Three Poems - Sébastien Bernard

Sébastien Bernard

The General

He spots a fly

He walks across the tundra

He plays croquet with an antelope

Who uses his hoof

According to my anatomy

Those are nails, he says

♪ Croquet hoop! Hair

In my soup! ♪

He visits his brother

Sings an opera tune

Under the table

He watches as the black cars go by

He hosts a wedding

He makes bold pronouncements

Mimicking Bonaparte

And bemoaning Russia and Waterloo

As personal failures

He praises the bold secular laws

That legalized his bizarre habits

He makes large gestures concerning

His reputation in the capital

He returns to his mother

In utero, tutto intaglio!, he says, then

Hand me my coat!, to his date

And partner in revenge and theft

We have no hope of making it out

Of this country alive

Out of breath

Trying to hold the blood of his

Nightmares, his childhood in suburban France

In, the bullet in his belly

Fired mistakenly

By a checkout clerk

Who stares at the couple empty-handed

And lets them walk out with the wine

Free of charge due to wonderment

At such superb theatrics

And like a marathon runner

Or a rebel in a Godard movie, the General says

Just maybe, my love

On this grand escape—the last—

There’ll be more chances

To sing.


Modern poetry

Spring: a lovely time

to quit your job. The inevitable

is irrecoverable, but maybe there’s

no past behind those mountains—it’s worth the trip. All event

horizons meet somewhere spritzy

the language of innocence makes sense. I’m not a tractor

I don’t have euphemisms for sex.

Tiger meat, cilantro, & applesauce for breakfast.

Satisfy your hunger. What way your way.

What’s the sound the Cordyceps fungus makes

as it grows out of its host’s head? 

“Bazing, bazing, BOOM.

Hold me, mother.”



I see Rowland S. Howard float

through hell

holding his own sun

or mirror

or liver

saying he’ll be out soon, it’s just

he was curious—

the ‘O’ in ‘Or’

he says, and the ‘O’ in ‘Ocean’

or ‘Ornithology’

are the same—

leaving myself


Rowland S. Howard has cheated

death, I say, counting my fingers

or passing my fingers through my lack

of a beard

or smoking a pine needle—

don’t ask me why I’m here

it’s personal

and you’d be surprised

how quickly they let you in—

the ‘O’ in ‘Cataclysm’

and the ‘O’ in ‘Happy’

I reply

like a blind priest:

are not so different

either, at any rate

two things

Rowland S. Howard also holds

as he floats in the afterlife

of his choosing

and I ask him how?

he says you just

have to keep your eyes open

when it happens


and be brave

that helps


Sébastien Bernard

Sébastien Bernard is a Turkish poet and writer of fiction living in NYC. He received the 2018 Poets House Emerging Poets Fellowship, and his work has appeared in Evergreen ReviewPublic Pool, and Queen Mob’s Teahouse. A staff member at Brooklyn Poets, he also facilitates a Creative Writing Group for English Language Learners at the Brooklyn Public Library. He holds an MFA in Poetry from The New School, and has called Istanbul, Poughkeepsie, and Maputo home.

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