Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fine Point, by John Updike

Why go to Sunday school, though surlily,
and not believe a bit of what was taught?
The desert shepherds in their scratchy robes
undoubtedly existed, and Israel's defeats -
the Temple in its sacredness destroyed
by Babylon and Rome. Yet Jews kept faith
and passed the prayers, the crabbed rites,
from table to table as Christians mocked.

We mocked, but took. The timbrel creed of praise
gives spirit to to the daily; blood tinges lips.
The tongue reposes in papyrus pleas,
saying, Surely - magnificent, that "surely" -
goodness and mercy shall follow me all
the days of my life, my life, forever.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

poem, for J:

To lose you, the fine-tuned boy
I used to know
would be like the French losing
the solid gold inch
that is kept for all time
as the standard measure,
the very basis of all
normalcy, regularity.

To lose you, my strong scion,
would be like losing
the stuff of me that
still remains: uterus,
right ovary, heart, breasts
all filled with mother's

To lose you, proud elk,
straight and true as any
of G-d's trees,
would be like losing
a pulse, a steady
beating continually
the rhythms
of whatever life
is left.

To lose you - dear Lord - to lose him
would be to press Your fingers
upon my lids forever.