Preciousness / Trash (Section 1 of 4) 1. 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. Progress. 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. Miscarriage 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).
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