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June 26, 2020 Poetry

Three Poems 

Alex Bernstein

Three Poems  photo

Today I Promise

The sky & what
occupies the sky
can never be touched.
I know, for instance,
nothing about Simone
Weil who suffered
on behalf of other
people’s suffering.
I forget the word
which used to mean
emptiness as truth
but is virtually
nonexistent. Once
you looked at me
like I was the end
of sadness. My dear,
are you mincing
a sweet potato? What
is the lemon tree
doing right now?
Thomas Malory
of Papworth hewed
helmets & hauberks.
A blue cross surrounded
by beads on the wrist
of a stranger speaks
in the miracle. Thus
the sky remains
a sudden pleasure.
The sun hangs in
its jaw like a melon
half-eaten away
by stone. A voice says
I’ve painted the sky
exactly as it is.
Today I promise
to talk to everyone,
convene with clarity,
make an effort
in the conversation.
Pineapple, I think,
and forgive me
for my not knowing
how to address
what once was.



Rubric for Asparagus

In Book XIX
of Natural History,
Pliny advises to dig
over a place
with damp soil
to sow the seeds
with a dibble.
This requires
the most delicate
attention, he says.
I too like asparagus.
They make me
think of my father
who for years
delivered luggage
from the airport
to golden strangers
who wandered out thinking
their sentient mischief.
They also make me
go berserk like I’m
wearing a scarf
in the shape of a room.
I don’t know
if any vegetable lives
three springs long.
I hope they do. I hope
that when my father
dies I’m roasting
enough asparagus
to feed the voices
of a somnolent choir.
Do you mind, Pliny
asks the asparagus,
the red moon and trees,
makes a questionnaire
that says hold out
your hands, draw
enough circles
to dizzy a pope.
The asparagus are
very plain about this—
when you breathe
you are together
with the people
who are missing you.



My Life

I keep repeating
how I love you
for my life, afraid
whatever I say
won’t be the
right thing, and
I’ll leave out
all the necessary
But you know
what I mean, like
in dreams I dream
of a fire ceremony,
everyone holds
out their hands
for the masters,
we secretly know
no mountains
stand between us,
terrible animals
text a big deal, I
don’t want to make
a deal. We forget
we were born
to carry our names
in the industry
of our mouths,
to draw lines
of composition,
be modern and flat,
to do justice to space.
We stay out late
casting our spells
because the hours,
they do slam gently
down. All I can say
is, I’m so thrilled
you’ve decided to breathe
a moment in July,
though it’s reckless
sometimes for the birds
and other species.


image: Dorothy Chan