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If the Girl Never Learns

Brick Mantel Books ~~ 80-page poetry collection


You are The Girl, and The Girl is a Badass.

From the opening lines, it's clear The Girl at the center of these poems is damaged—which is another way to say she's a survivor. If the Girl Never Learns moves from the personal to the mythic to the apocalyptic, because The Girl would do anything, even go to hell, to save her soul. So, she resists, takes action to overturn society's suffocating ideal of Good Girldom. The poems' sense of breathlessness reflects The Girl's absolute need to control her own destiny, to outrun her past, while at the same time chasing a future she alone has envisioned and embodied. Because The Girl is, above all else, a badass.

Advance Praise for If the Girl Never Learns

"If the Girl Never Learns, she is never going to learn the hard way! She goes down swinging. And singing. Silverman has given us poems of both heart-stopping descent and dissent. Like some granddaughter of 'Lady Lazarus,' this ruthlessly crafted collection—as sharp and shiny in its sounds, propulsive rhythms, and wordplay as a blade—knows how to perform. It holds its dazzled reader spellbound."

Kathleen Graber, author of The Eternal City, National Book Award Finalist


"Pocked with rage and trembling, the landscape here is nightmared with the distorted mirrors of carousel rides and sedatives, Bosch paintings and seedy motels. In these terse, jagged lines is a girl who chooses her own adventure from a rigged and broken game. Reader, this is the place to go in search of the kind of understanding that can only come with the raw truth."

Nickole Brown, author of Sister and Fanny Says


"With every iteration of 'if the girl,' we are taken deeper and deeper into one girl's life—every woman's life. Silverman asks, 'How does she go on?'—and it's the power of her art that each poem propels us ever forward into those nether regions of loss, of near connections and near misses, while somehow miraculously holding her readers in the most graceful and tenuous net above the dark abyss. These poems arrive with the force of revelation in the eternal ache of searching for love." 

Robert Vivian, author of Immortal Soft-Spoken


If the Girl Knew Who She Was

She steps into darkness unafraid
in a man's 1940s
fedora, flicks
a fingernail against
a tumbler of musty scotch
in motel rooms abandoned after
she slithers through the key
hole slippery and wet.

She'll pour gas
down your chimney, cowering
in full view, if she has to,
holding out to you
damp matches.

Her love is
purple and black,
but only before
she bathes in bleach.

As it is,
she's a warning, a sign, an error,
a mummy sworn to silence,
a birthmark whose disputed, opaque borders
define who she isn't,
but not who she is.

Table of Contents


 The Girl and the Man


If the Girl Never Learns to Cook or Sew ~~

If the Girl Never Tells the Man ~~

If the Girl Becomes a Bridesmaid ~~

If the Girl Fills Out the Questionnaire ~~

If the Girl Stalks the Man ~~

If the Girl Thinks Love Is Here Every Day! ~~

If the Girl Knows Where To Fuck ~~

If the Girl Sees New Horizons ~~

If the Girl Wears the Man's Green Shirt ~~

If the Girl Considers Revenge ~~

If the Girl Could Learn a Skill ~~

If the Girl Becomes an Assassin ~~

If the Girl Doesn't Become an Assassin ~~



The Girl and the Myth


If the Girl Is Reborn as a Mummy ~~

If the Girl Enforces Overdue Fines ~~

If the Girl Knew Who She Was ~~

If the Girl Is the Sorcerer's Apprentice ~~

If the Girl Ungoes to War ~~

If the Girl Escapes a Bosch Painting ~~

If the Girl Refuses ~~

If the Girl Turns the World Upside-Down ~~

If the Girl Is a Sibyl above the Last Exit on the New Jersey Turnpike ~~

If the Girl Wears an Artificial Eye ~~

If the Girl Is a Horror Movie Starlet ~~

If the Girl Sprouts Wild Orchids from Her Hair ~~

If the Girl Prepares to Feed a Cannibal in a Dark Alley ~~

If the Girl Loses Her Soul ~~

If the Girl Swallows Her Rosary ~~

If the Girl Never Writes on the Tower of Babel ~~

If the Girl Considers Salvation ~~

If the Girl Walks into Lake Michigan ~~

If the Girl Considers Predestination ~~



The Girl and the End


If the Girl Does Phone Sex ~~

If the Girl Is a Slut ~~

If The Girl Is a Country-Western Ballad ~~

If the Girl Goes to the Next Whiskey Bar ~~

If the Girl Unzips Her Body ~~

If the Girl Has Irrepressible Memories ~~

If the Girl Never Learns What She Learned ~~

If the Girl Receives a Caress from a Man Without Hands ~~

If the Girl Is Slow to Love ~~

If the Girl Envisions Death ~~

If the Girl Says the End Is Near ~~

If the Girl Goes to Hell in an Overnight Bag ~~

If the Girl Dies, or Doesn't ~~