The Hammer and the Dance The hammer and the dance in this atlas of the world, in the season of pandemic, like two stanchions on a court; between, a tightening line like the imaginary line on the cartographer’s expedient chart, on one side, the dutiful girls, on the other, boys in masks; around them hung a wall of distance that surrounds them like a fort; at their feet, forgotten tasks. And the hammer beats the time for the young ones as they dance. What of the future? What of the past? What of the present? You may well ask. There was something to be done now forever left undone. Where there once appeared a mask, now a flawed map hides its face in a hand scarred by this place; now there is a face of ash. And the hammer beats the time for the young ones as they dance. Deep inside the twisting globe opens up a burning robe. And tonight the silence hurls into darkness its moot sign like a banner never furled, like the alchemist’s alembic charred with his defeated gold, like the future’s gathering dark and the iron in the heart. And the hammer beats the time for the young ones as they dance. Spiritus When you see it, you will know. The shaky camera, the kneeling men in midnight blue: they look at first as though they are praying, pious as three altar boys, caught in an innocuous crime, perhaps stealing holy wafers or consecrated wine. But they are not. The shaking camera stops, and you hold in your breath, like clutching at a hand, not quite believing that you see what it is you think you see. Underneath their knees, in the brutal sun, a dark form. And a voice from the feed: "I can't breathe, I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" For four minutes and forty-six seconds, as the altar boys pray in the shouting glare. Then it stops. The video stops. The voice stops. The praying stops. The breathing stops And you breathe, too late. But you seethe, you seethe. _____ Christopher Bernard is co-editor and poetry editor of the webzine Caveat Lector. His new collection of poems, The Socialist’s Garden of Verses, will appear in the fall of 2020.