Page updated: 01/19/2010


by Arlene Bernstein


This stoppage pushes beyond the bounds of writers block
Breath's very passage hostage-held by your cruel fiat

You have chosen to renounce me
not for another

but to make sail under enemy colors
             in a war created by and for
             the very tyrants you claim to disdain

When I with tentative
shame-faced awe and shock
confide in friends
that in a week or two
you will be leaving for Iraq
they look embarrassed


cannot fathom why
I concern myself with a man like you

Nor can I myself esteem myself a righteous woman to care
as I do

knowing full well

             that a never-to-be-sated secret hatred illuminates your dark way
             to unsanctified doomsday

             that you are hoping against hope joining jingoists in unholy battle
             may wrench you from the suffocation of ennui
             halt the scratching screech of failure
             shame your children into honoring their father
             replenish venom to a milked bewildered snake

Despite your years Darling
you'll win no ribbons for wisdom


Because of all I know  my woman's heart  not broken  though insulted and annoyed
beats slow

a brake upon my womanly urge to birth a manifesto

to denounce you

All I wanted was your freckled biceps
hazel guarded eyes
scientist's intellect
twinship with your poet's speech

Instead I found myself confined  death-camped skin-flayed  sadistically slashed
fucked in a way I had neither anticipated nor desired

You will leave I will keep up pretence of relief in release from your boot in my face
I will say there is no news of you and that no news of you is good news for me

But as your absence waxes my distance from that fine and private
narrow-bedded single grave will wane

I Cinderella'd
enjoyed royalblueblanketed invitations to midnights

girlish you called me  quivering  in your antique white-canopied bed caught between
the pincers of your weathered lean patrician limbs
pounding feet conscienceless fingers  demanding teeth  startling hipbones

my breasts transfused for your motherless thirst
my cries served up for your orphan's hunger
my small fists pummeling your concave belly into potency

I will surrender to time and age
from which your reckless spirit beckoned bright harbor

             peerless in our staying powers
             eternal children  sailing under fat summer's night green moon sway

My essence  siphoned off to fuel your flight
will not likely effervesce that way again

    Short Poem

    by Arlene Bernstein

    are the times
    to all things
    under the sun
    man needs to do

    according to

    Yet you
    could not find
    one single time
    to love me


    by Arlene Bernstein

    Do you recall the Christmas party
    at the home of friends?

    You standing dead center
    living-room glimmering
    a-shimmer of pulsating lights

    your aluminum silver gray cane gleams
    gray-tweed coat voluminous now
    slight fuzz of new white hair
    lighting your dark palette

    We are leaving the party
    All goodbyes already uttered

    but you

    Lungs    liver    brain    riddled    ruined

    Still the longing never dies
    and the longing does the work
    keeps you riveted there

    unable to deliver the wishes throbbing behind your
    luminescent eyes
    bent and rooted
    mutely prolonging your attendance

    The other guests your former friends
    perceive you    simply    understandably    pitifully
    slow sickly slow

    They do not know what keeps you standing there
    long minutes now after they have shaken your cold hand
    embraced me with their knowing looks

    For they with time at their command
    impatient to return to
    comfort warmth holiday glow
    make merry as they may

    But you are neither staying
    nor simply moving at a pace
    commensurate with your new and crippled state

    Seemingly forever rooted
    to the reddish-brilliant center medallion
    of the Persian carpet
    in the middle of
    the burnished
    living-room floor

    Rather    one by one    are    tallying
    all that you will lose
    telling your rosary of grim adieux
    as you have been doing these final months
    and weeks
    and days
    and minutes

    Dieing happens thought by thought
    eked out in swift seconds' slow summation
    This death-watch
    Enervatingly tolling away your life

    And I am depleted
    trapped in your loss
    bled of all patience
    waiting patiently
    for you to accept your fate
    (while worrying that you've missed a morphine dose)

    when I have helped manuevre your body into the car
    after I have driven us home in taut silence
    after I have helped you negotiate
    the car-door the five cement steps to the house-door
    attempting gently to remove your coat – flinching as you flinch in pain at my touch
    searching your face your burning eyes for what it is you want from me

    your rasping sad accusing voice
    my pounding guilty ears and heart

         Why do we always have to rush?

         Why are you always hurrying me away?

         Why won't you let me stay
         until I say I'm ready to go?


    by Arlene Bernstein

    In my sabots
    I clump along always
    noisy always
    wrong always tripping always aching
    soaring never
    breaking their wooden alliance with earth
    and rain and mud and

    I Stumble on in my sabots
    which tighter grow! Impinging more 'pon my poor
    toes as I slush through rivers of
    melting mountains of snow

    wear sandals or satin-green slippers
    I wear my sabots at all times where-ever
    run barefoot
    through daisy or heather
    My sabots to my toes have grown grafted they're fettered!
    (In fact
    what would I do with barefoot toes?

    barefoot sabots)

    Biblical Balm

    by Arlene Bernstein

    There are those I know who source their pride in parental loins

    seminal squirt fecundity of womb

    I call nationality accident of birth

    To adulate origins to comfort take in bloodlines' noose

    to wallow in citizenship of blood to love by the map

    to hate  to plunder  to kill by fiat

              These blunders cannot be sanctified with biblical balm

              These brusing sins disguised with unguents thick

              and smooth these children's cries shushed by syllables of calm

    One Voice

    by Arlene Bernstein


    own but one voice


    despite all attempts

    to coax it

    or to coerce it

    into carrying a clearer tone

    a firmer rhythm

    a burden more weighty

    a copiously Baroque polyphony



    a mutant strain

    (self-Kaddish really)

Errors or omissions? Please contact me, Arlene Bernstein, at:

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