Paulelmo's Blog

The Afterlife of Bernard Bingham (A poem)

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This is just a little something that came out once when I was thinking about how, in time, most of us will cease to exist in human memory. After enough time has passed, most of us will no longer be of any consequence to the world of that day.

What does that mean, and why did the thought make enough of an impression on me to want to capture the thought? Reading back on this poem, I don’t exactly know. I like Bernard Bingham, whoever he was. I think the point for me was just to humble myself, to remind myself that, as big and important as a day’s events may seem to me in the moment, in the grand scheme it really doesn’t matter all that much. I don’t focus on this to humble myself; rather, the thought helps me to take things a bit more easily. It seems less to me than it did then, I think, but, if nothing else, I do like Bernard Bingham, and I hate that someone who lived and mattered has been swept away with the passage of time.

Every person’s life is a story, and most of them will be forgotten.

So, there you have it, an exposition that is longer than the piece it is designed to help flesh out. Who knows, maybe sometimes it just doesn’t matter all that much; maybe sometimes it’s just a dude with a computer and his thoughts, and time has to be filled with something more valuable than video games and housework.

***

The Afterlife of Bernard Bingham

The last person who ever knew Bernard Bingham died today,
and now he lives only in memories.
Nobody is hear who remembers that Bernard
never cared for being called Bernie;
he found that those who tried to show
how close they were to him by doing so
showed just the opposite.
Nobody is left to attest how Bernard
burned his sister’s Sunday dress with a match
when he was just a boy
because she tattled on him
for skipping his chores
to go fishing with friends.
Nobody can tell you firsthand
how he worked with his father and the older men
when they built the church
and hung the bell in the tower.
Nobody can tell you how he fretted
before going off to war
but maybe not as much as he did
when he worked up the nerve
to ask Lucy to marry.
Only I am here to hold on to such remembrances;
only I can assure you that he was born
and then he died,
and in between he lived.
Only these pages can tell you that he
made his mark
and mattered to others.

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