Three Ghazals for Departure


Miriam danced in Exodus while the Red Sea drowned the horses.
The children of Israel all must be old men by now, or worse.

A poet is a child that tells every secret told. I know her.
I know the cantor, I know the Talmud like the blind know Chagall.

On Yom Kippur, it rains enough to warrant a black umbrella.
Forgive me for cheating and swallowing you down before sunset.

Who is naive to be the one to ask for hands wrapped in heat.
He is callous who promises the hands and then asks for them back.

I want a cauldron of palm tree hearts and trembling psalms.
Let us be together for ever until we find someone better.


After the party, they came home to find their piano missing.
It must not have wanted us, said mister, going straight to bed.

When it rains, little Moses rescues the worms from the road.
He does not wear gloves. He pokes them back inside the ground.

Before the drummer, I was engaged to a man who cried all the time.
I would hide in the bathroom doing this with my fingers in my ears.

You can only disappear once and then they will find you out.
Swift and certain chaos will tell you to try your luck again.

To end what it is, he uncovers the shoebox with all of her letters.
He rips them to pieces; she kisses his fingers. Read them aloud.


What I know about absence is that it is jilted and insistent—
Every time I call, absence lets it go to the machine.

You can fold a map in half and make the distance shorter.
Try writing a sonnet to an atlas and you will see what I mean.

In the hotel room no one ever comes to make the bed for them;
They order Belgian waffles and play solitaire all afternoon long.

All the women at temple wear black stockings, but why is it cold,
Why challah and poppyseeds, why remember the food and not the service.

The compass points south, the clock is stopped at twelve.
Even children know when to say goodbye and what kind.

Previously published in 2River View.

Leigh Stein is the author of the novel The Fallback Plan (Melville House Press). Her first full-length poetry collection, Dispatch from the Future, is forthcoming from Melville House in July. Twitter: @rhymeswithbee 

Object(s) to bring back to life: “I would bring back letter writing.”