Thursday Nov 30

KamenetzRodger Rodger Kamenetz is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Lowercase Jew (Northwestern, 2003) and To Die Next To You (Six Gallery Press, 2013). His poems have appeared in The New Republic, Southern Review, Shenandoah, Boulevard, Grand Street and in many anthologies. His prose works include The Jew in the Lotus (Harper, 1994) and The History of Last Night's Dream (Harper 2007). He helped found the MFA program at LSU, where he taught poetry and essay writing from 1981-2009. He lives and writes in New Orleans. He'll be teaching essay writing this summer at the Kenyon Institute. His website can be found here.

The Great Flood  

It was the hour of the sparrow
The hour of the infant cry, the father
Trudging down the long hallway,
The mother too sleepy to get out of bed
The baby cried for hunger

The baby cried and the father could do nothing
The sparrows lifted from the chilled grass
The dam burst and chunks crumbled like sugar
And melted into the heaving flood of milk

The baby stopped crying, seemed to listen
As the rippling milk covered the plain
Rabbits, moles, mice and armadillos
Swallowed and drowned, each painted white
Brown rats swam furiously in the tide
But no one could stop the milk
Heading for an open town
To drown the unkind with kindness

The baby cried with a painful joy
Sensing hunger nearly over
There would be no more language
Only one word, milk

Men in big cities debated politics
Why did we allow so much milk?
But the women were more reserved
They knew how every difference
Dissolves in milk

Like Me
—for a "friend"

You've set up shop in "I'm sorry for myself"
Asking "friends" to "like" you
Since there's no hate me button
For your sputtering but-but-but

Where did all the ands go?
The and and and and and?
The horizon that stepped ahead at every step?
Now you've come to the end of and
The sea whose waves
Pounded the shore
Crumbled the sand of and
To particles of quartz that hoard
Light left of a set sun
Look: on a thin grey line
Drifts a but without an or

Angles of Incidence in Baltimore
for the painter & poet RS

You weighed for me a cloud, Richard Sober
With a faint burst of pink shot underneath

And bound the round windows of the B&O's
Stone tower where nights I saw lit eyes

But what is seeing us, Richard Sober?

The geese fly over the cold lake: November.
You caught the geese reflected in the water.

The geese had no thought to leave reflections.
And the lake has no mind to receive them.

The geese are not you: the lake is not you
Without you there was nothing weighing there—

Though there can't say the same of us, Richard Sober.

The History of Arms and Legs

The history of arms and legs
Should not be troubled
By the politics of distant men.

In kindness the legs unfold
And rise again, the arms enfold.
When arms and legs lie down together
Let them softly brush.

To kiss the shoulder is intimate.
To touch behind the knee
To hold an ankle, to hold a hand with a hand.
Let no man plan to wound them.

In the long history of arms and legs
There is a footnote: I kissed them both.
Will no one write that I loved her arm
Moon after moon?

Our legs stood us up when we fell.
Our hands grasped. They held.
For a long time, they did not let go.

From the first tiny bud
In the salt of the womb,
Let no harm come their way—
To the last silver day.