Four Poems by Lee Sharkey

Aspirations – Therefore I Will Be Quiet, Comforted that I am Dust – B’Reishit – Grief


My one god is not a god of one truth only. Make of your ear a hopper, the teacher said

Moths rise from my blanket, fly from my tongue. Still, I aspire to be kind and patient

If I had an olive tree, she would be my mother, my steadfastness. I would protect her from those who would do her harm

The blue world falters. Rockets pummel the dusty streets

I close my eyes and remember a dialog of fingers, the taste of a lover’s tongue

How we argued about everything, the sky, moths, the nature of human nature

How the blue world falters. Sonar strands pods of dolphins, their glossy eyes go dim

The shadow of a nipple clouds the x-ray of a lung

I lay me down

I become my olive tree. My limbs send out rootlets

I attend to the body’s language and the words of the sages to acquire a discerning heart


Whenever I think of Job I see him sitting against a limestone wall in a filthy tunic

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are plying him with simplistic arguments, variants of It’s your fault

Job’s crops are blighted, his children dead, his body wracked with boils and sores

He is raking the sky with anguish. His flute is tuned to the sound of tears

What Job wants is a word with the Unnamable

to ask the old question: What is the purpose of suffering? What did I do that I should suffer so?

At last, the Unnamable sweeps in on a whirlwind

reminding Job of who ushers in light and dark, who made the animal kingdom in all its wild perfection

Look, He says, and Job does, as He describes the first creature He made to be His plaything,

the Beast who sleeps under the lotus, who chews clubs to splinters and makes the oceans boil

Hope is a lie, says the Unnamable. Job goes silent, clapping a hand to his mouth

This could be where we enter, who may not have expected reward but perhaps not so much suffering either

Neither believers nor disbelievers, not expecting answers yet still chafing against what has befallen

who once more need reminding of our miniscule place in the astonishing order of things

unable to stifle the hope that rises each day in our throats

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In the beginning created God, with a who at the end of the question

Who is like unto you in glory. Who being the name of

The holy interrogative, first person inquisitive

The earth breathed I and God unfolded in our throats

Inner and audible word

Himself mapping a plain that stretched to the end of the comprehensible 

A physicist might love the Kabbala, its black holes and emanations

Its separations and convergences, its out of Nothings, its unto Nothings, through wormholes to the other side 

My love, who once was, out of Nothing, Something unfolding, no longer enjoys a paradox, a question whose answer is a question

Folds back again to Nothing

Softly, like petals falling

Into the arms of the Shekhinah

The beauty who has lost her eyes

In a city where Something was coming to Nothing, a man sat among the old suq’s bright woven textiles 

He asked me, Who will give us names 

His people call themselves the Humans of the Lost City

A question that leads to a question


A cachectic woman shuffles into the infusion center on the arm of her son

A demented man floats through the memory center in a cone of silence

If every day I worship at the altar of my grief, who is it I am true to

Father, mother, now another

I study the woman’s bones and dark eye sockets and realize she’s a mirror

I study my love’s expression, looking to prise out what’s inside

A fingertip touches my throat

We are grass in a windstorm

If Someone touches my throat

If Something breaks and smiles, offers the gift of tongues

If Someone appears and averts the sacrifice

If Someone dwells over the sick man’s bed and slides into his body

If Someone inscribes the commandments with a fingertip of fire

Father, mother, and now another, grief is my sister and my brother

If a breeze stirs the sedge grass by the marsh

If a face arrives from the whirlwind calling itself indwelling

Not through gloom, nor through sloth, nor through levity or idle chatter

If the Shekhinah arrives and averts the sacrifice

If a wind with a face that speaks says build my dwelling here

Then I will remember joy

Then I will enter the sick man’s body

I am a citizen of this republic

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