Dead Meander


cover art: “Am”  © 2005–2006 by Ann Worthing






Born out of fragments of breakages made by leavings off, such as occurs in immigration and other traumatic experiences, the essays of Dead Meander investigate how things can be made whole, or more whole, in the time following such leavings, transitions and traumas.

Bernardi’s poetic prose is hypnotic and original, sending out associative tributaries (“meanders”), and finding language for extreme states.  This work explores and extends the forms of rituals of elegy with an astonishing, at times excruciating awareness, capable of brilliantly evoking what consciousness endures when the body — whether one’s own, a child’s, or the body politic — is under assault.
— Eleanor Wilner

In Dead Meander Bernardi follows the pathways of memory to arrive in a place both traveled and not traveled before. . . through dark turbulent convolutions of language where words morph into twisted versions of themselves. Each essay is a fragment of memory that twines forward and back in time, place, birth and death, all the while incorporating scientific and scholarly facts and poetry.
— Eve Rifkah

Writing as a mother, daughter, scholar and friend, award-winning fiction writer and translator Adria Bernardi has created a densely-woven and deeply moving collection of essays in which images gather, echo one another, and are transformed in ways that are always surprising and consistently touch the heart.
— Susan Neville


from Dead Meander

Click each link for an excerpt

Alba: Fragments for An Elegy


The Errant Steps of Wooden Shoes


Boat and Globe

Heaven Swallowed the Smoke

Any Stop: Elegy for Senator Paul David Wellstone (1944-2002)


Path Crossed

Dead Meander



from “Alba: Fragments for an Elegy”

      The photograph is an historical impossibility.
      Why? Why. I’ll tell you why. Because the husband and wife were married in America and never went back to Italy together, nor did they go to France. The girl with the enormous bow did not come to America until she was fifty years old. The mother of the girl with the enormous bow came to America only once, when the boy with the tremendous cheeks got married. And none of them from America went to France until years and years after the father of the girl with the enormous bow was killed in an explosion inside a mountain where he was a detonator of explosives breaking apart walls of coal. It is an historical impossibility that they occupied the same space in a single moment.”

first published as chapbook by the H.G. Roberts Foundation

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from “Hep-Lock”

. . . Already it requires too much effort to explain to others outside. The pregnancy was going fine. In fact, I was hiking in Quebec a few weeks ago. A joke about a doctor waiting. Or get right to the point, right to the definition of preeclampsia. Not veil it in the mystery-talk of illness. Repeat what the doctors have told me: Preeclampsia is the development of hypertension, albuminuria, or edema between the twentieth week of pregnancy and the end of the first week postpartum. High blood pressure, protein in the urine, swelling, and I am three for three."

first published in The Missouri Review

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from “The Errant Steps of Wooden Shoes”

. . . In Florence, in Italy, in the fall of 1977, I wandered. Not in the sense of a vagabond with a knapsack on my back, which is how I wanted to wander, vaguely, like a hippie, maybe to Greece in the winter, maybe to Morocco, maybe make my indefinite way to Indonesia. It was not this kind of wandering, but a kind of confined wandering. It was a wandering within the boundaries of academic study with a group of American college students. It was a polite, almost reverential, wandering. There was no knapsack for me: We will not have you traipsing across Europe, young lady, like all those others with packs on their backs, loaded down like a mule. So I arrived carrying American Tourister luggage of coral red vinyl, and I did not traipse or travel widely and without restriction. I was an earnest, diligent wanderer, even though, in keeping with those times, I wanted desperately to be a free spirit. Again, I try to remember what this meant and am having trouble locating it, but it had something to do with roving and bounding, a way of being that may never have been within my grasp, although I torment myself still with the thought that it was there for the taking, and, had I just been able to step less fearfully, there would have been a lifetime of bold, indeterminate movement.”

first published in Traveler’s Tales: Italy, True Tales of Life on the Road, Edited by Anne Calcagno

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from “Half-Cranium” 

     Emigrare, in Italian, is to emigrate, and the word for migraine is emicrainia. Migraine, I have thought, is a journey caused by pain, an emigration from the cranium. E-migrare. E-micrania. Pain exiles you from your own brain and you go out-of-your-mind with pain. The pain is so great, you have to take leave and look at it from a distance, maybe from the corner of a darkened room as you lie upon a bed.
       But I was mistaken.
       I had not accurately broken the word into syllables. Not e-micrania, but emi-crania. Half-cranium. Because the pain occurs on one side of the head.
Still, I persist in thinking of migraine as referring to a condition that makes you an emigrant from your own brain.

“Half-Cranium” was first published in River Oak Review

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from “Boat and Globe”

     We are wearing our finest jewelry, as if for a wedding. Hard candy in pockets, cellophane crinkling. Toiletries spread out on the counter waiting to be packed, toothpaste and lipstick, deodorant, aspirin, hair brush, tiny plastic bottles of shampoo, packages of Kleenex. Tickets in breast coat pocket, the requisite picture ID.
     The morning of the day we travelled to the funeral, I looked out the bedroom window and felt a globe balanced between my sternum and the windowpane. I dared not move, as if I would make the metaphor come true, a whole world going with her.”

first published in Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry

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from “Heaven Swallowed the Smoke”

When September began, I was thinking about skin, how the skin wrapped around the body, how skin and air were companionable.
     I was translating. It’s hard work, no, it’s tedious work. I was busy self-complaining.
     Suddenly I was saying the same four words as everybody else: there are no words.

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from Any Stop:  Elegy for Senator Paul David Wellstone  (1944-2002)

     That day I passed and did not drive into an intersection
after the light turned green. I hesitated.
     A car ran the light and would have hit mine
broadside, and I asked, What would I do if I knew it were my last
day on earth?
     That day my son asked me where the moon went
when it went down, and where the sun went too.

first published in Diner Literary Journal

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from “Croup”

Croup is a peculiar sharp ringing cough of a childhood illness that frequently proves fatal in a short time. Croup is a spasmodic laryngitis of infants marked by episodes of difficult breathing and a hoarse metallic cough. It is an inflammatory disease of the larynx and trachea of children, marked by a peculiar sharp ringing cough. Croup is characterized by wheezy breathing or whistling, and a cough that is seal-like, a croak or a bark.”

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from “Path Crossed”

Verbally, I stumble.
     More and more, it starts with misspeaking. With a misplaced word. Or a syllable from one word switched with a syllable of the following word. I say to my son who has just been walloped on the forehead with a stick: At least it's not blushing gud.
     At the toaster preparing breakfast, I ask him, Do you want an English weapon?
     With great determination, I say to myself, I’m going to make myself some meatloaf. Meaning oatmeal.
     I read migraine for multigrain on the cereal box.
     I reach to turn up my sister’s raincoat collar: Let me fix your calendar.

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from “Dead Meander”

   The size of the river and force of its flow determines the arc of the meander. Erosion occurs on the outer curve; sediment builds up in the inner curve. Meanders are typical of tributaries on gentle slopes. In time, the meander forms a basin and its own sinuosity becomes accentuated. The bend migrates laterally across the flood plain and downstream. A meander can become so pronounced that the two ends of the curve connect. When this occurs, it becomes an oxbow lake. In the Italian, an oxbow lake is called a meandro morto.
   Another day, the heron was flying at some distance from the pond, long and horizontal. High above the Price Chopper parking lot. Prehistoric flapping. A lovely juxtaposition. Heron and asphalt. Then I saw the hawk. Behind it. Above it. Below it. In pursuit and harassing.

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Dead Meander
published by Kore Press

Kore Press is a nationally recognized non-profit dedicated to literary activism through publishing women and educating girls to raise awareness and advance progressive social change.








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