Crossing That Final River

Dennis J. Bernstein

The barista at the French café tells me you have to swim across a river

after you die. As a kid, he says, his brother shoved him into the Hudson

during a family trek to New York. He was fished out by a police chopper

with a gigantic hook and rope-ladder. He never entered the water again

voluntarily: Pools, oceans, wading ponds, even the bathtub: he refused to submerge;

it was a pitched battle every time mom tried to get him to bathe. Bottom line,

at sixty-eight, he can’t swim a stroke, wouldn’t even risk a dip in a hot tub,

and now here comes death with one more bad-ass river to cross.


Dennis J. Bernstein is author, most recently, of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom, which received the 2012 Literary Achievement Award from Artist Embassy International. His poetry has appeared in the New York Quarterly, Chimaera, Bat City Review, The Progressive, Texas Observer, ZYZZYVA, Red River Review, etc. Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple, writes that Special Ed “…is art turned to us through the eyes of love.” Carol Smaldino says in The Huffington Post that the poems remind us how “…we are all connected to the sorrows as well as to the grandness of being human…”

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