Melissa Bernal

The Organ


Three months bleeding now, and I am

hollow as a conch shell. Globe-swollen,

red, and clean clean clean. The blood comes

when the body decides it is time to let go.

What I held, for two aching years, in a space

no bigger than a Bartlett pear, now released

in a slow, dark, leak.

I am untouchable and tired. I am

drinking nettle tea with honey

and eating fatty fish for dinner.

Remaking myself into something sweet,

with sharp little hairs,

and bones that catch in the throat.

Making myself ready for the emptying. The body

has many ways to weep, and this silent organ

is one – suspended like wet, heavy laundry,

resting like a fruit in the pelvic bowl,

purging like a confessor, and waiting

like a dock-tethered boat bobbing gently in the dark.


How to be Reverent


When the body of Christ sticks to the roof of my mouth,

the useless, silent, sucking feels wrong.

And cow-eyed saints watch disapprovingly,

and I nervously pinch and twist the hem of my sleeve.


Will God be angry if I pick at His only begotten Son with a fingernail?


A stray deer wandered elegant as you like

into Eglise Saint-Eustache,

cloven hooves sounding against the marble.

And the light, my God,

the way it made the whole space shine

blue and white like a winter meadow.

And that deer belonged there

more than anyone.


The video is too short to see if he might have nibbled

at the altar cloth. Or to maybe witness a young seminarian

nervously shoo him from the sacristy,

left open by accident.


But I wish I could. I wish I could see that young deer,

fresh velvet glowing hazy gray in the afternoon light

streaming through the white wings of bodiless seraphim,

idly chewing a mouthful of found eucharist.

Drinking deep from the basin of holy water,

to help it go down easy.


Because deer have no fingernails. Just those hooves

and their echoes bouncing roundly

as he makes his way down the center of the nave,

full enough for now, and calm,

and unashamed.


Melissa Bernal Austin is a queer, Latina, writer and El Paso, TX, native, living in West Michigan. Her work and performances have been part of The Helix Magazine, Funicular Magazine, The Narrow Chimney Reading Series, and more. She is an educator, herbalist, maker, and can be found on Twitter @softerpath.

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