Author: Robert Reeves

& Sari Krosinsky


(The Golem)

“These people are obsessed with blood”
Master says.
“A joke, if you think about it.
They hate us for doing a thing we’re forbidden to do.”

—so driven to explain himself.
I could say something
(if I could say something)
about that story you tell
of the lamb’s blood preserving your children.
Explain yourself to the lamb, not to me.
Why not?
You imagine that wouldn’t understand you either.

All I require are my instructions.
If I see anyone carrying a sack that might contain a dead child
through the Ghetto after curfew,
I am to knock them out, tie them up,
take them to the doors of City Hall
and drop them.
This has happened already a few times
and once a man yelled out because when he stabbed me
nothing changed.
It was the lack of blood terrified him.

Defend your deeds if you must
to someone who has hope of success
when he listens for his heartbeat:
someone whose heat comes from inside:
not to the blank bodies
of the sacrificed.


Chant unto the Eternal, with the harp and the voice of melody

(The Rabbi)

The boy chants low and lovely as a cello.
Hebrew syllables dance on his tongue
with a grace I haven’t heard
in the most celebrated cantors.
Someday he will outstrip them
all. Today, I can hardly listen.

Beyond the schoolroom window, ice drips
from branches dazzled with sunlight.
Soon, the trees will be naked, then budding.
Only G-d can create life that renews.

On Shabbas, this boy will be a man.
The way the creature eyes
the boys at each bar mitzvah, I think
he would like the same. I didn’t believe
I could offer him that. Only G-d can create.

I made him to be a thing, no more thinking
than the doves chirping along
with the chant. I have seen him touch
the pages of the prayer book
as if he would swallow them
if it could make the words his own.

When I blew life into his mouth,
my frame quaked
with G-d’s own thunder.


Find “Yossele: a tale in poems” and other books by Robert Arthur Reeves and Sari Krosinsky at

By Robert Arthur Reeves


I met my friend

I met my friend
we beat the shit out of each other
we held each other and quaked laughing
when I looked in his eyes
there was no division
when I looked in his eyes
there was no reason
not to go with him anywhere
it would mean my death
I knew that
that was no reason

Gilgamesh, to Ishtar

Lady, nothing you can do for me
seems any good.
Everyone you ever put your tongue on
wound up underground
in one way or other.
Your cunt is a hall of mirrors,
people get farther and farther away from the exit.
How long do you think it would be
before your eyes stopped pulling and started pushing
before your eyes became the gaps between the stars
returning nothing?
Thank you
but you’re a thief
nothing better.
You’ve stolen everything
every man in the world has.
I’d just as soon hang onto mine
a little while.

Enkidu, to Ishtar

I would heave this slaughtered fragment
in your face
if it weren’t so far away

so you sent a thing of stars
to breathe on us and burn us
see what good it did you

we did what the hunter of stars
never got close enough to do
we killed it

you can take it back
in bits


Enkidu is dead

I didn’t know it
but everything was the same
and now nothing is.

He was taken
and I will travel.
He was taken
and I will die.

Our four hands
held things for spearing
and chopping.
My two hands held his two.

He falls apart
in front of me.
He’s there
and somewhere else,

somewhere they eat
what we get rid of,
where they can stop you leaving
with a yell.

I will watch him
and talk to him.
He won’t watch me
or talk to me.

He was taken
and I will travel.
He was taken
and I will die.

Find this and other books by Robert Arthur Reeves at

And God said “Let there be light.”

And there was light.

And God divided the light from the darkness.


But God didn’t make the darkness,

it was there as soon as the light was.

Light and darkness came with speaking.


Well, God was staring out over the roofs

or where the roofs would be

but it was that time of day when you can’t see, only hear.

So God made his comment

to anyone who might be in earshot

and the light and darkness came over the roofs.

Then God shut his eyes

and the light outside was divided from the darkness within

but it was the kind of darkness that,

from now on, would always be beaten upon.

God sighed,

took a last few sips from his canteen.

He wished someone could help him name these clear, clear things.

“. . . and I did eat.”


The garden ripened,

softness into toughness,

the drowsing seed into the dropping fruit.

Knowledge brought hardness,

sight showed the blatant contours of the world,

its balancing in an instant of space,

my blurred bemusement in it gone,

and circling everything the melancholic stain

like a hinge-jawed shining snake.

It was never innocence, it was greenness,

and it was not a fall, it was a purging of the eyes.

Decision watered the earth,

desire loamed it

and the fruit was in my hand.

Can I ask to be restored to that unfocused spot,

to be cradled in hugeness as if it were clarity?

I am larger than it now.

My own heart wields the flaming sword

I will not cross. 

Illustration of “The Last Ship from Atlantis” by Lenny Krosinsky
Illustration of “The Last Ship from Atlantis” by Lenny Krosinsky

The world burns in the night.

Salt tightens my nostrils
as prow cuts water
unshapen now, beyond the Pillars,
a mirror blotted not by fire
but the loss of it.

The world burns but I still take your hand
miles beneath me now, and green
as the snow on our mountaintops,
green as our white gates
gaped to streams of horses
jangling gold, bickering ivory,
the saddles sizzling in the scornful noon.

I still take your hand and kiss your airless mouth
as the dark sky beneath the dark sky
speeds away without changing
and deep winds cross us to wretched destinations
and slap us back even from there.

Hilarious to lose you
to the flying bleeding rocks
when I remember how you could melt the earth
with a sniff and gesture of face
and that walk of yours, tall as a star.

We lay in the cool of the dry peaks
and the cool of our sweet sweat,
the mild lime squares of ambergris
still buckled around your bare hips,
toes and fingers colored
after kings’ gowns or eyelids.

Lifted on an elbow, you swept
the sea and the gloried island
with your other arm, saying “Gift.”

And gift was given.

Nor did you and I have anything to do
with the givings and takings of gods,
with barters or oaths,
sins or merits.

Gift was the cry of finding, the cry of forsaking,
the same cry,
from your upward broken lips
and the sleep that doused you like June storm
so your thought could scamper in drifted buildings.

The hot small flower
you drew along my cheek
was the smash of our strange armadas,
our slaveries, our crawling vaults.

Oh, we were everything they killed us for:
I carry that like a tomb
in my open fists.

We landed on the world like a hawk
with a voice all hunger and harm.

Hunger and harm
were the flags of our plazas
the tribute of our tax
the bread we threw in the wine.

I will say you were innocent
with all this murder in your hair to the roots
because this is how you were born,
a tongue of rich pallor
dressed in thieves’ grabbings.

And I will say I’m condemned
though I was born how you were,
one of the hawk’s dead fingers,
because it wasn’t work, pleasure,
or any wakeful thing took me
to the harbor this morning,
just dim desire
to look on the lying sea,
and when the crap of our victories
the drench of our sciences
the cripples of our hopes
began to flog the ground to bits in gnashes of smoke
and heavenly vine of flame and spattered lace of screams
I made no attempt
to run between the nodding walls
and under the gods’ own clouds
and up the hills to you.

I sat out from shore with a few dried men
shrunk too small for our clothes, our shoes,
and watched you taken under
all day long
while the mountains spilled like suns
and the gods’ sun lowered
into faceless red ocean
and the thing was complete
and a night blew up,
and a wind.

We turned ourselves and passed the Pillars.

I know you would have me
bring something rescued
to a land we may or may not reach,
and bring it bravely
but the bravery itself
is all I’ve rescued
and it does me as much good
as my love does now.

Behind my back
where the fear went down with the love
the world burns
not for a sign or teaching
and not to marry its black element
to a last or first light
but because world swallowed you and you world
and drowned or undrowned,
you burn.