Lucinda clings to my left boot.
She will not ride on my shoulder
or in my hair. She cries when I stumble
or brush against a thorn. I give her milk
with whiskey so that she sleeps at night.
I ask myself why I have come here.
I want to see how bereft the human world
can be, but I know it is never truly
bereft. There are whispers and soft laughter
in the brush. I stay awake and watch.
That was in the forest. On the island
they carry the barque full of food to the boat
out in the bay. It goes overboard,
and the blue ram with it. The conch shells
sound, and a great hand reaches up from below.
I have seen these things and I have
written them down, which strengthens
my dominion. The chief draws wavy lines
and pretends to read. It is better to walk in
backwards, and pray for the gates to open.
for John Crowley
It is a dark matter said the clockmaker.
Gears and springs, fusées and pendula.
Still a young man. The Paracelsian
and the anti-Paracelsian nodded.
It was rare that the magi could agree.
At night the roads are deserted.
You ride an animal, become
an animal, bear or wolf, bat or crow.
You sleep on your back, mouth
wide open, so the spirit can return.
A coach with sails and iron wheels
rolls swiftly by. These books will not
ease you across the border, carry you
on the breeze. These dogs, she said,
would follow me to the gates of Hell.
In one version the space must be opened
and in another version the space
must be closed. And in the explanation,
a space either opens or closes,
producing yet another version.
In one version there is a storyteller
and in another version there is a scholar.
And in the explanation, the scholar speaks
to the storyteller and explains all the versions.
This is the story of the explanation, but it is
only one version of the story. It is a space
that is either open or closed, a space
into which goes the explanation of the story.
The boy and the girl walk through
that space. It closes behind them
or it remains open, so that all can
come and go. The boy grows up to be
a storyteller; the girl grows up to a scholar.
They write down all the stories and all
the explanations. But in none of the versions
do they ever meet again.
The old king
stone and antlers
The street singer
accordion and bells
and the bear’s daughter
All in a cart
on the road out of town
in bare trees
The rising wind
the rising moon
You turn in sleep
to the sound of bells
You turn in dreams
beneath the crows’ dark wings
Copyright Norman Finkelstein 2015
Norman Finkelstein is a poet and literary critic. His books include Inside the Ghost Factory (Marsh Hawk, 2010), Track (Shearsman, 2012), and On Mount Vision: Forms of the Sacred In Contemporary American Poetry (Iowa, 2010). He recently edited Harvey Shapiro's posthumous volume, A Momentary Glory: Last Poems (Wesleyan, 2014). He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio and is a member of the English Department of Xavier University, where he has taught since 1980.