‘BUT THE BIRDS DIVIDED HE NOT’
The albatross has been abused by poets
by being compared to them.
Not through gates of the temple
led by priests, passed
from booth to ceremonial booth,
does the albatross await sacrifice.
Sea is the anteroom.
The sea, spool of junk, similar to land
abides by plastic the albatross eats.
A lighter in a jug, submerged fire-
crackers. Shiny streams of steadfast blue
overlap the wave’s face, oily as fish
eggs to the albatross eye.
At the nest, a sandy trash disc, baby
feeds upon polymer lanyard, molds
its own belly into an altar.
The beach shelters the ribs
of chicks once they burst with plastics.
By maggots their confetti shivers.
The maggots say:
Ye shall be clean.
The poets look dirty as yesterday.
They go home and attempt to split
a mussel through metaphor.
Their beards left to grow, grow.
This will take a glacial slumber, to move
my foot for it suffers. When my foot suffers
I suffer and nothing less than sleep, different
from slumber, can take my eyes. In my heart
is a heifer, her dust, ashes that purify
my heart for touching a corpse. I touched
a corpse and it was my own, and since
then all I can do is slumber. Make amends.
‘Tis a fairy world inside my bones, keening
there in the world of ash is an ardent gleam,
which waits for polish like a smile. Make
a hill and keep it for the hope of help.
Never let the heavens, their earth, leave
you without help. Say I was just a boy
then and now I can hear the question.
Where is the water that bathes blemishes,
how can I get it to the heifer in my heart?
* * *
Alan Felsenthal runs a small press called The Song Cave. With Ben Estes, he edited A Dark Dreambox of Another Kind: The Poems of Alfred Starr Hamilton. His writing has appeared in BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, Critical Quarterly, Fence, jubilat, and Harper’s. Lowly, published by Ugly Duckling Presse, is his first collection of poems.