Poems by Jane Hilberry




Reading the Bible at Nine


When my father asked how far I’d gotten,

I was still in Genesis.  What I loved

about church was the deep blue of the ceiling


sparked with silver stars.  The hymns

would hum me to sleep, or sway me

as I knelt.  The wine bit my tongue


and the wafer stuck.  What I liked about Jesus

was that he touched lepers, overturned

moneylenders’ tables, spoke with Samaritans,


wasn’t afraid.  I was nine when I asked

to be sprinkled with baptismal water.

Each week after I shed my singing robes,


I would seek, in the low-ceilinged

basement, the doughnut table.

The bite at the center was pure custard.


I went to church without parents.

I never found God or his fearless son.

The bread and wine did not become flesh.


But a few sweet bites.





I always thought my body would stay, even if

I treated her badly.  Who else would want her?


I criticized her skin, heavy arms, the way she looks

in dresses.  Made her straighten her teeth.  My mother


told me, keep your options open, but now

I see I have no other options.  I tell her I’ll treat her


better, whatever she wants, silk sheets, whole days

at the spa. I won’t make jokes in public at her expense.


At night, I tremble.  The doctors can’t say why.

But I know:  she’s shaking her head, waving goodbye.


Jane Hilberry’s books include a volume of art criticism/biography titled The Erotic Art of Edgar Britton (Ocean View Books) and two collections of poems:  Body Painting (Red Hen Press)  and a collaboration with her father, Conrad Hilberry, called This Awkward Art:  Poems by a Father and Daughter (Mayapple Press).