at Penguin. Her poems appear, or are forthcoming, in many journals, including Five Dials, Opium, Shampoo, The Del Sol Review, and The Promethean. She lives in New York City. Visit her website.