on the stairs

Michael J. Berntsen

I.
there is a pretentious boy
who is in love
with a frail thing.
He thinks of it
while he ties his shoes,
dreams of it
as he stirs his soup,
believes his dying
talent can preserve it.

II.
there are bones beneath the street
craving the rhythm of feet against pavement.
A woman, who keeps her husband around her neck,
feeds those calcium stones with soles of lard and gossip.
In each window, she stops to erase herself,
preparing for tomorrow's batch of conversations,
planning for next month's assortment of surgeries,
and pondering when her iPhone will have its own iPhone.

III.
there is a girl
behind that book
fearful of goose bumps,
afraid of flesh.
Beyond her shades,
the trees drip lust.
She watches
as she opens her
mouth to catch them.
Her fingers, slender and pink,
are sealed to her lips;
they belong in the garden,
reserved for soil and thorns.
And as she sleeps, hiding
beneath the family sheets,
an ice whisper haunts her bed.

IV.
there is a word carved
into this wooden world
by the tip of a feather.
An anxious scholar,
from the Idaho state,
proposed to it, promised
his two eyes to her.
They made love somehow,
had a litter of little letters,
which he arranged to etch an ode
devoted to the beauty of a splinter.

V.
there is a man
who injects blood into his brain.
Kneeling on a rug, a stained rug,
he lowers to the floor, he
lowers into the rough, brown film, he
lowers below the ocean to feed.
He is masturbating now,
thinking of her, thinking
of tonight's her, thinking
of his mother, thinking
of his dead mother, thinking.


About the Author

Michael J. Berntsen teaches Composition, Creative Writing, and Literature at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.