The tall glass cylinder wears David’s star,
The corpse’s body thought of as a wick.
(A flame stands for the soul). Too weak to char
The flesh, this Hebrew fire flaps at Heaven,
Reminding us that shiva translates seven.
As it burns, the days are passing quick.
And yet it seems too little and too late
For what its fire would commemorate.
For one brief week, subsiding inch-by-inch,
The timid blaze is tasteful with respect.
What is it then that makes me want to flinch
Each time I see this flame, to re-direct
My gaze? These candles make such meager lamps,
Yet by their light, I see the chimneyed camps.
While sparse November leaves leave limbs half-flocked,
Earth eats the burden of her dust—a mouth
In which the urn of ash is pocketed.
So taught, I pocket, too, the folded check
That notes how much half of her life was worth.
(Half his as well—her mate much put-upon.
Six years now that my father has been gone.)
She left a dirt-floor school-house/barefoot south,
Left there a black sheep brother, half redneck.
She’d plotted from the day she’d given birth,
But never planned this gift her going gave:
Ghiberti’s doors and Canaletto’s views
Await the sexton’s shoveling in the grave,
And it only remains to book the cruise.
Len Krisak has published 9 collections of poetry. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson Review, Raritan, The Southwest Review, The Oxford Book of Poems on Classical Mythology. He has received the following honors: Richard Wilbur Prize; Robert Frost Prize; Robert Penn Warren Prize; The New England Poetry Club Book Award. Krisak is also a four-time champion on Jeopardy!