You Should Feel Bad by Laura Cresté

Edition: 500 copies of the winning books were printed by the Prolific Group and designed by Gabriele Wilson, with covers by Dan Funderburgh.


Poetry—even the plainest (and these poems aren’t plain)— isn’t about what happens next, or who does what to whom, but about how it happens, and how it feels. The best poems make you say, on first read, “What?” and then, on returning, “Oh!” or “Yes.” And they can hold wisdom, implied or explicit, reassuring or unsettling, nostalgic or forward-looking or scary or maybe—as in Laura Cresté’s poems—all three at once. “I thought I wanted to be in love but really / I wanted something to do with my hands.”

—Stephanie Burt

Laura Cresté

Laura Cresté holds an MFA in Poetry from New York University and a BA from Bennington College. The winner of Breakwater Review's 2016 Peseroff Prize, her poems have appeared in No Tokens, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Powder Keg, and Bodega. She lives in Brooklyn.

Practical Survival Tips for Women

A dog practices passive resistance during a tornado watch
belly-down in the street. He doesn’t believe it and he’s not wrong

but the office closes early and I meet my friend at MoMA
for the Nan Goldin show. For years I misremembered

The Ballad of Sexual Dependency
as Despondency
but what’s the difference? Those bruised thighs.

Someone kept using their camera’s flash during the slideshow
even as we shouted in the dark Come on!

I tell my friend the pictures I like best have people in them
but people are the problem most of the time—there’s a lot to be sick of.

Last night I searched “practical survival tips for women”
after watching a video of a woman attacked in New Jersey.

She and her daughter are watching TV—now look,
a stranger punches her in the face.

If you’re not safe at 10:30 on a summer morning
with cartoons on, you’re never safe.

Safety is an idea but a fist is a fist.
The search turns up a gift guide, how to grind

your own oatmeal, like convenience is a lifesaver.
I take down the name of a self-defense class, but I’d look ridiculous

and anyway I sprained my wrist getting lavender into the ground
with a spade, scraping brick out of the loam,

not rich black with globes of perlite, I mean brown dirt
that sprawls under homes in New Jersey. I know

my Swiss Army knife is good for nothing but a corkscrew.
Danger is often a gun and I’ll never have one. Last week a man

shot his wife one town over, on the front lawn, their kids watching.
There are sunflowers piled at the foot of the elementary school

where she taught, We Miss You and her married name.
You think if you don’t marry a brute it won’t happen to you,

but then, strangers: the men we call crazy
and the men we call cops.

My phone fills with news of the latest disaster
so my friend says throw it in the river.

But I need it to talk to you. Let’s just leave, we say.
Buy a farm in Vermont, or hell—

Let’s leave the whole country, I say though this very day
there’s the appointment for a listing in Brooklyn Heights.

We can’t afford it but how does it hurt to look.

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