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On Election Day

I hear democracy weep, on election day.
The streets are filled with brokered promise, on election day.
The miscreant’s vote the same as saint’s, on election day.
The dead unleash their fury, on election day.
My brother crushed in sorrow, on election day.
The sister does her washing, on election day.
Slowly, I approach the voices dark, on election day.
The men prepare for dying, on election day.
The morning hush defends its brood, on election day.
So still, so kindly faltering, on election day.
On election day, the cats take tea with the marmoset.
On election day, the mother refuses her milk.
On election day, the frogs croak so fiercely you would think that Mars had 
       fallen into Earth.
On election day, the iron man meets her frozen gasp.
The air is putrid, red, interpolating, quixotic, torpid, vulnerable, on
       election day.
Your eyes slide, on election day.
Still the mourners mourn, the weepers wept, the children sleep alone in
       bed, on election day.
No doubt a comet came to see me, fiery and irreconciled, torrid, strummed,
       on election day.
On election day, the trespass of the fatuous alarm and ignominious
       aspiration fells the golden leap to girdled crest.
The tyrant becomes prince, on election day.
Neither friend nor foe, fear nor fate, on election day.
The liar lies with the lamb, on election day.
The last shall be the first and first sent to the back of the line, on election day.
The beggar made a king, on election day.
“Let him who is without my poems be assassinated!” on election day.
Let he who has not sinned, let him sin, on election
       day.
The ghosts wear suits, on election day.
On election day, sulfur smells like beer.
On election day, the minister quakes in fear.
On election day, the Pole and the Jew dance the foxtrot.
On election day, the shoe does not fit the foot, the bullet misfires in its
       pistol, the hungry waiter reels before steadying himself on facts.
The grid does not gird the fiddler, on election day.
Galoshes and tears, on election day.
The sperm cannot find the egg, on election day.
The drum beat becomes bird song, on election day.
I feel like a nightmare is ending but can’t wake up, on election day.
—Charles Bernstein

“On Election Day” by Charles Bernstein from Recalculating.

University of Chicago Press, 2013.

By permission of the author.

Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein (1950- ) was born in New York City and educated at Harvard University. He is the author of over 20 books of poetry, three books of essays, and numerous anthologies, translations, and collaborations. In the 1970s, Bernstein co-founded the groundbreaking journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E; he was also the co-founder of the Electronic Poetry Center at SUNY-Buffalo. His honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

Learn more about Charles Bernstein at The Poetry Foundation