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Sample poems


All yesterday morning the birds
were dancing around the Dominican
orchard, singing through crabapples,
just on the far side of my place.
You live on the close side, north-
west, but never too close. Dance
with me in the fallen monks’ fruit;
alive like sparrows, and the blue-
yellow birds the perverse Anglais
call tits. We’ll mock the Blackfriars,
steal bougies at Notre Dame, and
pelt the Virgin of Guadalupe
right in the watermelon: hail
Mary with them, true right
to the touchdown line.

But they hail Mary when
there’s no hope left.

I want to share a pulpy past,
a seven-year-old’s crabapples.
And the tangy, fibrous
future with you.


Ten years since I saw your brown hair
last, at the interview I thought I flubbed.
You were through the thick glass of
the Monopoly Coffee Shop, grey
March afternooning with your cousin.

Of course it was I who recognized,
long after last repeating your name
with my lower brain. Your jaw
fell a sycamore’s mace: Him, did I
once see a leer through his phone voice?

We traded you look goods but you were
shorter, more righteous, leaving for
an arid seminary to study the obscure
ancient art of not loving. Your breasts,
once famous pears, had shrunk a decade.

The anonymous note, yes, that was mine,
N. helped me write the willow-tree poem.
In Israel there will be few orchards.
I did not ask for your overseas number,
happy to see your tongue if only once.

for Vladimir Nabokov

Once engrossed he picked a flower,
was hound-and-foxed through the rest of childhood,
trapped by bigger boys more white than his mute skin:
netted by hands, pinned against brick schoolyard walls.
Still when they danced the flick knife on his neck
as if to prick and suck the life out
there was always something
desperate, fluttering in their eyes.
They too needed him,
and he held on to this,
even in February when they packed
fairy-tale white snow into his underpants.
Now his vengeance is clinical, Roman:
he pins to pleasant-smelling wood cases
the formalin-soaked specimens
of the world’s largest cabbage moth collection.


After his futile CPR
I thought nothing enough.
Even hard to eat shivah veal
some neighbour kindly prepared.

Instead: in my hands
I find your gifts, a rain,
it reminds me there was
some use, loving my brother.

And reading in
your young paper eyes
(never twice the same
colour) a cherry-tea memory

of a past boy,
I want even more
to embrace you. Not to stop
you running but the Lethe.