Four Poems by April Bernard

BOMB 15 Spring 1986
015 Spring 1986
Bomb 15 Blair 001 Body

Dike Blair, Travelvet, 1985, lacquer spray on glass, hydrostone, plaster mix lichen and wood, epoxy resin on gouache, 22 × 54 inches. Courtesy Baskerville & Watson.

The Poverty of Poverty

One more all-silk suit and he’s all yours,
not an Indian, but pure Pontiac.

“I took a ride once and saw the ocean all strewn out on my left,
and I thought about a time capsule.”

Never been formally introduced to the man who owns
the roof over my head, but that’s not a complaint.

The shoemaker’s elves stitch and stitch, then sit around
and watch television, naked elbows on naked little knees.

The mice in the walls had a pretty good scam,
but the cat put his own bells on.



The awful truths:
in a glass an eighth of an inch of cranberry juice has drowned nine
exactly nine
cockroaches in the last twenty-four, exactly
twenty-four, hours.
The cab ride cost two dollars and ten cents, sixty cents, with tip.
That was the cab ride because the bus
wouldn’t open its door at the light
even though I had my transfer and was waving it in the air.
A wasted movement,
like a stage moue on film.
Quarter to four at the office was greeted with,
“Thank God, it’s quarter to four.”
“Nota bene,” said the researcher, “that though ‘emcee’ has become a
I have persuaded the writer to use the more dignified
‘master of ceremonies.’ Nota
fucking bene.”
Manahatta, floating island of currency,
city of false economies.


Up Attic


Take a minute, take another minute;
wait on the edge of some moor
for that dark and craggy forehead, overmastering.
The sweep of stormclouds,
infested jungles, oceans and mountains, fragrant sunsets:
In the coming battle for deliverance,
all these to summon inadequacy.



Physically, she grows stronger every day.
But morally, I’m afraid, she has degenerated
to little better than a beast.



Reader, sustain me!
Reader, I swooned, then woke—
I had been shot in the head by a stray hunter’s bullet
I had been bitten on the calf by a water moccasin
The horse had reared, and I had fallen
I had been unable to withstand the import of those words
I had been struck on the skull by an oar
And it looked like love to me.



Professor, Minister, Employer, Soldier
gave a cry, and expired in my arms.
Reader, I married them.


Your Own Private Thermidor

This chair resembles those in which something is done to you,
like a dentist’s or a barber’s.
This spacious briefcase has room for jammies and toothbrush.
When it’s 2:20 in New York, odds are it’s 8:20 in Paris,
but isn’t it nice to be sure?
A couch ideally belongs in an office with a door that shuts.
The robot comes complete with one arm.
The yellow cord will double as a belt.
The fringe, which Emilio calls “Garbo,”
resembles a veil, a window, a haze.
Servio, I serve; within an ovoid cone of light.
You can’t play telephone by yourself.


From The Way We Live Now.

April Bernard is a writer who lives and works in New York. Her work appears regularly in BOMB and has also appeared in The New York Review of Books.

April Bernard's Miss Fuller by Mimi Thompson
Ec Miss Fuller
Create a Radical and Memorable Equivalent: Mary Jo Bang Interviewed by Sylvia Sukop

A new translation with contemporary allusions that reflect the boldness of the original.

Everything Communicates: Alice Notley Interviewed by Jeff Alessandrelli
Runes And Chords4

A new book of poem-drawings.

Materializing Craft: Rosanna Bruno Interviewed by Zach Davidson
Trojan Women by Anne Carson and Rosanna Bruno

A conversation about creative process, told through art objects.

Originally published in

BOMB 15, Spring 1986

Graham Swift, Horton Foote, Ping Chong & Pablo Vela, and David Deutsch.

Read the issue
015 Spring 1986