from Love, Kelli Hoppmann, oil on panel, 2014
They told her the smoke would totally change her,
“mess with her head,” and then they all giggled.
She had been careful to wear the mandatory uniform:
torn jeans, low-cut blouse, the crown of invisible
brambles, the absence of a smile. When was a tree
not a tree? When it was in a forest. They gave her
a bloodstained robe, and she put it on, already adrift
in fumes festooning the air with furtive tongues.
For hours she floated in a sky the color of a blue-
green algal bloom. Soon they would ask her to invest
in the black pyramid, to drink pomegranate juice from
a lead-crystal goblet, to choose the shape in which
she wished to manifest. Her new skull will have prongs,
mispronounced ridges, and far more effective teeth.
from The Artist and the Arbiter, Kelli Hoppmann, oil on panel, 2014
You met him at the hunt ball. Neither of you wore
pink. He chatted easily of warmbloods, silver flasks,
stone walls. He smiled all the time, showing teeth
white as high powder. You had borrowed the tails
that didn’t fit, buttoning your vest to hide a stain
on your ruffled shirt. You longed for style, security,
and affection, for which sex was a nearly adequate
substitute. All of which would be withheld in due
course. He owned stakes winners, played polo,
belonged to exclusive clubs within clubs, as if
his life were a filigree ornament at the center
of nested Fabergé eggs, jeweled and golden. Even
the bathrooms of his summer residence were art
museums. He stayed up all night, scenting the air
for new diversions, and you did your best to keep
up. But you drew the line when he snorted them
until most of his nasal septum was eaten away.
And then he discovered what it took to put him
to sleep. He makes such an elegant ghost.
from Pink, Kelli Hoppmann, oil on panel, 2014
You have scales instead of skin, a rosebud where
a heart should be, an insatiable hunger that won’t
let you observe without analysis, anatomization,
butchery. All you need is a stainless steel table
and a knife so sharp you could sever your own
hands, almost painlessly, with its invisible blade.
You don’t know what it is about the fine details
that fascinate you, but you have always believed
that an autopsy is more important than a remedy,
intensified your focus on relationships that are over.
Something about love makes you want to dissect
it until it has been reduced to sublime molecules
that you have no further use for. Something about
hope makes you take it apart, feather by feather.
after Sisters, Kelli Hoppmann, oil on panel, 2014
Everyone has a demon twin about whom they tell no one.
Your mother must have known, you are sure, but she flitted
from party to party, decade to decade; occasionally, gently
nudged by that fourth glass of Malbec, she mumbled about
how some things just didn’t work out and at least they had
you. By then you were going to parties yourself, sometimes
in nothing but pallor and tresses, glowing with the fumes
of liquid skies. You can’t tell whether trees are dead as long
as you only look down at the roots, careful not to consider
shadows cast by empty branches. Your mother said that you
would eventually find yourself, and for once she was right:
you did, in a black-light-filled room that could as easily
have been a mirror. Your other half wore a skull for a face,
and all the haggard sophistication you had longed for.
It smiles with its empty sockets. “My, what a lovely …
dress,” it says slyly, looking anywhere but at you.
F. J. Bergmann edits poetry for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com), and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. She has competed at National Poetry Slam as a member of the Madison, WI, Urban Spoken Word team. Her work appears irregularly in Abyss & Apex, Analog, Asimov's SF, and elsewhere in the alphabet. A Catalogue of the Further Suns won the 2017 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook contest and the 2018 SFPA Elgin Chapbook Award.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.