Essay and poem from Christopher Bernard

My Children

By Christopher Bernard

I have given my children the kindest gift I could possibly have found for them: the warm security of nonexistence. They will never suffer from disappointment, discouragement, frustration, from failed hope and betrayed love, from the brutality of humanity and the indifference of nature, from the cruel gods of reality. And they will never do evil in their turn—and now we know, without the faintest doubt, that the human species is the most evil of all species—indeed, it is the species through which evil came into the world.

My children, however, will never do the evil they would have been unable to resist had they lived. They will never lie or cheat, steal or offend, wound or kill. The world will not be destroyed from the satisfying of their appetites. No animal will be killed to satisfy one of their whims. No human being’s life will destroyed to satisfy their desire for revenge. They will not leave behind them a path of waste and destruction. They will not grow old or bitter. They will not see the destruction of much they have admired and loved. They will not see their friends and family die, and yet have to live on. They will not live fearing poverty, shame, failure, being found out. They will not fear old age, senility, death. They will not die.

I see their eyes glimmer in the shadows. Are they glimmering from tears? I cannot tell, and they are silent. Perhaps they are tears of sorrow, perhaps they are tears of gratefulness. Or perhaps they are my tears, as I reach my hand out toward them, half regretting my life’s single virtuous deed. But then, parents can be unforgivably selfish.

_____

Christopher Bernard’s next book, a collection of poems called The Socialist’s Garden of Verses, will be published in the fall of 2020.

Inside the Locket Is the Face That Loves You

By Christopher Bernard

They started appearing here and there in the city

a few years ago.

Now there are many more.

Like ghosts made of candles in glass

and posies of daisies, peonies, poppies,

the height of a child’s knee.

Some cover half a sidewalk

like scattered baskets of roses

and flicker and stare with a dozen flames in the night,

but most are small, no wider than a bended knee.

Sometimes they include a photo, a drawing,

of the person who died there—

a young black man, an old black woman—

or only a scrawled name.

“We miss you, Darryl!”

“Jimmy: Luv U 4 Eva!”

You can almost hear Jimmy laugh

reading that,

or see Darryl’s cool eyes.

I stop at a woman’s:

among the few flowers and three lit candles

there is a small lace handkerchief,

kept from being blown away

by a heart-shaped locket on a thin chain.

Pedestrians in masks hurry uneasily by.

The traffic passes without incident.

A shred of cloud disperses into thin air.

_____

Christopher Bernard’s latest book of poems, The Socialist’s Garden of Verses, will appear in the fall of 2020.

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