The Temptations of St. Anthony


Erica Bernheim





The Lost Things


my eyes saw were instantly bigger.

It is strange to think of having fought so hard.

My renovation fantasies, my pagoda dreams,

a mockingbird’s challenge, a butter knife

to the skull. Embryos were delayed, their roots

at risk, their body temperatures rising seven

degrees every hour, evaporating into the largest

ears of any underemployed canine, a double-

chinned canterer, ageless skin of the switch-hitter.




Who Grows Taller


during that summer, the grass grew faster.

Any gap, any floor was filled, a quick trip ticket picked.

Blood pheasants, desperate grazers, an oracle of nights

to come, draftguards, and a house that always wins.

Insanity is the last resort of the desperate,

predictable actions and the entry of the least element.

A poem about a cactus must not say “prickly.”

Temptations must never be felt.




The Woods Full of Humans


Manage a city of tents with its own ballet,

its own generator of laws.

Here is a bramble. A week in Florida is nothing

simple. Nothing dies there but the slow people.

Where you are is already morning. You become

rounded by sadnesses, ripping through open eyes,

peeled away from metal insides.




The Open Bird


remains unseasonably attached, salty, and bereft

of terror. It slows down to lose and takes home

its winnings by taking a strike, versatile, to the right.

Even behind in the count, it’s too hot to do that.

Name it. Your outside corner, your shaken player,

for the second night in a row you are frustrated

and hit the glass. Think of how strange it feels

to see parrots flying in the sky like pigeons or gulls.




The Slow Animals


Lights wire actions back to back. I tell you to lie,

to say you’ll stay Away.

with chairs half your size in

feet. With usable space, intimate and with unique

characters. The music starts as a voice and becomes

an instrument away from its normal activities. Why

did I win that raffle, the soil, shifting and perverse.

Sleep at night with this in your hair. There were over

250 dogs on the menu. Never question the importance

of the heart while rummaging through the pantry.




Jobs in Offices


If this recurring tabloid tableau is to be believed,

we are likewise fated to pretend. You will learn what

an escort really does. Overseas, reading the classifieds

are the same in most languages. Mailboxes are generally

located in the same places. People were once consumed

by mail, and on television we see it happen many times:

each piece of mail stuck to a flatter-than-thou particle,

a wall constructed of bombs and flattery: the sheer envelope

window as mirror always tells you who you are and even if it’s not

you, the not you is permanent, too.









Erica Bernheim is the author of the full-length poetry collection, The Mimic Sea, and of a chapbook, Between the Room and the City.  She is currently Associate Professor of English at Florida Southern College, where she directs the creative writing program.  Her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, The Missouri Review, Hobart, and Burnside Review.