Poetry by Daniel Biegelson

Art by Ryan Werner / @yeahwerner



While the Catholics Were Trying to Pray the Jew Away


My problem. Among many. Is that I am in love with ritual and so I’m trying to decant an incantatory quality to signal my departure. Difference an act of disciplinary defiance. The purpose of ritual is to help us to remember to remember. Among many. This is mine. I’ll share but please conduct your own delineations. Calculations. The universe is 13.8 billion years young. Let’s focus. For some years. I wouldn’t drink. Frightened. I had an addictive personality. Unable to self-regulate. Even in sunshine. When the broad doors with black steel hinges open to parishioners and tourists as some tottering man refills the marble bowls of holy water. It is in the air now. About us now. The debris too. The plastic particles. In the lungs. Inevitable. We sit beside ourselves and talk of ourselves as if we were ourselves and not ourselves. Currently. My cat is following the gust of yellow leaves. Swirl and settle. A frenzy. A stillness. I had a friend who managed his temptation—though we would debate the connotations—but wouldn’t or couldn’t give up the polished bar tops and the gleaming bar light. Would nurse cola over ice and reminisce about whiskey ditches he shared with hugo at harold’s in milltown. He wouldn’t leave himself behind. I wish I could. I am a place within a place. What do I house. I don’t say cola. I say soda. Sometimes I see in triplicates. Are you the coda to the song of desert voices I hear moving through me. Do you know me. Now. I do have an addictive personality. Where are you going. Did I tell you. When we met. Here. All of my best friends are catholic. Once we were all differently americans without being all americans. Now you have joined the fray. Commit me to the fire. At least in abstract. Don’t pretend it can’t happen in the daylight or the nightlight. Even people we love may leave us. As we know the absence of light. I’m supposed to know why. My people are a strange fruit. So we can write. Each word a division. A daughter. A son. A suture. ‘But repentance, prayer, and charity annul the severity of the decree.’ Once instead of going to church my friend and his family took me to eat stacks of blueberry pancakes at a chrome streamliner diner that years later ended up across the pond on the danube or so the local paper promised. Am I cute. In the vernacular of the old. Once. I could go on and on. I loved them. Their immortality. But you deserve a field trip. My cat lunges at the glass. It’s been a morning of dropped things. For example. My son refuses to come down from my shoulders. He says I’m trying to save my energy so I can travel at the speed of light. Where. In the synagogue the ner tamid suspended above the ark. The eternal light. In the church. The altar lamp. Hangs. The altered light. The red housed light. I want to love you all. Despite the ocean in me that rises in you. Do you know. What I mean. I am implicated by my many selves. The one that places a hand upon the stiff hair of the dead possum with a decentered abundance. The one who rejects the totalizing trajectory of simplicity or redundancy. The one who eats and laughs with pancakes falling out of the mouth. The blueberries spilling and staining. You and I. We speak in tongues. To some strangers. I’ve read the gospel. ‘You made me want to be a saint.’ Whisper. There will be a knock on your bloody door. I love the silver maple’s suspended samaras. The hope of more. The walnut trees that line the street gather strength. Wait. We could wait. To take up this conversation tomorrow. And tomorrow. Thank you. For your many ways of knowing. Yesterday a yellow and black striped argiope orb weaver spun a rounded web and today one zigs and zags threads across the silk network. I am lightning struck. I find it difficult to kill things in my garden. Classification comes more readily. The tomato is a fruit. A symbol. Cue cymbal. Lower the mirror ball. ‘Let’s call the whole thing off.’ But if we ever part. Cut the apple open to see the star blossom. The seeds. Then that might split my achene heart. So. Let the soil we are overtake us. Before we force upon one another the lessons glistening. The evaporation. Drifting around us. The lessons we should have learned long ago and for ourselves.




Hashem is good to all: His mercies are on all His Works.

With our similar loves / weighing more than the world, / we plummet
through the days / like stones through the waves.

—Paul Valery

Good my four-year-old daughter says I am a good artist.
I can create anything
                  with my mighty blow. In a sequence that reveals
something about her inner light
and our recent reading habits.
Its spring. The purple redbuds cast curious questions. The late trees
                  leaf out. And she is home with a bitter fever. Again.
How do we separate
                  the good plagues from the bad plagues
for our children.                   When we are still children.
Is it real justice.                   Do you still love us.
And so what if we are still living inside the book of exodus.
Like cedar or reed. Like the sea
                  rejoined to the sea. I am plagued. Should I say
to the craftsman. How ugly the vessel
                  whose rudder will not turn. Can you
withstand the condition. Can you sustain the condition. Of exile.
From the wind. The carob tree. Necessarily. My son sings
                  about the sky raining frogs. ‘Frogs here, frogs there.’
                  Bouncing. Then struggling
to bent legs. Then hopping down streets. Into the system.
In France. 1833. Or Magnolia. 1999. I am trying
                  to reason. My genetic love
for you—to reason through my personal amnesia. Our problem.
Whose art. Who art. I know too much
                  Latin. Too little. Little Nightingale. I return to you
through you. Listen. ‘Nothing
                  inside the frame                   has the power
                  to negate the frame.’


This morning after giving thanks for the holes
I know are not optional. My wife speaks into a world
last night’s dream
                  of an alien invasion—surface-to-air
missiles shattering above the nightly protests and talks
about how she woke only to fall
asleep again. More soundly. At first. This time
she dreamt of entering
                  an otis elevator. Turning around
to closing brushed steel doors. Reaching out. To realize
                  there are no buttons—no ‘shiny fixed
alternatives.’                   And then plummeting
past each marbled floor
through an endless shaft.

And if what we dream
                  is a truth we are trying
to tell ourselves about ourselves
but are too frightened to utter. An opening
in an opening. I confess—which admittedly
                  is not much of a confession—I am lulled
                                    by the close-up dew drops
                                                      on the long grasses
and the spiders’ filaments
still not drawn in to mouths. So
may we be bound. So
may we part lips. Sing. Flood. Sing.
An artist never reveals her secrets my daughter says.
And an I in me is always in awe.


So. May we see
with good eyes. Or eyes made good. Or without eyes
                  at all. As we all see. From time
to time. Containing more than we contain.
Made whole. In each other. When we bear
                  ourselves. When at the sea
of reeds we hush
the rejoicing angels with rejoinder—
our brothers and sisters                   who hurt us                   who enslaved us
are drowning now
and you are singing. ‘I said in mine heart.’ I said into the air.
‘The past and the present wilt.’
                  Sing yourself into the revision.
Sometimes ‘I see through the broadcloth and gingham.’
I see your frame faintly                   which is also my frame. Mostly
                  though. I am haunted by the images
taught to flail on my eyelids. Turgid volcanoes. White Snails.
                  Postcards. Sunspots. A butterfly of passing shadows.
They occupy a chapter of my dreams                   until I remember
to remember                   until we sit down to read together.


Daniel Biegelson is the author of the forthcoming book of being neighbors (Ricochet Editions) and the chapbook Only the Borrowed Light (VERSE). He currently serves as Director of the Visiting Writers Series at Northwest Missouri State University as well as an editor for The Laurel Review. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Boiler, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, FIELD, Interim, RHINO Poetry, and TYPO, among other places.