Sébastien Bernard

Sébastien Bernard
is a part-French Turkish poet and (non)fiction writer from Istanbul. He was a Poets House Emerging Poets fellow and a finalist for the 2019 Black Warrior Review poetry contest. His prose appears in Evergreen Review, DIAGRAM, and KGB Bar Lit; verse in Black Warrior Review, Prelude, SUSAN/The Journal, DIAGRAM, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Nat.Brut. He completed his MFA in Creative Writing at The New School, and edits for Brooklyn Poets’ the Bridge. He’s called Brooklyn, Istanbul, Poughkeepsie, and Maputo home.

American Odyssey

For someone whose job is
with words I am shockingly
inattentive to them. How long
it took me to realize ‘casualty
had ‘casual’ in it, and ‘t,’ as in
careful spilling it, sister Manning.
Four casualties today, on the way
to the 7-Eleven . . . And then: who
are you cashing that check for, sir?
Yourself? You can’t. You have insufficient
funds in your account. You must first visit
your father, we suppose. My father? Well,
your mother too, as a matter of fact, you
must drag her into this to clear up the
subject of your innocence. But why?
Why not rip up this check? I don’t need it
anymore. Thank you for your service, and
thank you for introducing me to the face
of the naked mind. This was a lesson long
in the making. All my life I worked like a dog
but now I can breathe the useless air.
In fact, I think I’ve bitten off
more than I can chew.

For Nicanor Parra

I don’t believe in gas stations.
I certainly don’t believe in luck.
After a hankering for hidden history

and the only correct reading of Marx I know,
it turns out I’m a communist. What do you know?
Animals in jewels

living amid marble and gold is my idea
of paradise. I will never surrender the dream
of cows in Coco Chanel, no sir!

As for us?
What are we fit to do?

To grind our teeth endlessly.
To tell tales to the grave and listen
as it swallows us up.

Who isn’t tired of the empty ritual of grocery shopping?
Of anemic lovemaking?
Enough is enough.

I’ve learned everything there is to know.
For example that the body
is a rudimentary time-travel machine
and the night sky a mirror
to all our nerve-endings.

The greatest act
of resistance, Parra proved,
is to refuse war except for civil rights
and outlive our dictators.

What is an antipoet?
Someone who goes around cursing the heart,
who gets into trouble with law enforcement
and horrifies them with his childhood

who believes in the soul if it will convert
the seminary to Marxism, who is penniless
but will never let that turn them
into a beatific penitent.

What is an antipoet?
The kind of reader who bawls herself to wakefulness
from the prettiest little dreams:

neither good nor bad
something in between
a butcher and a bird surgeon,
sexually promiscuous but a romantic
a mountaineer with a hard-on
for classical literature on phobias:
Merry with ignorance
but well-read . . .

What does he know, this Parra?

That the earth is a dust bowl
in the belly of a whale—

when the whale gets excited, married,
or radicalized, it’s over

for the locusts
and time for us.



I wake up early
to kiss the paper and the milk
then roll myself some lawn
and smoke it to my fill.
I eat my bills, flat
and drenched with olive oil
or shredded
and drowned in Marinara sauce.
Ask me about all that goes wrong
I’ll make you baked linen sheets
with a sprinkle of amethyst crystals
in response.
Who am I kidding?
I’m dead inside.



Kill Marry Fuck

     after Dorothea Lasky

It’s a game
have you played?
I’ll start

But it’ll be my way:
you have to go
with the original order—to not play
the cards we’re dealt
being a form of escape:

Donald Rumsfeld
John Keats
Harvey Keitel

The edge of a fault line devours
only a corner inhabited by ex-Haliburton members
of Bush’s administration in Georgetown, Washington—like
in a Looney Tunes cartoon, opens its maw for the garden
of Rumsfeld’s apartment, on a sunny day Cheney happens
to be visiting—swallows them whole. Bugs Bunny’s eyes
beat out of their sockets when he recognizes his enemy—
in love of life and decency—spiraling down into the underworld,
the suspension of disbelief making us realize
that everything other than him is real. “There’s fire
down there, doc,” he says, and bites a delicious carrot.

When John and you invite Harvey for a threesome
you will be in the most delicious position:
the middle. The maple. Blue cheese. And bacon.

Bradley Cooper
John Turturro

On the set of Silver Linings Playbook, by accident.
But why? A stormy affair, the sun behind the clouds
for days, etc., then a breakthrough that carries
you and the God of modern poetry both
past his mother’s grave. John Turturro, his straight ass
showing as in a porno, thrusts into your astral
projecting self like there was no tomorrow—between takes.
You recognize the actress you are inhabiting, she was
in a movie your cousin showed you as teenagers. You can hear
her thoughts: she knows you’re there, of course—this was all
in the books—and thanks you for convincing John, her favorite
actor, to love both of you for a day.

Ted Cruz
Derek Jarman
Sophie Podolski

Cruz’s fingers—all ten of them!—stuck in the socket.
How did you manage, Cruz?
Blending Derek’s Truvada into smoothies
every day, each of them called Blue.
Dressed in red for weeks, in the middle
of flowers, sometimes weeping, but only
because you are irrationally happy.
Sophie parts the curtains, convinced by two faggots
in the throes of ecstasy to give men a try.
Tuck your junk behind your legs, and pray!

Bernardo Bertolucci
Isabella Rossellini
Jim Carrey

With a gun, with or without a gun.
You will never watch another Jodorowsky film
who admits to raping his costar on the set of Santa
Sangre. Kill them both. Merry killing.
Isabella impersonating a dolphin
impersonating a praying mantis
reading you Sophie Podolski in French
for weeks, until she eats you, because yes
it is a pleasure and a privilege
to be eaten by Isabella Rossellini.
Jim Carrey in Cable Guy, can you marry
all the vulnerability and passion
in a lisp? Carrey in The Truman Show: escaping
the Truman show together, somewhat in love
but subject to change, in full awareness
that Truman does not know the world—and therefore himself—
just yet. Did you know that Carrey developed
his first routine to make his mother laugh,
who suffered from depression and illness all her life.
That is all I need you to know
about Jim Carrey before I marry him.

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