Jeff Bernstein

The Doctor Loses His Way on The 101

Sometimes the only way
to start a stick is to pop the clutch.

We’d push that Fiat fast
across the freshman parking lot
vacant as farmland waiting
for corn to crash the surface
in April. If luck was out there,
that little engine would dry-cough,
sputter, putt-putt, finally chatter
“all is well” in Italian
neither of us understood,
but we knew no need to call
in professionals when patient
had already recovered.

He called me Doctor or Professor.
I wasn’t either though
I was pretty good at putting
my shoulder into it, hurrying
the car across empty expanses
of those macadam prairies.

I wasn’t the one who went
on to medical school. Later,
the word was he’d spent
most of his forties drinking
coffee at a little breakfast place
in downtown Palo Alto, forgot
why he’d even wanted the title.


A lifelong New Englander, Jeff Bernstein watches the seasons slowly turn in these strange times from a hillside in Central Vermont. Poetry is his favorite and earliest art form (he can’t draw a whit or hold a tune). He would most have liked to have been, like Thoreau, “an inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms… [a] surveyor, if not of highways, then of forest paths and all across-lot routes.” Recent poems have appeared in, among other public cations, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Best Indie Lit New England, The Centrifugal Eye, Cooweescoowee, Edison Literary Review, Grasslimb, The Kerf, The Midwest Quarterly, Mulberry Fork Review, Paper Nautilus, Pinyon, Plum Tree Tavern, Reckless Writing Poetry Anthology, Rockhurst Review, Silkworm, and Tipton Poetry Journal. He is the author of two chapbooks; his full-length collection Nightfall, Full of Light was published in 2017 by Turning Point.

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