THREE HANDS NONE

 

To read Denise Bergman's Three Hands None is to inhabit an intimate accounting of a sexual assault in her bed by a stranger that reduced the writer to "barebones nothing." The accounting is obsessive, almost Steinian in its use of repetition to render the ripping of self that occurred during and after the event, the long days and nights when she "sweated inside matted wool terror filthy as a sheep." The poems that compose the volume read like the raw data of a mind working nonstop to parse the violence that severed her from "a body once her own." They collapse the distance between past and present, silence and speech, material and the metaphor, inside and out. The journey is not for the timid; images climb inside and rake your chest. But Bergman’s supple intelligence—whose "home is the range of one’s instinct"—and mastery of her craft carry her and her reader through: "Word on the street is she still lives there."
–Lee Sharkey, author of Walking Backwards


Fearless, unsparing, Denise Bergman probes a violent, sexual assault to expose the personal and social consequences of ungovernable, masculinist culture. "Home is the coat that can’t keep me warm or dry/ buttons and holes I can’t align," the poet declares, struggling to rebuild a coherent self. A book-length narrative poem, Three Hands None reveals how "materials for this story" also account for domestic and international tragedies: "the single-eyed babies born in Fallujah" and "strip-mined flattened hills." A single sequence—of narrative, fragment, and image—this original work will leave you breathless, changed.
–Robin Becker, author of The Black Bear Inside Me





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Untitled (photos of men)

photos of men was it this one that. I tell them I hadn’t seen his face the flashlight melted my eyes

mug shots again was it this one that. I hadn’t seen hadn’t seen

did I smell his breath his underarm stench his filtered or filterless. did he smell me

he watched me. he locked my face naked in detention

he knew who I was knew me when I crossed the street knows who I am knows this is me

knows me. in the grocery aisle he sees me stripped to less than essence

he held me down. the heft of his hand the precise edge of his blade squeezed me pierced me emptied me of substance

I am not playing here with agency

this is what powerless is

barebones nothing

barebones and muscleless. skeleton collapsed

lunch became bread and water

motion was turning my head to look at the door

watch the door

thought was imploded chaos. speech was a pageless lexicon

sleep was a useless plan. exhaustion buzzed like a swinging hive

my home my skin locked me out

breakfast was a sip of juice

supper was bread and water. the week after, a fruit



Untitled (a friend suggests)

a friend suggests "compassion" "society" "circumstances." I tell her I don’t care

I don’t care if he was born into a tangled skein of back-stabbing brothers. so what. wrestled under the see-saw kicked in the face on the slide. I don’t care. told tough it out don’t cry no dolls god forbid no Lamb Chop but plastic characters whose names end in thron and mutant transformers. I don’t care. high fives slaps on the back never an embrace do I care. no. army boot camp be all you can be not who you want to be. I don’t care. my dog would have lived a simple dog life and I after forty-one years would be writing about the mockingbird mimicking a squirrel to scare the neighbor’s cat or about medical supplies blockaded from entering Gaza. do I care if his father left town his uncle pulled him into the woods. no. what is beaten out of the boy what is forced into the beaten-down boy so what. I don’t care

I slept through the rattling unoiled half-broken sash cord rollers. I slept through his steps on the floor. a moon was somewhere and somewhere was rain

blood on my shirt from my mouth never washed out. do I care where he came from. no. I don’t care

he had a mother he did. he he he had a mother. she caressed him at least once he knew a caress. do I care. no. I don’t care