Poetry from Christopher Bernard


The Disappearance of the Flies

By Christopher Bernard


      “Did I ever tell why I no longer call myself a humanist?”
                          —Overheard at a climatology conference 

So, the word’s finally out:


I am the world’s Caesar,
and you are my Christians.


Not that I hate you absolutely—

on the contrary, for the most part

I enjoy you;


those of you I cannot eat

or flog into subservience,

to help me, or amuse me, or decorate my

upscale live-work high-end design space

now, or by no later than the end of next quarter,


are just in the way,


as I thrust ahead


to glory, to a sweet, psychotic power,

and a suffocating wealth

built on the dependable human delight

in the enchanted moment of acquisition.


I’ve got you,


I’ve got the world.


It is no longer God’s or nature’s;


it is mine,


I own you,


I who hate to have and love to get.


There was once a despot

whose footsteps bloodied his time.

After he had conquered the world,

bored with his possessions,

he decided to destroy them:

slaughtered his slaves, his women, his sycophants,

sent his soldiers to the ends of his empire

to pillage and sack it, out of boredom and rage

that he had no more worlds to conquer.

He burned his own palaces to the ground.


In a crazy drunk one night,

he broke his neck in a ditch.

The peasants crept up to his small, pale body,

the body that had conquered the world,

and watched the flies flickering above it.


Today there were no peasants.

There were no flies.



Christopher Bernard is a poet, novelist, essayist, photographer and filmmaker living in San Francisco. He is author of the novel A Spy in the Ruins,The Rose Shipwreck: Poems and Photographs, and a collection of stories, In the American Night. He is also co-editor of the webzine Caveat Lector.