John Elsberg

 

biographical notes

THE STONE

He painted
a stone
black

he placed the black stone
in a window

it grew warm in the sun

it was the only warm thing
in his house

 

 

MY FATHER'S THUMB

Near the end

when my father
lit his pipe

the flame would lick his thumb

he didn't seem to notice

until I grabbed
his hand

then he looked at me
as if the pain

was mine

 

PURSUING STRUCTURE AS AN ONLY CHILD

He is the distant figure still

but this extended
afterbirth

of his death
is like

the slow turn of a lock:

it is not a tangible door
but it has

a frame like any other.

 

 

NO BOUNDS

his lo
ve was like ri
ce
in a wo
oden ves
sel

she wa
s the angr
y s
e
a

Sheila Rotner
Pieces of Dark 1

1997, acrylic and sand on paper woven and cut, 17 x 14 inches.

more work by Sheila Rotner

 

VIRGINIA IN LATE AUGUST

There is a softness in Virginia light
in late August the light promises
of the good days of autumn to come
it is the reward for enduring all
that sweltering heat of mid summer
it does not pretend to have dark shadows
it is the light of unwinding of having
a beer on the reclaimed front porch
feet propped on the rail it is
the light that gives a distance to all
those small defeats of the past a softness
that comes from that coolness after mowing
that makes any virtue as easy
as the curl of the bead on the glass at rest.

 

 

LOVE POEM
(for Adrian Henri)

She would love me if I were darkly handsome
She would love me if I were a priest who believed
.......in white magic and miracles
She would love me if I had an insatiable sexual appetite
She would love me if I were a partisan in some noble cause
She would love me if I stood up and denounced
........the stupidity of war
She would love me if I really had to leave
She would love me if I stopped a pretty girl on the street
........and asked her, eye to eye, back to my place
She would love me if I glittered always with the "right"
........word or phrase
She would love me if I could answer all of her questions
She would love me if I displayed the unfortunate symptoms
.......of the sufferings of my class
She would love me if I had ecstatic visions of a new world order
........and never answered the phone
She would love me if I built a high tower
.......and said it was good work, and that my work was done
She would love me if I could answer none of her questions
She would love me if I denounced this society
.......as totally corrupt and went underground to write
........revolutionary poems to wrap around bombs
She would love me if I exercised a position of great power
........with a cool, decisive hand
She would love me if I went into the park and took off
.......all my clothes and offered bread to old ladies
She would love me if I lived every moment to the fullest
She would love me if I talked to her more
She would love me if I had said none of the above
She would love me (she said)
..................if only I would smile like I used to

 

 

 

John Elsberg is the author of over a dozen books and chapbooks of poetry, most recently A Week in the Lake District, Small Exchange, O F F S E T S, and Sailor. He is also the editor of the long-running magazine Bogg. He has hosted the Sunday open readings at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for twenty years. His daytime job is editor in chief of the U.S. Army Center of Military History.