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
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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
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I a$lso can^t slee.p. bihg
bizness opportunity to
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if yo;u hav. som,e m@oney
to hehlp me/i expec%
prostr%ate c%ncer an;y da;y
nee~d mon~ey m.y in tr^.rble
willl snd y$ou my pi%cture
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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 is the author of Topsy-Turvy and Pitch of Poetry (both University of Chicago Press). In 2019, he was awarded the prestigious Bollingen Prize for Poetry. With Tracie Morris, Bernstein co-edited Best American Experimental Writing 2016 (Wesleyan University Press).