Welcome, Jaclyn Dwyer!

During the month of June, we are celebrating the authors that came to us during our last open reading period. Today we bring you Jaclyn Dwyer, author of the poetry collection The Bride Aflame, which is due out in April of 2019.

author photoThe Author

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.

On writing The Bride Aflame

When I first started writing the poems in this book, I was single and unattached. By the time I completed the manuscript, I was married with two daughters, writing in tiny pockets of time in the hours and minutes after my children fell asleep and before my children woke.
When I first started this collection, I was writing to discover what a poem was, the loops and sounds of language working its way down the page. The more I wrote, the more I let the poems guide me until I found myself puzzling together an entire manuscript, shaping a book about what it means to be a woman in our world, the attention given to our bodies, the expectations of how we are meant to perform, and the relationships that define and redefine us.
This book is a journey of becoming a woman, a wife, a mother and how nurturing those relationships and building a family shift the focus from oneself to others, how that shift informs our identity. I write to create a space for our daughters, my own and others, to grow up confident, strong women, to trust and love their bodies, and to understand that being a woman in the world can be a great and powerful thing.


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——-
When My Childless Friend Asks What the Birth Was Like
and I tell her it was a c-section,
she says, At least your vagina is intact.
Intact like a crime scene preserved by yellow tape
or some distant planet too far for us to spoil
with our soy lattes and exfoliants. Oh, you! I laughed
because she is supposed to be funny. She, the one
who came back from a semester picnicking on the Rhine
to ignore my bloat until I finally blurted baby!
Instead of Congratulations! she said, I figured
you ate a big sandwich for lunch. Big sandwich becomes
the joke behind my back. My baby is a Blimpie,
a five-dollar footlong. She is the cold cut combo
nobody wants. Everyone told me don’t do it,
like having a kid was some kind of habit
you can’t shake. Maybe that was the problem.
My body wasn’t ready for birth, so I had to be sliced open,
stitched and stapled back together like some
unsalvageable sewing project from seventh grade
Home Ec where one of the three Jackies in our class
encircled my middle with the measuring tape,
and exclaimed, You’re so skinny at my seventeen-inch
Scarlett waist. She was also the popular Jackie, the blonde
Jackie, the hoop earrings so big she’d slide them
onto her wrists when they got too heavy Jackie.
They clanged like some neighbor’s endless wind chime
each time she rose her hand with the wrong answer
because she was not afraid to be wrong. In middle school,
where they taught us how to sew boxer shorts, bake
brownies, and loosen a stuck bundt with a knitting needle,
they skipped the part about sex ed. Still, it takes me
twenty more years to fall pregnant. Everyone says
they’ll bring us food, but the baby comes with no birth,
no tailgate or fanfare, no tweeting #babywatch,
and no one brings us the food they promised.
We head in to triage on Saturday morning,
routine as, say, a car wash, but there is a set of twins
ahead of us. There is always a set of twins these days.
No one wants to come into the world alone. We turn
our bodies into arks against the flood of amnion,
fraternal mates yinned against a yang. We wait
for two and a half episodes of Law & Order.
Motherhood turns out nothing like I expect
it to be. It is chocolate that breaks apart in your mouth
when it is supposed to be melting. It is unwashed hair
and knowing by heart the best TV to watch
at 4 o’clock in the morning. Still, I would never
call my daughter an accident even though
she was. A highway crash of bodies. Hips
broadsiding a rib. It’s hard to tell who
was at fault, totaling our lives at a t-intersection. O fortitude!
O fanfare! We have become the minor characters
in our own lives. Everyone wants to know
if I’ll be upgrading to a van, but a van is such
a scary car to drive. I want my daughter to grow up
knowing what to fear. Over-full offices, dates
who don’t have enough to say, and trees that vault
too close to the house. I want her to be the kind of virgin
men worship. To make good on their promises. I want women
to praise her wholeness like an untouched cake
that slips crumbless from pan to plate, to dust her
with powdered sugar, shape of all that is right.
——-Originally published in Blackbird——-