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ISBN: 978-1-62557-710-8
Categories Poetry

The Bride Aflame

Publication Date: April 2019


Blackberrying After Ballet

Another wife suicides
at the ballet. Her aubade
waves a foreign scarf
snagged under a wheel.
Husbands audition violins,
offer to take her home.
A kitchen is not a kitchen
but another wife. A daughter
no girl, but a shepherd
cocooned in pink tulle.
A blackberry bush fruits,
aflame with grief
and balloons. Brambles
snag her tights, runs zip
her calves until they are calving.
Her thighs, taut mountains.
The dark juice plums her
hands until her whole body
purples. A wife finds
a home at the bottom
of the sea. A wife falls in love
with anaphylaxis, caught
mid-breath in a kiss
she can’t finish. Another
begins an affair with bones.
Each wife unfolds a daughter.
Sisterless. Every woman is
a moment is a pocket, waiting
for a cold hand to slip in.

—Originally published in Sixth Finch—

Listen to Jaclyn Dwyer read poems from THE BRIDE AFLAME // Watch the captioned video on the BLP YouTube Channel



Jaclyn Dwyer’s The Bride Aflame explores-with imagination, earned wisdom, and searing wit-what it means to be a woman: to be a girl in her inescapable body; to be a lover and a wife; to be a daughter and then to raise them. These poems confront the worst horrors of womanhood-domestic violence, rape, the loss of a child-but they also revel in its possibilities. As Dwyer writes, “I make and I am.” This is a mantra for mother and poet alike.

-Maggie Smith

Girls, women, wives, daughters-Jaclyn Dwyer investigates what it is to be female in this moment in time. Her language is lush, words cascading and undulating in images that paint a world in all its terrible beauty. But we have to look because fire illuminates as it burns, and Dwyer’s women are on fire with being anorectics, zombies, someone who will stub a lit cigarette on her own hand. They are exes, brides, and finally mothers, creating a new body of flesh out of the old. A gorgeous debut.

-Barbara Hamby

About the Author

Jaclyn Dwyer

Jaclyn Dwyer has published fiction and poetry in a number of literary magazines, including Ploughshares, Sugar House Review, Indiana Review, The Journal, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, New Ohio Review, and Witness. She earned an MFA from the University of Notre Dame where she received a Sparks Fellowship and a PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University where she received a Kingsbury Fellowship. She is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Malone University in Ohio, where she lives with her husband and daughters.

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