Jennifer Jackson Berry


I remember walking high school halls
when I was a freshman
& upper-class boys would push
each other into me.
More than twenty years & I’m still trying
to figure out the theory of the push.
Embarrass him? Embarrass me?

It happened when I was alone.

Those boys didn’t think about me.
About how I had to steel myself
for an impact, about how I could have been
knocked over.

It happened when I was with someone.
I had to pretend to be ok.

I’d usually take a shoulder to my own, tall for my age.

Was the pusher hoping I would like it?
Then want his friend in every way I could want someone?

Then he’d be embarrassed by the love of a fat girl.

Another co-worker responds: Hit the cat anyway.

HOLY TITS, 08/12/1997

                                Lilith Fair, Star Lake Amphitheater, Burgettstown, PA

Blessed & divine accumulations of fat
bouncing in the rain-soaked run

from lawn to parking lot.
We weren’t waiting for lightning

to shut down the outdoor concert
even if Jewel hadn’t played

the main stage yet. I was 19,
my sister only 16. Jewel was the reason

those men were there. It wouldn’t have been
for the Indigo Girls or Lisa Loeb.

Holy tits! they yelled.
I wish I had found a safe place for us

in the gap of two front teeth,
in between two guitars slung low,

in the curve of thick black spectacles.
I was angry at the feminist organizers too,

shooting off an email when I got home—
where are the f-ing plus-size t-shirts?

I don’t know how to respond to catcalls—
maybe because they didn’t

& still don’t happen that often to me.
In 2010 Sarah McLaughlin staged a revival

& Lisa Loeb Eyewear Collection launched.
Each frame was named for one of her song titles.

Several dates were cancelled,
performers backed out.

How do you make five lbs. of fat holy?
Add a nipple.


I dreamed a fire. Flames from an open
oven stuck to my shirt. Foot stamping,
foot stamping as family swarmed around me.
I dreamed a fire that somehow leapt
from a burnt shirt on the floor into the wall
& bubbled paint. I pointed at the bubble
& said call 911. My husband aimed a glass
of water at the bubble & said that’ll do it.
I dreamed an orange fire-finger pointing
at me. Another glass of water. No one believed
we needed a fire department. These people believe
me in real life. They didn’t believe me
until the wall turned into a nightmare.
Then my mother thought it was so important
that we gather pictures, documents, policies
before we escaped. In fact, no one was going
outside until I found the title to a truck
I don’t own anymore. I ran topless to the fire box,
didn’t grab & run with it under my arm, no,
flipped through folders looking for specific papers.
I dreamed a fire in a house where I still live.
I didn’t wake up until finally we were outside.
I saw a phone at someone’s ear, but heard no sirens yet.
I woke up. I woke up with a hot danger
in my belly. I went to the bathroom.
Same sequence a couple hours later
(heat then shit) when I saw messages scroll
across my screen from a man whose toxic
friendship I just tried to end.
Question: Why am I dreaming fire?
a) There is no explanation for what we dream.
b) There has been a flickering light I was made to believe
was only visible to me. c) Both & neither of the above.
I dreamed a fire. I woke up before I knew
the full scope of the damage.

Jennifer Jackson Berry is the author of The Feeder (YesYes Books, 2016). Her chapbook Bloodfish will be published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2019. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in BOAAT, Grist, Poet Lore, Connotation Press, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among others. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her website is