Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 14
Spring 2016

Bed of Nails

by Carl Auerbach

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
—Henry David Thoreau


Lying on a bed of nails
is not a bed of roses.

Maybe you happen to have been born 
on one, and you just call it life, 
in which the absence of petty quarrels and small brawls
forebodes larger disaster—your crazy uncle
going postal, your mother jumping out the window
before going into detox once again.

Or perhaps, at college, your professor
of philosophy, the defrocked Jesuit
who chain-smokes his Galois cigarettes,
will raise a question that will raise
another question, that will raise yet another,
and before you know it you’re in bed with him—
I don’t mean with his body but his mind—
and ten years later, at the age of thirty-five,
you will find yourself alone 
smoking weed in a dark room in Seattle
while debating between ten pills or a gun
or going out to Starbucks for some coffee
because after all what difference does it make.

Or when your life is drawing to a close,
on some Sunday afternoon
on holiday in a small town on Long Island
you will wake up in a bed
with a woman you don’t know
who they tell you is your wife of fifty years.
Look, they’ll say, at the picture in your wallet,
that’s you, that’s her, those are your grown children,
your daughter and your two twin sons.
Don’t worry, you can learn to live with it.
In fact, it seems you have already.


SHJ Issue 14
Spring 2016

Carl Auerbach

lives in New York City, where he has a private practice of psychotherapy. Now that his four children are grown, he’s pursuing a long-standing interest in poetry. Three of his poems and a short story have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Amarillo Bay, The Baltimore Review, Bayou Magazine, Blue Lake Review, Brink Magazine, The Cape Rock, Chrysalis Reader, The Coachella Review, Colere, Confluence, Corium Magazine, The Critical Pass Review, descant, The Distillery, Eclipse, Edison Literary Review, Eleven Eleven, Euphony, Evansville Review, Forge, Freshwater, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Griffin, G.W. Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Licking River Review, The Lindenwood Review, Louisville Review, The MacGuffin, The Minetta Review, Nimrod International Journal, North American Review, Oregon East, Organs of Vision and Speech Magazine, Passager, Pearl, Permafrost, Poem, RE:AL, Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, Reed Magazine, The Round, Sanskrit, Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts, The South Carolina Review, Spillway, Talking River, The Texas Review, Third Coast, Tower Journal, Westview, Willow Review, and The Write Room.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury