The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2023

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MAY 2023 Issue

Twelve Poems Beginning with A, B, C

Abundance of Caution

I thought this was a good title, topical, metaphoric, a way of bringing out the valances of caution,
with the sense of damned if you do damned if you don’t. Don’t you want to grab life by the horns
yet not be impaled by them? Hoisted on your own petard or live to see another catastrophe? Or
just: you can’t control what happens, but it’s foolish not to do what you can. The poem was going
nowhere and I had to abandon it.

After Magritte

This is not a sonnet.
This is not a line.
This is not a sentence.
These are not words.
These are not letters.
This is not a poem.
This is not art.
This is not sound.
This is not thought.
This is not visible.
This is not conceivable.
This is nonsense.
This is false.
This is not now.


Something went wrong.
Please try again.

Animals Are People Too

Or at least they used to be. I get
confused as to what you are
supposed to say. I wouldn’t
join a species that had me as
a member. Free choice is sacred
so don’t let any of those
Plutocrats tell me what to say
here on earth. It’s a tough
time for right thinking and
left thinking too. Personally
I am bicameral: I use my
phone to take pictures even
when riding a camel. Just
watch the humps and the bumps
will take care of themself.

Apophasis at the P.O.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you
That that message in a bottle
Would never find a home
But, hey, that doesn’t mean
It wasn’t worth sending


If Jews didn’t exist, God would have to invent them.
If God didn’t exist, Jews would have to invent them.
If invention didn’t exist, forget I said anything.
after Voltaire

Bitter Greens

I’m just doing this
In the meantime

Capitalism Gaslighted Me

And so did Heidegger
and Thomas Jefferson.
God too, if truth be told.
The verdict is out on my
parents, but it’s not looking
good. And I’m beginning
to think I’m gaslighting

Catch as Catch Could

Memories cloud memory like
that day just outside of Yuma,
it must have been on channel 11,
Million Dollar Movie, though
maybe 9.

To gather together, to gather
with flowers, to gather stones
together, to father sorrow,
to remember to gather.


Let the lights
Illumine the dark


So much not happening
That the not happening
Is what’s happening

Covid Poem

Now when
I lose
my phone
I know
it's in
the house.


Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein — In 2021, boundary 2 published Charles Bernstein: The Poetry of Idiomatic Insistences, edited by  Paul Bove, which collected interviews as well as essays on his work from an international perspective. Neeli Cherkovski reviewed his Near/Miss in the November 2020 Brooklyn Rail.  


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2023

All Issues