“Girls, Look Out for Todd Bernstein” by Jason Bredle
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
Girls, Look Out for Todd Bernstein
Because after sitting out for a spell he’s back with a degree in accounting and a high paying position in one of the leading pharma- ceutical corporations in the country and aspirations of owning that exotic yellow sports car, license plate EVIL. And like Dennis Meng at Sycamore Chevrolet stakes his reputation on his fully reconditioned used cars. I stake my reputation on telling you Todd Bernstein means business this time, girls. No more of this being passed over for abusive alcoholic football stars. He’s got a velour shirt now. No more of your excuses—if he wants you, you’re there. None of this I’m washing my hair Friday night nonsense—come on, you think Todd Bernstein’s going to fall for that? He knows you’re not studying, not busy working on some local political campaign, not having the guy who played Cockroach on The Cosby Show over for dinner, not writing any great American novel. He’s seen your stuff for God’s sake, and it’s simply nothing more than mediocre, long prose poems with titles like “The Falling” and “Crucible” and “Waking to Death” that force impossible metaphors, despairing about love and womanhood and how bad your life is even though you grew up happily in suburban America, or at least as happily as anyone can grow up in suburban America, which normally, you know, consists of the appearance of happiness while your dad is doing three secretaries on the side and your mom pretends not to know and brags to the entire town about how you’re an actor about to star in a sitcom about the mis- adventures of a cable TV repairperson who, while out on a routine installation one day, accidentally electrically blasts herself into the living room of a family of barbarian warlords on a planet near Alpha Centauri who force her into slavery before sending her on a pillage mission to a planet of Cloxnors who capture her and place her in a torture institution where she meets a vulnerable Meeb whom she convinces, because of her cable TV repairperson skills, to let her become nanny to its impressionable Meeblets just before it’s about to rip off her limbs with its ferocious abnons and devour her. The results, according to your mom, are hilarious, but come on, you and I both know the story is just so predictable. And Todd knows damn well your writing doesn’t pull off any metaphors for the happiness that was taken from you by some dude who played the guitar and called himself a musician when all he could really do was play a couple of chords and sing about true love and alligators and how the alligator represents true love which somehow explains why somebody cut open an alligator one time in Florida to find a golfer. There’s just no fooling Todd. Sure he’ll act like he’s interested, that’s Todd Bernstein, and he’ll make remote claims that he too has written or been artistic at some point in his life, but Todd Bernstein knows all you girls really want is a piece of good old Todd Bernstein. No longer will any strange auras enter the bedroom during sex and keep him from maintaining an erection, no longer will any women walk out on him repulsed. If anybody’s walking out after sex, it’ll be Todd Bernstein, I can assure you. He won’t be humiliating himself by falling down a flight of stairs in front of a group of Japanese tourists anymore, but rather coaxing entire masses of women into his bed- room. Because that’s Todd Bernstein. He’s on the move. And he wants you to know, girls, that he’s well aware you certainly can’t learn Korean sitting around here which is why he’s out there right now, preparing for the slew of women just beyond his sexual horizon, spray-painting GIRLS, LOOK OUT FOR TODD BERNSTEIN on the side of a Village Pantry.
From A Twelve Step Guide, 2004
New Michigan Press, Grand Rapids, MI
Copyright 2004 by Jason Bredle.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted “Girls, Look Out for Todd Bernstein” by Jason Bredle from A Twelve Step Guide. Copyright © 2004 New Michigan Press, with the permission of New Michigan Press.
About the Poet
Jason Bredle (1976 – ) is an American poet and translator. Born in Indianapolis, he received degrees in English literature and Spanish from Indiana University, where he was named Ruth Halls Outstanding Young Artist in Poetry, and an MFA from the University of Michigan, where he earned a Hopwood Award. He's the author of four books of poetry, including Standing in Line for the Beast, winner of the 2006 New Issues Poetry Prize, and Carnival, selected as Editor's Choice for the 2012 Akron Series in Poetry. A recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, his poems have been anthologized in 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day from Random House, Poems about Horses from Alfred A. Knopf, and Seriously Funny from the University of Georgia Press. In addition to his poetry, his music criticism has appeared in Resonance and he's a regular contributor to Coldfront Magazine. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.