We follow directions: spread a shallow bed of seeds
in my belly button, place plastic wrap layers over
my stomach, and lay my body out in sunlight.
You and I want a perpetual strawberry plant,
don’t have garden beds or green thumbs—
we improvise. I’m becoming good at staying still,
taking this time to recite Keats, watching local kids
skip down the street from our sidewalk. You sprinkle
coffee grounds on me to assure bright green leaves.
Warm breath, light whisper, I say and you listen,
watering the rows between my ribs. Sprouts start
to peek through skin. Within days, vines burst
out of seeds, stretches of fruit swelling red
up and down my torso. As you bite small buds
off my kneecaps, the vines push you in, tangle
your body with mine. I grab you by the runners
curling behind your ears. We have a chance
to harvest ourselves. Please—let’s immerse
in sweetness. We’ll spend our days wrapped
in strawberries, roots sinking deep in our veins.
We’ll get lost in greenery just to dig
through blossoms, finding each other again.
Stairs of berries lift us off our feet as we rediscover
marks on collarbones, using our tongues
to distinguish freckles from splatters of juice.
GARDEN OF EDEN
I start with the trees, draw two brown trunks,
green clouds for tops. Glitter glue circles
of forbidden red fruit. Pastor John assigns my sister
and me to draw the Garden of Eden before service,
hands us oak tag, markers, broken crayons. We work
on our best Biblical pictures, kneel on altar steps
before primped & permed attendees fill pews.
Stacey strokes grass blades, blue rivers.
Coats her board until it beams in flower blossoms
and smilie-faced animals. I grab safety scissors,
cut two trees out from construction paper roots
flip them over. On the backsides, I sketch:
a pink thumbs up Fangs of a red snake
stretches to the word break through
I tape the trees on my blank board. So good!
Pastor John exalts with patted shoulders,
sticks my finished product on his podium. So full
of God’s Word. When Stacey asks to thumbtack
her drawing next to mine, Pastor John offers
a headshake and pushed-back palm: Some
are good at creating, others
are not. Churchgoers open doors, line up to see
my work before service starts. They bend
down in suit pants to view my display, open
and close flaps to get their fate—thumb or snake—
as my sister scribbles darker colors over her drawing
to revive her flowers. When the markers drain,
she rips her poster in the garbage. Stacey shrinks
into Pastor John’s palms. I watch as the congregation
fills me with Holy Spirit. I watch as Pastor John
feeds her to the snake I invented.
PLEASE IDENTIFY AND CIRCLE ANY MEDICATIONS THAT SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN INTRODUCED TO YOUR SISTER AT THIS POINT IN HER CHILDHOOD
1 Potential answers: ABILIFY, ADDERALL, ATIVAN, CARBAMEZAPINE, CELEXA, KLONOPIN, LEXAPRO, PROZAC, REMRON, RESPUTERAL, RISPERDAL, ZOLOFT, ZYPREXA
Laura Bernstein's work has been featured or is forthcoming in Tupelo Quarterly, Passages North, and Spry Literary Journal, among others. Bernstein lives in Bucks County, PA with her husband and daughter, and she just completed her MFA at Rutgers University Camden. She teaches at Penn State Abington.