Tag: poetry

good dog

good dog

the dog is dying that’s all we can talk about
the dog pees all over the living room floor
and so we put plastic down and that’s all we
can talk about dolly was such a good dog
wasn’t she but she’s not dead yet it’s all we
can talk about the not-yet-dead dog that is
dying and peeing all over the living room
floor and how good the dog was and how
the dog always came when you called her oh
dolly what a good dog you were and she’s
not even dead yet you’re not even dead yet
are you good dog are you but we still talk
about you like you have gone into the past
quiet like your midnight excursions past the
piece of plastic to push your wet pup nose
against the sliding glass door and look out
at the blue patio at the bats that flit from
light to light at the edge of gramma’s
waning rosebushes and think to yourself I
was a good dog may they remember me
before I peed on the living room floor may
they think of the times I barked on
command for uncle mike may they think of
all the good straight walks I gave
counterclockwise round the block I walked
you right around the block dolly dog and
you are soon to be done dolly dog dad can’t
even talk about anything but to tell gramma
to look for yellow around the eyes that’s the
sign that jaundice has set in and then it’s
time for the one-way trip to the vet and the
neighbors have already volunteered since
gramma does not drive and grampa refuses
to make left-hand turns grampa of the heart
that is sucking itself inward and harder and
grinding itself to a nub and then the next
things will be white flowers and black cars
and maybe then we will talk about anything
other than the dog maybe then we will talk
about anything else maybe then we will talk
about what a good dad grampa was even
though he never peed on the carpet or got
yellow around the eyes

© 1997 by Halsted M. Bernard

Bulletproof pants.

Time for another spam poem! All lines were taken from my spam folder, and only punctuation and line breaks have been added.

The fall of Saddam Hussein has brought
destruction/Hell to our great country
and everything is so difficult now
and all our opportunities are closing up,
the new Government is trying to frustrate all our businesses.

Life was better when I was younger,
and with this secret potion, life seems young again.

Why aren’t there bullet-proof pants?

You do not know me and neither do I know you.
If you are in not good state and have got no cash to move out,
I know that you will grant my request in good faith.

Regarding the transfer:
Mulberry bush aside, would a monkey really chase a weasel?


Eighteen years ago, I first read Max Ehrmann’s prose poem “Desiderata” in the room description of a MUD. It resonated deeply with me, and I tend to revisit it when my life feels like an ill-tailored suit.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

© 1927 by Max Ehrmann

obligatory romance day

FunkyPlaid and I celebrated Obligatory Romance Day with Burgermeister burgers and geocaching. It was a perfect San Francisco day, 65 and sunny. Dogs of all kinds trotted happily before their humans. We talked about what makes us unhappy about our present, what we look forward to in our future. I am lucky to be able to tell him whatever I am thinking and feeling. It is a small yet crucial thing.

Shortly after arriving home, I read that Lucille Clifton had died. While I was in school in Alabama, I was assigned to read her collection “The Book of Light”. It took me a few passes before I understood the genius in her simplicity. Then I tried to emulate her style. It did not work so well for me, but I still love her poems.

Here is Lucille Clifton’s poem, “won’t you celebrate with me”:

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my one hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

The song that is playing right now, “Loretta Young Silks” by Sneaker Pimps, doesn’t remind me of anything in particular. I wonder if someday it will remind me of writing this.

to be moved

I hadn’t thought of you in a while, and
right when I saw the lanky brunette
swivel sideways in her plastic seat
to let someone out, I thought of you,
your skin and hair and bones,
so taut and shiny. You were the
epitome of “girl” in my world and if
I had a crush on you —
    we all did —
it was because I couldn’t take you apart.
I couldn’t see your separate parts.
You were effortless
and your cigarettes always lit the first time,
and I hated your perfect breasts
framed by your crisp denim jacket.

After we fought,
and after you left because we fought,
you became the woman on the train,
older and harder and still unwilling
to get up for anyone, to move or
to be moved. She swiveled and I saw
the back of your jacket, smelling of
Tide and smoke and grain alcohol, of
pride. Of what I thought you would give me.
Of what I thought I had earned.

— Halsted M. Bernard


These words are mercenaries.
They slouch outside the back door of this poem,
clouds of frosty air billowing around their heads,
belts and boots glinting in the flood lamp.

When it is time, these words slip inside,
carrying a box or a knife or an envelope.
The hallway is dim. The recipient waits.
A noise, half-sigh, half-groan, escapes.

Perhaps nothing happened. The front door swings open;
these words stumble out, playing drunk.
They cross the street and their posture straightens.
As the moon lifts, they head for the next poem.

— Halsted M. Bernard

salad days

Despite all the wonderful prompts, this poem did not originate from one; it has been rolling around in my head all day, and must be let out.

me with
more than
[read more]

To live in this world

Years ago, during a period of grieving, I sent this excerpt from Mary Oliver’s poem “In Blackwater Woods” to my father:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Another period of grieving is upon us. When I read Mary Oliver’s words, my heart is momentarily lighter.


Enthusiasm cored,
unborn, glassy,
turgid: that moment
between the noise
you do not want
to recognize and
the opening door.

Once taken aback, you
cannot take it back.
The door swings
away from you,
pieces of stomach
scuttle like marbles
down a ramp.

— Halsted M. Bernard