Emily Grace Bernard


We were on vacation when it happened:
My brother and I. Our bodies slightly
Darker from the sun, sunscreen
Rubbed into us
Told your lung collapsed like the leg
Of a dining room table

We will feed each other cheese platters tonight
Our fingers in each other’s mouths
My mother used to tilt our heads upwards against the toilet
Dental floss cutting into her hands—

The first time our car broke down, we greased
The engine with Vaseline
My brother and I sitting on the couch, knees
Pressed into one another

My mother got $1,000 for its parts
The scrap metal yard where huge, half-bodies
Of automobiles lay like exotic animals
Taking their last breaths

The mortician must have pried
Her zipper– cut open her khaki pants
The silence of the body
Speaks volumes

Later we will decide whether to put her ashes
In our dining room or living room. Yellow was her favorite
Color: she had decorated
From things she had seen in catalogues


In October he goes through orchards learning
The flags of the body: redder and wetter into
Fall, into fallen and smashed harvests
Fruit basket stuffed in his mind’s eye
This is taking a new woman. Other pastorals
And cartographic exchanges of infirm maps
Written by their Mothers– he dreams of tuning her monthly as
A piano– higher and half-eaten by the wrong version of virtue
Even cattle need new pastures sometimes according
To his college roommate flocks have “flight zones”
In the future our bodies will have engines
Sunk into the excised wings of our backs
Next to laundry baskets where our undergarments rest in
Apartment dryers as calmly as fatter worms under rocks
Heaven is supposed to enter our libido
In the fall churning us into white drifts

Emily Grace Bernard’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Heavy Feather Review, Word Riot, The Adroit Journal, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Whistling Shade. She lives in Northfield, MN and attends Carleton College.