Cotton Birthday



Our baby tops a pill bottle, 
each white disk
the wrong kind of confetti
kept fresh under her billow. 
Or—wet with astringent, 
she wipes a swath
across my dirty face. 
You grow your beard longer
& longer to cover
your face, wiry hairs catching
on her, a soft towel you kiss, 
then sling around your neck, 
the ends of her
hanging over your shoulders, 
like the legs of any other child.

                          August 6, 2015



[m]other’s commute



i caught your toddler               palm under head
as she fell towards the bus floor 

you wouldn’t think       there’d be time to move
my thumb so slightly 

across the back of her neck to
             feel her soft fuzz of hair 

             before handing her back to you



[m]other’s dream


i carried a boy last night—
the longer into today the more
deformed he becomes              naked
but for a wrestling singlet         i rescued him
this little boy                  pale                     from bullies
i sat him down outside the gym
near a heavy door                     an embankment to our right

he coughed like vomit was stuck in his throat
i told him to spit it out
                                        from his gullet
to rise it up                                                           spit     

it landed to the side—                           half an orange
intact                 pithy lines still holding segments 

i remember thinking he must have eaten too fast
i remember picking him back up

he wasn’t but in my memory
now is               nothing              but a misshapen shape
another child i couldn’t save


Jennifer Jackson Berry’s first full length collection of poetry The Feeder is forthcoming from YesYes Books in 2016. She is also the author of the chapbooks When I Was a Girl (Sundress Publications) and Nothing But Candy (Liquid Paper Press). She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.