Two Poems by Alan Bern


when sad was fist 
and slow was raft
such humans coughed
with no hands-off
nothing could last
not one word list
darkness stiffened
and still lips missed
the one end bone
all left to stand
Hated it
on the grounds of speech
unfree, targeted at a sameness

that I saw
in front of my face.
Remember, I’d fought. John Wayne had not.

In L.A.
he could be filling
up and gawkers would lean around pumps

to see him.
I was asked to be 
loyal to unfreedom when I’d risked

my whole life.
Bad trip: I drove right
on through Auburn and on to Mobile.

By the side
of the one-laner
I saw a terrible accident,

two old cars
had mixed it all up
and everyone looked dead as plucked crows.

No, they talked
about communists
and how John Wayne had kept us all free.

I could not 
believe their cracked heads
left them with their old prejudices.

There it was.
I had signed the Oath
at the last minute to keep my job.

Retired children’s librarian Alan Bern’s poetry books: No no the saddest and Waterwalking in Berkeley, Fithian Press; greater distance and other poems, Lines & Faces, his illustrated broadside press with artist/printer Robert Woods, Alan earned first runner-up in The Raw Art Review’s “Mirabai Prize for Poetry, 2020”; he won a medal in 2019 from SouthWest Writers for a WWII story set in Italia; he won the 2015 Littoral Press Poetry Prize. Recent photos:, unearthed, and thimblelitmag. Alan performs with dancer/choreographer Lucinda Weaver as PACES: dance & poetry fit to the space and with musicians from Composing Together,

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