Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

SUBMIT: May 1 through June 2, 2024 | READING FEE: $15


In Vuillard’s Interior

Pam Bernard
| poetry


All’s rooted here in forgiveness—

forgiver and forgiven deep


in the textured present. Pleasure

rises from the dappled surface,


where, in the chaos of patterns,

a woman emerges, then


another, flowered dress

against flowered wall.


Her shadow’s the equal

of her body, a cameo’s


milky profile pinned

to her bosom, while


the other bends to her

task, pale nape of her neck


defined by the blue oval

of washbasin behind her.


The needle’s infinitesimal prick

into silk, her breath just after.


Each mark is a universe

within the larger cloth, traveling


beyond the frame, beyond

the idea of what it might mean


to be in such a place, how

the chair receives


her wide hips when she

is done with her housework, how


the piano waits patiently

for the other’s warm fingers.


These women demand no pity,

no sadness lies underfoot—


not in this simple room, fragrant

with farm bread and jam.


Outside, veils of bittersweet

climb beyond restraint.


But here, in the quotidian—

everything familiar somehow


something has come clear,

which, in the false clarity


of what seems to be,

was forgotten.


Pam Bernard’s awards include an NEA and two Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowships. A book-length poem entitled Esther is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press.

Goose at Salt Marsh Cove