Conjunctions:50 Fifty Contemporary Writers

Three Poems
Dea%r Fr~ien%d,

I sa%w yo%r pixture on
wehb si;t; no.t su%re
whhc one & w~ant to
tal^k or mee.t ver~y so.on
I am old ma%n 57 year$
ba%d tooth & sme.ll vr,y hr.d t mee%t
people. I a,m wr$iter
wr$ite po%re%y an,d
email,g al>so
se{ll goo;d stocks v;;ry
che~p & prozac~ s%ince
I a$lso can^t slee.p. bihg
bizness opportunity to
tel^l on~ly my fre;ndhs
if yo;u hav. som,e m@oney
to hehlp me/i expec%
prostr%ate c%ncer an;y da;y
nee~d mon~ey m.y in tr^.rble
willl snd y$ou my pi%cture
n.eed check f~irst
a.m poet wh;o l.ikes
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emmail m$e at swifftpllay
a.m nhow you.r freind
& soul mat.e—



Loneliness in Linden
—After Wallace Stevens

The fear and the hum are one.
Monuments of show gumming the works
Until the weather grows tired of the people
And the people grow tired of the dance.
Jamais, jamais, jamais, again.

The measure of the town against a dampening sky
Cobbling together six million tunes
Into more than the tones tattoo
Or their scrambled mosaic forecloses.

And if the fume and the hope
Are one? My monkey, from ’49
Steps as silent as those songs
Along the cratered dark
Where Jews do Jewish things
No one pretends to understand
Or are they pilgrims on this night
When the fear and the hum are one?


Won’t You Give Up This Poem to Someone Who Needs It?

Remember what I told you about purgatory?
Limbo? How all that’s happening now is just
this waiting around till the big cheese makes up
her mind about you? She makes you the way
you are and then decides if it panned out; for
every ten half-baked cookies there’s a gem
&, you know, just maybe you’re one of those.
Then there’s those take her name in vain—
whaddya call them?, the religious moralists;
she don’t much cotton to them, not when
they try to take away a woman’s right to choose
or bad-mouth folks almost as queer as she is.
Well, everyone makes mistakes. That’s what
purgatory’s for. Sometimes it happens that
while you wait you see what’s what—start
accepting you’re in a long queue for God
only knows what. And neither of you has
any idea what the hell the matter is or what
to do about it.

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.