we move as dust

POEM BY MIKE BERNICCHI


[This poem has a layout that cannot be rendered properly here. To view the poem as intended, which better illustrates the slow mind decay, click here for the PDF.]


There were missions at dusk, sometimes
neon moon pulsing the sky,
so I pretend it’s a room,
and we’re unsupervised children
shuffling our feet on the carpet — 
lightning carried like a word,
sleep comes with the rain;
we move as dust.

We line up detainees in a procession,
upright and yellowed like elegant candles, though
some are gold — precious cargo — and we
are mailmen essentially
with most-wanted cards
woven in the decks
of frigates we could fly
to Babylon, sometimes Basra — 
they somehow knew the difference,
but Sulamaniyah does
look alotlike Denver in the spring

and i say shweya
when youssif offers me tea
and we wonder
how baghdad stays green in the summer
when beckham is spilledlikesalt
for translating words
icould never understand
and i never slept again
not in nasiriyah not
in basra when the brits
dropped shells
like candy on thekids
and im six watching pinatas
in a palm tree pattern on the sand
vehicles are acrobats
and i rock back and forth
in unison
with the road hushed
and the turret creaks like it moans
for a rest but it wont
and i just got here and it’s
still yesterday


The 2016 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry
FOURTH PLACE

We are pleased to announce this poem as the Fourth Place winner for The 2016 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry, honoring the independent press’ best poems of the year. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blindly and selects the full list of 12 finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.


MIKE BERNICCHI is an American poet, curator, and teacher living and working between Southwest Florida and Brooklyn, New York. His works, most recently appearing in ELKE, Apeiron Review, and War, Literature & the Arts, focus on the degradation of memory through time. Bernicchi’s poems attempt to reconcile the fragility of human memory through the manipulation of traumatic events. He now enjoys teaching Literature at an alternative high school in Southwest Florida, where his students say his class is “dumb flame.” Read some of Michael’s work here, and find him on Twitter @mcbernicchi.