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What holy day is this that we set fire to the door-hung wreaths?

Young children kick their ailing mothers. Flags and flowerboxes
sag over the railings of false balconies. Glittering city, all

the tires have been slashed along the cobbles of your wet backstreets.

Who has come to see parades? The rabbi sighs. In time, in time.
He keeps his arms straight out beside him, walking blindfolded

like a man holding a knife between his teeth. Old neighbors guard

the air behind him: they tap the startled muzzle of their gun
into his back. Is there any cruelty that does not come to us

from childhood? The children caravan and laugh: they aim

pocketsful of marbles at his feet. Is that, they ask a man, a man
who has no wings? The rabbi wipes an eider feather from his cheek.

The wind has many shapes. Look, look, they say. His beard

is marbled black and gray. The man beside them turns: his left eye
holds a cloud, a cataract of milk, a ghost only he sees. He lifts

a crooked index finger to his lips. I’ve come too late. The children

freeze. They disappear. There’s no one here: I stand alone
in a blank street. How many forms can the wind take?

A paper bag, a dying voice, a limping stray. Imagined city,

if I swallow my tongue, then what language will I speak? The wind
can also be a hand. It holds a prayer, it runs its fingers through my hair,

it plays each note in every scale on its vast harpsicord of leaves.



Malachi Black is the author of Storm Toward Morning (Copper Canyon). He teaches at the University of San Diego.




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