by Marvin Bell
Oh, said a piece of tree bark in the wind, and the night froze.
One could not have foreseen the stoppage.
I did not foresee it, who had expected a messiah.
No one had yet dared say that he or she was it-target or savior.
In the slippage between time and the turning planet, a buildup of dirty grease
made movement dificult.
Time slowed down while events accelerated.
The slower the eye moved, the faster events went past.
The raping and pillaging over time became one unending moment.
Nazis, who would always stand for the crimes of culture, clustered in public
intersections, awaiting deliveries.
The masses would turn in the Jews.
From the officers' quarters could be heard the beautiful Schubert.
And in the camp there was the grieving tenor of the cantor.
The one rose and the other sank.
Today, one can stroll in the footsteps of those who walked single file from
Often I stand in the yard at night expecting something.
Something in the breeze one caught a scent of as if a head of hair had passed
by withouta face.
Whatever happens to us from now on, it will come up from the earth.
It will bear the grief of the exterminated, it will lug itself upward.
It will take all of our trucks to carry the bones.
But the profane tattoos have been bled of their blue by the watery loam,
additives for worms.
Often I stand in the yard with a shovel.
I am the poet of skulls without why or wherefore.
I didn't ask to be this or that, one way or another, just a young man of words.
Words that grew in sandy soil, words that fit scrub tres and beach grass
Sentenced to work alone where there is often no one to talk to.
The poetry of skulls demands complicity of the reader, that the reader put
words in the skull's mouth.
The reader must put water and beer in the mouth, and music in the ears, and
fan the air for aromas to enter the nostrils.
The reader must take these lost heads to heart.
The reader must see with the eyes of a skull, comb the missing hair of the skull,
brush the absent teeth, kiss the lips and find the hinge of the tongue.
Yes, like Hamlet, the Jew of Denmark before Shakespeare seduced him.
It is the things of the world which rescue us from the degradations of the
A workshirt hanging from a nail may be all the honesty we can handle.
I am beloved of my hat and coat, enamored of my bed, my troth renewed each
night that my head makes its impression on the pillow.
I am the true paramour of my past, though my wife swoons at the snapshots.
Small syringe the doctor left behind to charm the child.
Colorful yarmulke that lifted the High Holy Days.
Last updated November 30, 2022