Poetry by Christopher Bernard


 Drone pilots in training



Citizen Taxpayer

By Christopher Bernard


Every April he paid his taxes

(by mail, years ago—today, by the ’net –

he was law-abiding, innocent,

responsible, dutiful, no slacker, not lax, is

our upstanding taxpayer)—

and a penny went


into the hand of a homeland spy

who collected his emails,

tapped his phone,

followed his clicks on the worldwide web,

and saved them forever on servers in a mountain

in the gut of the Rockies, to make him (he said)

safer from the enemies of the United States,

“even if they’re me” (faunlike, nerdlike, he grinned).


The taxpayer, uneasy, returned his grin.


He didn’t mind, no, he got it, the need

in a warlike time

for deeds like these:

security required less liberty.

He had nothing to hide—

oh no, not he!

He wasn’t guilty,

though he felt mildly terrified.

Then he thought, “But that’s what

they want us to be!

The terrorists, that is.

They want us to be horrified, scarified, terrified!”

And he felt properly edified, dutified, mollified.


A penny went

to a caterer in Livermore,

and another to a weapons maker’s part-time chauffeur,

a penny to a Homeland Security clerk,

another to a therapist of a faceless veteran

(his face had been blown off on a road near Najaf),

a penny sequestered

the winter before.


And the taxpayer nodded

shrugged, grunted, and sighed.

He grumbled, “There’s a war on,

it’s not played like canasta.

They want to kill us,

so let’s first kill them.

What would you do, huh?”


A penny went

into the pocket of a drone jockey

who showed his mojo in the snowy state

better than at the local bar,

where he was known to play none too shabby or shoddy darts,

by crashing wedding parties in the Yemen hills

8,000 miles away into a thousand body parts.


A penny went

to the pension of an enhanced interrogator

who, under W., tortured Khalid,

and persons of interest in Waziristan and Kut,

and lives, under Obama,

anonymous, retired,

on the farthest flung of the Florida Keys.

A penny went

to the SEAL who killed bin Laden,

a penny to his boss, his ace buddy, his driver,

to the helicopter pilot who dropped him at Abbottabad’s savage gate,


a penny to a special op at Lahore,

a turned jihadist in Somalia,

a janitor at a black site in Iraq.


A penny went

to a recruiter in Davenport,

Tracy, Laramie, Charlotte,

Peoria, Duluth,

Boise, Stockton, Detroit,

to collect young men and women

“to teach them to kill for me.


Because I pay them.

I pay them all.

I am their paymaster, their leader, their boss.

They do what I pay them to do.

I am Taxpayer.

And what I pay them to do is to kill.”


And he bravely clicked Send My Tax, next April.




Christopher Bernard is a poet, novelist, and essayist living in San Francisco. He is author of the novel A Spy in the Ruins (www.regentpress.net/spyintheruins) and co-editor of the webzine Caveat Lector (www.caveat-lector.org).