The Scent of Fear
It is not unlike the lye, and what you need to know
is nothing to brag about: the vestigial nipple of
the nutria, a handbag filled with other handbags,
a buzzard in a long, blonde wig, the idea that you
could--if you wanted to--control the weather.
It is criminal to celebrate fragility. The bees want
your pollen; the chickens want your plants; bugs
will populate your made-up dreams about other
poets and farms. Tell me what city I'm in, and I'll
tell you my name. The rabbits sense the smells
of stale human bodies, of legs stacked larva-esque
in the sprawl of an underground garden. The weather
begins to remind you of movies you haven't seen,
of books you will never read, and of the sounds
of the sounds of trees. There is no place in which
you don’t want traffic to move forward. There
are universal misdeeds. There are times when
resurfacing is the expectation.
The Shrunken Head
It’s been nearly fifty years and no one remembers
the country he was filming in. Headhunting
occurred in many regions of the world. Is it
accidental that he couldn’t tell you to stop making
sentences or plans? When you stumble upon
the head of your beloved on Match.com, the proper
a. Develop an attraction to striped shirts.
b. Never have the intention of doing the right thing.
c. Grow in popularity.
d. Move to a suburb of Milwaukee and cultivate a suntan.
e. Bring your best feelings towards the cooler.
People, look too helpless and you will cover
yourselves with pastry, fashions, burning down,
and awkward conversations.
This is the age of being touched:
gently. Don’t touch.
It wasn’t about the war. It wasn’t about
the lake. It was about fire and the lakes of oil,
shot from a helicopter. Those are not lakes.
These are full of oil, the oil is literally
boiling, and the process of watching
makes you wonder how long you should
make the same mistakes without thinking
about them. I say, there must be a better
way than this to evolve. There
should be a way around impossible love,
a legitimate reason women love horses first,
then men. There must be a way for bone
marrow to settle around the heart and heal
Only sometimes do situations not turn out
as you might have expected. Think how you
might have overused me, merrily screwed me
over the promises of darkness. If I were
a naked vulture, things would be the same.
My experiments will not have gone
unnoticed. A man outside will invent
something for this. This is me walking
away. This is me as seen from behind.
It is a fact that we will grow old before
learning to settle our deeds near fire.
It is a fact that civilians do not need
search warrants to enter each other’s homes.
Erica Bernheim holds degrees from Miami University, The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is currently Associate Professor of English at Florida Southern College, where she directs the creative writing program. Her first full-length collection, The Mimic Sea, was published by 42 Miles Press (Indiana University South Bend) in 2012. She is also the author of a chapbook, Between the Room and the City (H_NGM_N B__KS, 2006) and her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Laurel Review, Georgetown Review, Saw Palm, and The Iowa Review.