3 poems by Samantha Bernstein

Samatha Berenstein

Preciousness / Trash (Section 1 of 4)

Each to our addictions:
his, the alternate universe
of orderly violence
the current conducts
into our basement; mine
the porch, laptop a caught moon,
cigarette torch and fog
as I troll for words, those slippery
fish. Will my net be taut
or slack tonight?

My love gathers
digital weaponry, click click 
quick fingers that all day pecked
the best letters to compose
the news now make hard men
complete their missions. I 
pace kitchen to door,
nightly travels o’er
desecrated forest, my littered 
hardwood sacred to me
for shmeared with the grime
of my darlings. Their toe-prints
swirl there beneath the dirt and flour.
Wonders in the underbrush: 
small rabbits, tiny pitchers, beds,
groves of sole socks, string. So sing
the happy hours. Sprigs of pine,
candy wrappers.  
I squat
and lift, keep glutes afloat and 
words like cat hairs on the floor
gather and disperse as I 
decide, decide
what to pick up, 
what to ignore.  
Trash, preciousness – 
how talk
domestic life
at a time like this?
Mary Wollstonecraft, New Year’s Eve,
LRB podcast as I dust the stairs; the domestic
as mirror and microcosm. 
My love suspends a sudsy bowl
orating his point; 
I make mine rag wiping. 

Impulse Control

I will not post on social
this hairball in its slime,
though kneeling over it, competent 
with peroxide and paper towel had a moment 
of wondering why	

 – the baby’s crying; will she quiet? – 

some facets of the domestic 
are so exalted over others. Are sourdough 
loaves so much more gorgeous than 
hills of unfolded clothes? 
It’s the craft, I suppose. Laundry 
cultivates itself. 
Though if you ever
had the pleasure 
of paper towel folded just so
to absorb a mess,
you know any moment you take
functional measure of a thing 
has its artistry.

I had been headed for a poem.
Who knows what, now?
On my knees there was
the red geranium in bloom
against the dark window
above my head. (It was Barthes 
who hated geraniums? Yes. Also
women in slacks. 
Related?) One wipes and thinks
and ministers to things,
and then it’s late. 
Be dark enough thy shades, and be thou 
	there content. 

This frittering is freedom.
If you have something to say, 
say it, else go
fold the laundry and watch a show, clean the hairball, 
gather that wad of undigested self, 
and throw it in the bin.


The night I ejected
the embryo sac (at least I think
that’s what it was), I felt
a flash of performing this act, 
this messy process (body shunting 
object large enough to plink like a marble in water, 
days emitting blood and slime, some urgent shits) 
on a cold throne in dark woods, in a backroom pot with sixteen 
people, with servants to cover with cloth and remove.
It was the thought of telling
my husband downstairs that might have been it – the fact
that I could – carried me to what other women might tell;
my sense (as of threat) that these acts women do 
have often been repellant, thought wicked, 
reason for suspicion, dismissal, discipline.  
  To the tribunal in 1593, 
   the girl accused of abortion described her
   miscarriage in a field: The foetus slipped out
   like a piece of ham. 
There in my bright bathroom, carried through
a business uncountable bodies have known, gratitude
for sewerage, toilet paper, privacy, hot water, and the ability
I and most women I know possess – to describe without fear
a sense of the mess we clean up 
as the body resets, primes itself
for our next shot at life beyond death.

Samantha Annie Bernstein lives in Toronto/Dish With One Spoon Territory. She works as a contract professor, most recently teaching English and Creative Writing at Trent University.  Her scholarship focuses on intersections of ethics, aesthetics, affect, and politics.  These poems are taken from her forthcoming chapbook, Kitchen Island Poems (Gap Riot Press).  Her previous books are Here We Are Among the Living (Tightrope Books) and Spit on the Devil (Mansfield Press, 2017). 

Return to Journal

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.


Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie's first novel, Stillwater, will be released in the spring of 2023. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: