Three Poems

The bud does not
recall its bloom
just as at evening
my love does not
detain its gloom.
Over all and every
sputter, a gallon
of application, two
disks of curdled
shade, a mix
of turpentine and
pine, somberer blink
for a spreadsheet.
No more is premised
no more procured
the day alone to 
wear away and spire
of displaced circumference
outworn imbrication.
This gown how quieter
than a plumb, entombed
in tires, advancing
forearmed, with empty
hands. Yet
falling back becomes
a rest for
mutable things
as here—
intending a dissolving



Slide of a glance
preemptorally to be know—
the dues and destitution
of an inculcated complicity
in the end run of
uncomplicated compromise. No
better than this is
shown—the consummate
gaze at an enlarged
porcelain clock, marking
the lugubrious commode’s
selfsame parody—musty
windowcase of next
week’s resurrection.



The reward for
love is not
love, any more
than the reward
for disobedience
is grace. What
chains these
conditions severs
semblance of
a hand, two
fists, in preemptive
embrace with
collusion. The target
trails the fire-
power, acclimating in
accolades, or
smoking out
shudder of
with ruptures of
delay. Whirl
as whirl
can, a surrogate’s
no place
for dismay.

Charles Bernstein’s new collection of poems, Topsy-Turvy, is out in spring 2021 (University of Chicago Press). Bernstein is the 2019 recipient of the Bollingen Prize for lifetime achievement in poetry and for Near/Miss (University of Chicago Press) and is the author of a collection of poems entitled Recalculating, (University of Chicago Press), as well as Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays & Inventions (University of Chicago Press). Bernstein is a Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania.