Poems of the Week

2 Jul

ERICA BERNHEIM

The Oversized World

There is always time to choose new curtains. What to
keep: a lightbulb the size of the city, a tank bent on

reconstruction, pilots and bubbles, sixty-one ways
to evacuate a twin with a twin with more twins in it..

Imaginary babies ask for organic juice and whole milk.
I wait for each day to be over. I am the breaker of

interrogations. Remember: everything is a test. See
who protects you now, gardener of leaves, leaver of

sleeves, creator of estate jewelry and actual sizes. If you
remember, everything looks like it should be in motion.

Out-of-step, following inconstant signals and misfired
fires onto pages made of ham. The oversized world

passes its scream-test. The oversized world pulls out
its knife, but only for show. It’s like your bones died two

weeks before you did. People are saved when no one
notices they are there. Think how things shrink from

cold. Not just things, but things. We are retreating
from the touch of a hand equally unsure, hypnosis, its

static, its stasis, its desire to be drawn, to be filled-in.
Something will be built, bulleted, discussed, danced

a light two-step through, the naked, the pale, the
please stay here, the one who prefers to be with me.

It’s like taking down glass from a window. The
blessings have been blocked. The men stand around,

talking lawsuits out of their necks’ creases,
saying, Here, baby, let me do something for you.

I Love How Your Eyes Close Every Time You Kiss Me

You are alone and you are easy. You see
the history of your life and lineage in your
mitochondrial genes, cells, confirming what
we suspected: bottleneck, enlargement, plague,
vulcanologists from everywhere, studying the
site, thinking aren’t you a cute disease. The
music is so loud you blink every time there is
a drum. Yes, best we heirloom quietly, for we
are powerful weak. Overcoat, spread your wings.
Almost a legend, knots laced with passed-over
glass, daddies in pastel suits next to the only
surviving witness from a life best spent in big years,
dreaming of sliding on your belly. Tough night,
wet ink, loose seams. There is plenty of time for
nothing and you should volunteer for it. Time allotted
is never enough. Roll over and tell me you’re a
sofa, backboned by an old quilt, tied to the notion
of design, of pattern, of words so staccato they bang
like rats atop the roofs of government embassies,
that is, without regard for what those below will
try to assume you are: harmless and preoccupied,
known through your gestures to be true.
The ropey cuisine of another planet awaits you
tonight, something freeze-dried and wet
just for you, and molded into whatever you
want: lids and caps, some beans or rice, coelacanth,
but the remains will leave their fossils
on your plate. Memory is like this, patterns
already laid out across neurons and blisters,
each occasion which follows will fit
into that shape, even sans arms or eyelashes,
rendered sharp-tongued with bad desire.

Like a Face

Any tale of spontaneous human combustion
must take place in the South. History’s wagon carries
me in its horrible mouth of an entryway. An arrow
relies on less, taste this, rising from the swollen
finger raised to measure air’s currents.
The girl allergic to water battles for aquagenics.
Sweat, blood, saliva and tears blister her skin.
She bends her head for the most dangerous of kisses.
She drinks whole milk and is allergic to her
own body. She will dream of swimming and touching
snow. Her lips feel as close and sharp as razors, the light
explodes, and you surrender your addiction to No-Doz.
Something in breath dies slowly, a fern, a stilted horseman,
a moon seen in daytime, or this harvest gone rotten badly.
How long will you stay in this mess, waiting to learn
when to duck, when it’s safe to run: a plate of eyelashes,
a walk on water, nothing more. Loving days.
A maze with no entrance, and we strain to see
it anyhow. I find myself on the wrong side of your
affections, afflictions, you say, and suddenly these are
sidelines. I tell stories so often, I don’t remember the event,
signs written in languages I never learned to read.
What I told you made no difference, lighthouse, philosopher,
my sleep. Oh, but it trickles down the side of
a bed I never meant to lie in. Say something
about the state of dedication. What I wish for you
is nothing but fraud and petulance, camphor in
your proceedings, a brick in your mailbox, a wicked
bitter woman stealing your truck. I hope you can
believe this is not about you. You wake up
to find you’ve been tying your shoes with a dead man’s
hand. You try to build a fire beneath a chimney
with no flue.

*

“I Love How Your Eyes Close Every Time You Kiss Me” and “Like a Face,” from Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century, Sarabonde Books: 2006.

“The Oversized World” from The Iowa Review: click here to view

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