Self-Help

By Charles Bernstein b. 1950 Charles Bernstein
Home team suffers string of losses.—Time to change loyalties.

   Quadruple bypass.—Hold the bacon on that next cheeseburger.

   Poems tanking.—After stormiest days, sun comes out from behind clouds, or used to.

   Marriage on rocks.—Nothing like Coke.

   Election going the wrong direction.—Kick off slippers, take deep breathe, be here now.

   Boss says your performance needs boost.—A long hot bath smoothes wrinkles.

   War toll tops 100,000.—Get your mind off it, switch to reality TV.

   Lake Tang Woo Chin Chicken with Lobster and Sweet Clam Sauce still not served and everyone else got their orders twenty minutes back.—Savor the water, feast on the company.

   Subway floods and late for audition.—Start being the author of your own performance. Take a walk.

   Slip on ice, break arm.—In moments like this, the preciousness of life reveals itself.

   Wages down in non-union shop.—You’re a sales associate, not a worker; so proud to be part of the company.

   Miss the train?—Great chance to explore the station!

   Suicide bombers wrecks neighborhood.—Time to pitch in!

   Nothing doing.—Take a break!

   Partner in life finds another partner.—Now you can begin the journey of life anew.

   Bald?—Finally, you can touch the sky with the top of your head.

   Short-term recall shot.—Old memories are sweetest.

   Hard drive crashes and novel not backed up.—Nothing like a fresh start.

   Severe stomach cramps all morning.—Boy are these back issues of Field and Stream engrossing.

   Hurricane crushes house.—You never seemed so resilient.

   Brother-in-law completes second year in coma.—He seems so muchmore relaxed than he used to.

   $75 ticket for Sunday meter violation on an empty street in residential neighborhood.—The city needs the money to make us safe and educate our kids.

   Missed last episode of favorite murder mystery because you misprogrammed VCR.—Write your own ending!

   Blue cashmere pullover has three big moth holes.—What a great looking shirt!

   Son joins skinhead brigade of Jews for Jesus.—At least he’s following his bliss.

   Your new play receives scathing reviews and closes after a single night.—What a glorious performance!

   Pungent stench of homeless man on subway, asking for food.—Such kindness in his eyes, as I turn toward home.

   Retirement savings lost on Enron and WorldCom.—They almost rhyme.

   Oil spill kills seals.—The workings of the Lord are inscrutable.

   Global warming swamps land masses.—Learn to accept change.

   Bike going fast in wrong direction knocks you over.—A few weeks off your feet, just what the doctor ordered.

   AIDS ravaging Africa.—Wasn’t Jeffrey Wright fabulous in Angels in America?

   Muffler shot.—There’s this great pizza place next to the shop.

   Income gap becomes crater.—Good motivation to get rich.

   Abu Ghraib prisoners tortured.—Let’s face it, shit happens.

   Oscar wins Emmy.—Award shows are da bomb.

   FBI checking your library check-outs.—I also recommend books on Amazon.

   Gay marriages annulled.—Who needs the state to sanctify our love?

   President’s lies kill GIs.—He’s so decisive about his core values.

   Self-Help.—Other drowns.

Charles Bernstein, “Self-Help” from Girly Man (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007).

Source: Girly Man (The University of Chicago Press, 2007)

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Poet Charles Bernstein b. 1950

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict, Money & Economics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Charles  Bernstein

Biography

Poet, essayist, theorist, and scholar Charles Bernstein was born in New York City in 1950. He is a foundational member and leading practitioner of Language poetry.  Bernstein was educated at the Bronx High School of Science and at Harvard University, where he studied philosophy with Stanley Cavell and wrote his final thesis on Gertrude Stein and Ludwig Wittgenstein. In the mid-1970s Bernstein became active in the experimental . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict, Money & Economics

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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