Wednesday, October 30, 2013


A Byzantine Diptych

I. Leviticus Again

     "And his issue is unclean,"  15:3

He is human and so will be humbled

He is flesh and so will fail

He is bone and so will be broken

He is blood and so will be bleed

He has cheated and so will be changed

He has deceived and so will be drained

He has mocked and so will be muddied

He is hollow and so will howl

He has sullied and so will sadden

He is nothing and so will be nought

He is pain and so will perish

He is emission and so will be missed

He is water and so will weep

He is cavernous and so will cry

He is dross and so will disgust

He is a carcass and so will be cast

He has soured and so will stink

He is rank and so will retch

He is worm and so will writhe

He is corruption and so will be betrayed

He came forth, and so he will fade

Summer Syntax

Saxifrage, arabis, phlox;

lobelia, euphorbia, nasturtium;

coreopsis, guara, flax;

brunnera, salvia, rubrum;

delphinium, snapdragon, alyssum;

bacopa, yarrow, thyme;

viola, cress, chrysanthemum,

convolvulus and clematis that climb

over the flowering fescue,

the prairie mallow, and sage,

with Lucerne sisyrinchium to the rescue

of spirit surveying the cage

of its inching calibrations —

luring us out to stare

into this constellation's

efflorescence as       everywhere.


It seemed sick, really, or pathetic:

fertilizer bombs being wired in Gaza,

      flesh scraped from a Tel Aviv bus;

      radar whirring miles above us,

state-sanctioned torture up the street,

and information like an epidemic  —

but I took some comfort today, for hours,

from a kitten we found near a mound of garbage

     and nursed back from the edge of death.

     By evening, I could feel its breath

against the skin of my neck as it slept —

and reconfigured my notions of power.


The poems above are selected from a forthcoming book The Invention of Influence (New Directions 2014).

Peter Cole's previous books of poems include Things on Which I've Stumbled (New Directions). Among his volumes of translations are The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition and  The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492. Cole divides his time between Jerusalem and New Haven.