Friday, June 23, 2017

16 GAMES OF CHESS (REVISED)

When his wife died in childbirth
On February 25, 1927 my grandfather Joe
Felt his heart stop and then contract
Until it was small and hard and round
And cold as a marble. Ase, his brother,
Brought him home and sat with him.
Joe's deft fingers shook. For three days
He sat in the dark. On the fourth,
My great aunts Jenny and Lena
Brought his chess set from the apartment
Joe never visited again. Jenny opened the blinds
While Lena set up the board. She won
Fifteen games in a row.
She thought she was winning game sixteen
When Joe's eyes narrowed. "Mate in five," he said.
"So he remembers how to talk?" said his sister.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

UNSETTLED



At the 2001 Prague Conference on Artificial Life
The ghost of Rabbi
Judah was occasionally seen
Sitting quietly at the back of a morning lecture.
He'd take a few notes and once asked a speaker
Whether he agreed with Eliyahu of Chelm
That the possibility of a golem acquiring a soul
Could not be ruled out. This set off a loud debate.
The fact that the motherboard of an early laptop
Was known to be suffering in Hell was deemed
Interesting but not genuinely conclusive.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

THE MADONNA WITH A POMEGRANATE



There are nights when she badly needs some coffee,
A little fresh air, some personal space, so Botticelli's Madonna
Lets the child have the pomegranate and hands him off
To one of the angels crowding round her. Lifting her hem
To keep her feet from tangling in it, she climbs
Down from the painting. On her way through the Uffizi
She stops to chat with Venus, her older sister,
Asking her to check on Jesus should he start crying.
They know her at the  small bottega across the street;
She drinks her coffee, and smokes two cigarettes
Beneath the stars. Before returning to her painting
She stands in front of it for a moment, wishing
It wasn't quite so crowded and that two of the angels
Weren't resting their books on her.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

FAMILIAR



The pseudo-St. Jerome has not been issued a lion
But is followed around by a shapeless blur
Which may someday coalesce into a lion
Or at least an enormously large cat.
Occasionally a claw scratches the sidewalk;
A tooth sometimes gleams in the lamplight.

Monday, June 19, 2017

THE WEEK



On Monday,
Fate was inexorable.
On Tuesday,
She was more lenient.
Wednesday,
She stayed home sick
(The Goddess of Whatever
Did the best she could).
Thursday,
Fate worked late
Docketing invoices.
On Friday,
She resolved again
To find another job.

Friday, June 16, 2017

HOW POEMS ARE BORN



"Jane Austen" said the very old muse
"No," said I, "a good writer but not
My dish of tea."
                    "What if I tell you that,
According to a letter in The Telegraph,
For December 30, 2011,
Her eyes were ordinarily hazel
But she could turn them blue or grey?"
"Not a bad trick, but I still think no."
"There is," she said, "also a corpse."
"Corpses are good. What sort of corpse?"
"The sort who hangs from a gibbet."
"Covered in tar?" "If you like."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

CONTINUING EDUCATION



To keep their licenses, supernatural beings
Have to occasionally take classes
Intended to keep them informed
On recent developments in theurgy.
Seated alphabetically, Abaddon,
The angel of the abyss, sits by Abiala,
An African goddess who carries a pistol.
Next to her -- perhaps -- is invisible Alif
And so on, until Zzzaxx, who isn't’t real.
Knowing this has made him bitter
As has his certain sense that even if
He were to cross the illimitable distance
Of the lecture room, crossing the bridge,
Leaping the chasm, evading
The Concupiscent Bees and surviving
The Hopscotch Game of Eternal Doom,
Abiala still would have no truck with him.