Charles Farrell   © 2010 All Rights Reserved

מצוה

It was a prominence,
Almost a big toe cast on moon-white cement,
All there was of a barefoot god
Pushed from his plinth,
A slate gray stillness,
Almost a stone placed on the breaker wall
Where we stood,
Where the water laps like it does at night,
Boatless, oarless, where one ferry might come a day,
Where shadows just know to go
Like lost children know and what it was—
A tree swallow just fledged,
Fallen from the other toehold shapes
Roosting in a river catalpa,
On branches also lit by the hay moon
In its last and most silver station.
Soon cats will hunt the wall,
Coming to the splash of bass night fishing as well,
For moths that crisscross the lake now.
What we could do we did
With an old colander from the kitchen,
The kind like a turtle on its back,
A dome,
Inside a night sky punched for air,
Stars of some merciful design.

                                    —for Duane Shaw, Rome City, Ind., 3 July 2009


מצוה, the Hebrew word mitzvah, means a rabbinic commandment or the fulfillment thereof, thus its positive connotation, which has over time given the word its other meaning—to express an act of kindness.
 

***

Old Order Amish Children Playing Baseball in November


To find such a sideshow antiquing that day,
    between Game 5 and 6—
The taller girls and a boy in the outfield turned to
    stare with that guarded look
For English, strangers, the cold,
But the frost had long burned off grass
Warm enough to be a diamond of burlap bases.
Our tourist crawl, unavoidably predatory,
Disturbed one after the other, other bonnets, these
      uniform knit caps,
And rippled through the pale, infield faces,
The standing bench of their egalitarian teams as to
    sex, age,
An angelic order of height,
Everyone a blackleg, broadcloth, the only colors
Skirts of cornflower blue, a mauve of no allegiance.
Pick me.
                                            —Shipshewana, Ind., 3 November 2009

 

James Reidel
Copyright © 2010  

James Reidel’s most recent collection is My Window Seat for Arlena Twigg (Black Lawrence Press, 2006). His translation of Thomas Bernhard’s long poem “Ave Virgil” appeared in Conjunctions 53. His translation of Franz Werfel’s novella Pale Blue Ink in a Lady’s Hand and a revised translation of Werfel’s The Forty Days of Musa Dagh are forthcoming.


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