Poetry from Christopher Bernard

Wooden coffin made of light colored wood lying on grass with a few leaves at night.

“ ‘Dead’ woman bangs on coffin during her own wake in Ecuador”

—Recent headline in an English newspaper

By Christopher Bernard

It is so dark. Ay Dios!
What is that smell above my head?
I think it is candles. Yes?
Why so? And there is singing?  

No, it is sighing,
and moaning and weeping.
I think I hear
little Perdita with her husky voice.

My foot itches but I can’t reach it,
my arms are all wrapped up!
I can hardly move!
And what am I doing in a closet? 
    Graciela really needs to clean it out,
it smells of mothballs and bedbugs.
And what is it doing on the floor?

Am I dead?

But where are the angels?
Unless they are the ones weeping.
Or maybe they are devils,
and all their tears are lies.

If I am dead, I think it is very 
My butt hurts! They really need to 
    consider adding a cushion.

I remember Beata’s face look 
    suddenly scared.
We were gossiping away – “When will 
    Teresa have her baby?
How is your niece in Nueva York?
Why did Alejandro do that terrible thing?” 
– in her kitchen? in my kitchen?
Ay! My memory is getting so bad!
Then suddenly nothing.

But I heard something fall.
Then I was asleep, yes?
But such dreams!
Such shouting
and rushing through the streets!
I thought I saw a bit of sky.
I have not looked at the sky 
    since I was little.
And there, there it was . . .

It is quieter now.
And the smell of wood is restful.
I think there is a door close to my face.
What will happen if I knock on it?
If only I could move my hands!
I think I will give it a kick.
My feet, they seem free.
Si! I could give it a big strong kick!
Even an old lady can give a 
    strong kick if she wants.

I will give it a kick,
and maybe it will open.
And then maybe I will finally see
whether there is a heaven or not.


Christopher Bernard’s collection The Socialist’s Garden of Verses won a 2021 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award and was named one of the “Topic 100 Indie Books of 2021” by Kirkus Reviews. His two children’s books, the first in the “Otherwise” series – If You Ride A Crooked Trolley . . . and The Judgment Of Biestia – will be published by Regent Press in November 2023.

3 thoughts on “Poetry from Christopher Bernard

  1. This is a great “setting” for a poem. The lines about “the smell of wood” and the coffin lid as “door” are particularly powerful. I love the unexpected ending!

  2. “..where are the angels?
    Unless they are the ones weeping.
    Or maybe they are devils,
    and all their tears are lies” These lines brought this out of this world poem down to earth, so to speak, for me! I find myself rooting for her! I wanted her to kick as hard as she could, the prose made me want to know more about how she came to be buried alive and it appears that the inspiration came partly from an actual headline [ “ ‘Dead’ woman bangs on coffin during her own wake in Ecuador”—Recent headline in an English newspaper] made it the more pressing and believable…bravo!💜😅

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