Editor's note: these poems originally appeared in the old/previous Luna Luna
A CASTING CALL FOR THE IMPOSSIBLY PROPORTIONED
“A village explainer, excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not.” Gertrude Stein (on Ezra Pound)
Improbably, they face their gods, pants unbuckled,
belts unzipped, the energy of fear and light shedding
its own entropy. Yogurt, massive and hollow, the life
of stars and flagellum make no sense to your tuberous
brow. Here is where the lizard’s rarest plants flourish:
girl on girl, pearl on swine, spilled red wine, never on
time, clumsy even without rhyme, and mostly messages
from another constellation. Housekeeping lacks urgency.
Now that you have seen how I live, I will hold the door
for you and the red fog of frogs following. You will
rush down the street in search of an audience, the town
crier, the village explainer without the village. To love
something this much has to be wrong. On a scale
of seven to nineteen, I want to very much.
Your distinct limp, your shoulder with its divots,
the damage done to the back of your spine, hips,
feet, and dewlaps, things you don’t need to see.
The few days left we have together are less painful
when they are less precious. Before you were selected,
there was doubt behind your lack of intentions, your
monstrous brow and miniscule brain, but mostly when
you leave, everyone will never know it was you all along.
DEAD MAN’S SHIRT: A FAKE FLOWER
It’s all you have of the evidence he was gone, the payment made
becomes the past of a part of the meaningless motion. All you
can do is think unkindly of his feathery snapping legs, saying:
I want to do things that are useful.
It’s awful, the far away horses who will not show up.
It’s noteworthy that they are rendered uncomfortable.
It’s perfect when all things are about animal things.
It’s impossible to understand why the flying fox is a bat, saying:
We want to please each other first.
Probably I will grow tired of stabbing you. I will send you
to the lumber yard alone, your shellfish burglars, your moon
rats, your cameos, a short list of differences between stockyards and
slaughterhouses: a bridge over green water and a million feet
buried with the same tenses speeding past.
You wish you would disappear and this is what it means.
THE SPHERICAL KNIFE
Imagine all the opportunities you missed,
gathered in one place, where you started:
the call you never made, the light’s stiletto
misheard in the mirrored armoire. Somewhere
they have struggled to get out. The summer
life is lived at night. For instance: I believe
you when you say there are over two million
saunas in Finland, but not when it’s please
or don’t. Everything exciting is in the middle.
Think of the truck that will haul anything and
say, without you, my life proceeds in reverse:
we move apart, we fall away from rounded
swords, our burdens disappear, set free with
no idea of what to do afterwards. It may be
a fact: people are less likely to complain about
things in beautiful places. Until you see it’s only
a pile of old hair, you’d swear the smell was
that of something rotting, a face that knows
how to mimic the knees.
THE HOUSE ON THE ROCK, SPRING GREEN, WISCONSIN
“How better to maximize the impact of a super
siege gun than to put it next to a doll house?”
–from The House on the Rock official souvenir book
The House on the Rock, not far
from the scallops of Taliessen,
boasts rooms burdened to explosion
by carousel horses ordered into
layers reptilian and tight. Their
scales retain color like reverse
mermaids, symbiotic and terrifying,
inevitable space, each who lacks
solid footing justifying the existence
of the other, no more questionable
than the return of an old cancer
in a new bone.
HE LIT A MATCH
People come here for vacations.
They will visit the streets of the
town of Yesteryear; they will
look at machines that should
never have worked but have
learned to now. They will walk
on plastic cobbled plastic
cobblestone in a town modeled
after one. They will finger
the automatons. They will
choose their own true favorites,
conceived by memory.
Even the dust proved more loyal
to its citizens, clinging to their
waxy shoulders, imagining con-
sumption, then spending the rent.
Sadness comes from not knowing
what this means. Fingal fingers,
the world’s strongest man is someone
who must like picking up stones.
Just say it, like we agree, we agree.
PROPER AND STRONG AND TOUGH
Bow to anything that dares call
itself snow or flake or motor or
nectar-seeking missile. I hate
you here for your silences, the
bullfrogs’ chorus a poor substitute
for the nothing we have left
The swing remains caught
in the branches. Beware the
indoor hawks, feathers dense
as ladies’ fingers stacked with
coins, then soaked through with
the want of it. Around us, the
halo of bad news grows wider.
THEY CALL HIM
Imagine dying ahead of your time
Imagine trying to come
back with them. Imagine eating
a live octopus; its tentacles
decisive where you are not.
Each sucker clings to your
throat, resisting the forced
tentaculation, daring the next
swallow to push it down.
CHICKEN IN THE ROUGH
There is no reason not to destroy
ourselves, no reason for this new
discipline, this set of laws, these
many many reasons not to leave
the house today. This is where the
movie should be. We will be its
I will hang from the ceiling
ornaments galore. Desire will be
key. Bring us limousines. Make
them drivable. Fearless this director
and his giant muscular screens.
The crown jewelsare here,
four times over, the dolls are
from everywhere, weaponry
unique. If locked in, where might
we have awaited sleep, the ceiling
too low for breathing, the floor
too slick with inbred mosses.
Between us, a mock Grand
Canyon. We will be listening
to a mechanical “Mikado.”
TO CHECK THE GAS TANK
There cannot be enough girls
for these morose dolls, enough
cigarettes inclined for so many
lighters, a need to keep a Derringer
inside a woman’s wooden leg.
Uncoil this watchspring of my
tongue, and pull it over my head.
OF SOME GUY’S TRUCK
No one will forget to remember
your likeness in The Infinity.
No one will remember
your name, but the license plates
will stay behind, corroded sideways
onto their walls, acrostic and puzzling
their new messages, no mentions of
dollhouses and siege guns. People
will become strangers slowly to
each other. Take their advice.
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.