Alan Bern

Alan Bern

Alan Bern, retired children’s librarian, is a prize-winning poet, storywriter, and photographer with three poetry books: No no the saddest and Waterwalking in Berkeley from Fithian Press; greater distance, Lines & Faces, his own fine press/publisher specializing in illustrated poetry broadsides, collaborating with artist/printer Robert Woods, Recently published photos:,, and Alan performs with the dancer Lucinda Weaver as PACES: dance & poetry fit to the space and with musicians from Composing Together,



To drop a light grey sock over each dark shoe waiting, no boat no coffin, to carry her feet away— she will walk back again— remove the shoes, socks will drop away.



Sometimes at night, some nights, wake me to silence, its thrum is invitation to walk head held up but looking down, too, onto cobblestones, per forza dewdamp, warm in the latenight still of stillnight before the cold erosion of before-dawn, coming upon the many whiteshirts who lean together, even threes.



Head-to-head-to-head-to-head, the fours holding shoulders in a walking line never slower, swaying cannot be slower walking without this terrible momentum, unforgiving forward stops then againagainagainagainagainagain sway is motion speaking.



Never walked in such sleepiness, warm this Catanian winter middlenight, no rain forecast for the Festa di Sant’Agata. Predict the future obstacles, nevermind just walk, the way of the funeral cart down dangerous streets. Meet it, redefining slow pulled by these hundred-and-more whiteshirts ropes through their arms, arms link arms, face to see the cart coming behind. A near crawl a swaying to stay inching forward, the goal already met just ahead, also perfect in the side-to-side walk without distance, no different than standing an endless ending.

First published in Naugatuck River Review


from Via Etnea

A full two blocks of handles,
stores of shiny handles, elegant knobs,
and the one store of ten thousand blank keys.

Taste the nipples first,
the breasts of Sant’Agata—
cinnamon surface

Walking in the heat—
watch shirts drying in the breeze—
the armpits dry last

Pears ripe for picking—
no matter how much we lift
flesh hangs from our bones


  At Paestum

                                            a Greek painting

When dying is diving into,
the arms open at the breast,
spread wide to take back in
sea and sky horizon
blend into a line with no point
and the texture of touch runs off.


On the street
in the Vomero
my hands were so cold
I pulled on light gloves
to hold your hands.
Somehow yours were warm
through the gloves.
You invited me in
to study.
Once inside, instead,
I pulled you to me,
and your eyes closed.
Instead of kissing, we hugged,
slipping on the couch
covered with plastic.
Your eyes began to roll, and
you asked me to leave right then
before your parents returned.
And as we stood up,
I pulled you to me
once again. I have never felt
another’s body soften in that way,
something once called swooning.


  See Naples and Die

                                            Vedi Napoli e poi muori

Marco, more pie, more pizza pie!
Stai ‘nguaiato!
The oven’s not even hot.
Blessed Mother,
he’s a know-nothing,
but is he okay?
Well, he does have idioms,
and when the GI asks him
how he’s doing,
he comes back with
tengo a uallera, thank you,
two long wallets
ready to rupture.
Sfaccim’, he says
he has sperm in his hand
towel, and doesn’t know
“whether” to put it.
What a fuckin’ bother!
But in this mess
of traffic, here & there,
cars on every sidewalk,
he is a sprinting quail,
as the good Napolitani say
è ‘nu brav’ guaglion’!
a directed messenger
carrying fresh fish filets
wrapped tightly
in yesterday’s news
and running
like a damned madman
for his precious life.

Poetry in this post: © Alan Bern
Published with the permission of Alan Bern