Amy Gerstler: “Index of Women”

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Author, Amy Gerstler. Photo by Amy Gerstler.

Amy Gerstler speaks about taking notes on life’s possibilities. Her new book of poetry, “Index of Women,” is the product of a heart the world broke. She longs to maintain a perspective of the world being beautiful. Hear her read and discuss her poems about the tooth fairy and giraffes. Hear how she makes the ordinary world sound like poetry. She says she writes poetry to escape darkness, and she likes the tradition of women carrying on no matter what.

Excerpt from “Index of Women” by Amy Gerstler


Lying down on the rug with someone and getting dust
bunnies in your hair. The eloquence of long pauses.
Passing notes rather than speaking. A basement fogged
with pot smoke. Trying to read another body via its breathing.
The idea that if you kiss someone you can taste what they
just ate. Refusing to eat what your mother cooks anymore,
which hurts her feelings. But you can't stand dead sautéed
animal inside your mouth now, so you have to spit it out.
The myth that innocence is protective. The idea of not
being able to stop. Reading secret magazines a cousin stuffed
into the bottom of his sleeping bag. The idea that someone
curious about your body isn't interested in the private theatre
of your mind. Theories that there might be a kind of
violence about it. How mother insists that without true love
it's just worthless humping, and the idea that for the life
you aspire to, she's probably wrong. What your body has
promised for so long. The idea of your disastrous premiere.
The idea of someone laughing at you after. The idea of
hoofprints, stampede damage, being crushed underfoot.
The idea of keeping all this hidden as you slowly lotus open.

Excerpted from Index of Women by Amy Gerstler. Published by Penguin Books. Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.